Italian regions vote on push for more autonomy
Voters in the wealthy northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto went to the polls yesterday on proposals for greater autonomy from Rome, riding a global tide of self-determination that has swamped Spain's Catalonia region.
While the twin referendums are non-binding, a resounding "yes" vote would give the presidents of the neighbouring regions more leverage in negotiations to seek a greater share of tax revenue and to grab more responsibility from Italy's central government.
The leaders want more powers in areas such as security, immigration, education and the environment.
Unlike in Catalonia, the referendums do not seek independence and have been approved by Italy's constitutional court. Still, the autonomy drive is a powerful threat to Rome's authority. Together, Veneto and Lombardy account for 30pc of Italy's GDP and nearly one quarter of the nation's electorate.
At their respective polling places, Lombardy president Roberto Maroni and Veneto president Luca Zaia cast the referendum as a historic opportunity.
"A page of history is being written," Mr Zaia said as he voted in Treviso province, north of Venice. "Veneto will not be the same as before."
Mr Maroni, speaking as he voted in Varese province north of Milan, said the referendum represented "a historic occasion" for the two leaders to seek "greater responsibilities and resources".
After 12 hours of voting, the turnout in Veneto was high enough to make valid the pending results of its ballot initiative seeking popular backing to grab power from Rome valid.
In Veneto, 52pc of the region's four million voters cast ballots. No quorum was set in Lombardy, where turnout was lower, above 30pc of the eight million voters.