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Italy opts for new `presidential' system

Italy made its first important step yesterday towards reforming its chaotic political system.

By a slim majority, a special commission voted in favour of a "semi- presidential" model along French lines, giving increased powers to a directly elected head of state and maintaining a relatively weak executive answerable to parliament. The decision was an embarrassment for the commission's president, Massimo D'Alema, of the left-wing PDS, who had pleaded for a British-style system with a strong prime minister. On the right, it was viewed as a half-satisfactory step towards full presidential rule along US lines.