[JURIST] The Italian Senate [official website] Wednesday approved a broad constitutional reform bill [Senate bill information] that will increase the prime minister's executive authority, minimize the risk that governments will collapse mid-term, redistribute power between the houses of parliament, and increase the self-rule of Italy's 20 regions. The changes to the Italian constitution [text, in Italian] must be approved by popular referendum, which will likely be held following parliamentary elections next year. Critics of the reforms say the legislation poses a threat to democracy and national unity, and one senator called the bill "a veritable rape of the constitution." Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi characterize the reform as an essential modernization of Italy's system of government, which has been characterized by weak prime ministers. The Financial Times has more.