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Two Italian regions to vote on autonomy

The Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto will be holding referendums this weekend on Sunday in a bid for more autonomy from Rome.

Published: October 21, 2017, 6:22 pm

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    Anti-immigrant party, Lega Nord or Northern League, has proposed legal and non-binding referendums in the wealthy regions of Lombardy and Veneto this Sunday.

    Voters will decide whether they want regional representatives to negotiate with Rome for more autonomy and return on their taxes. Observers say the referendums are about political positioning ahead of the crucial 2018 elections.

    Veneto Governor Roberto Zaia and Governor Roberto Maroni of Lombardy have both been critical of the Catalan movement.

    “[Catalan leader Carles] Puidgemont lost an extraordinary chance. He stopped in the middle and no longer has the strength he had on the first day,” said Maroni.

    “The Northern League is looking to maximize their gains in the next national election,” says Cristina Fusone, political science professor at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University.

    Since 2001, Italian regions have had the constitutional right to request more autonomy, in matters related to education and finance, but the European financial crisis has limited the scope of financial autonomy.

    “The problem stems from the austerity measures introduced,” she says. “Re-centralization of financial management has taken place and so this autonomy has been restricted. Every region is now bound to comply with balanced budget rules.”

    Wealthier northern regions, who outperform the underdeveloped southern Italy in all financial indicators, are against such restrictions.

    The Democratic Party has opposed the referendum. “The first problem is that the referendum question is too vague,” says Lorenzo Colovini, member of the Democratic Party. He has urged voters to boycott Sunday’s Veneto referendum, where a 50 percent turnout is required.

    “If the referendum were really serious, they should have defined more precisely what more autonomy means. It’s like a blank check. It’s really just political propaganda for Governor Zaia,” said Colovini.

    Both northern regions have been ruled by the Northern League for years and they are well managed, with a functioning health system and low unemployment rate.

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