An overwhelming majority of voters who cast ballots in the northern regions of Veneto and Lombardy opted to vote “yes” to more autonomy, according to officials in both regions.
More than 98% of the more than two million people who went to the polls in Veneto voted in favor of autonomy, according to regional officials. In Lombardy, about three million people, which comprise about 40% of the electorate, went to the polls, but a quorum was not necessary. According to officials, more than 95% of voters in Lombardy’s had voted in favor.
Both wealthy regions are lobbying to have a greater say in how, and where, their taxes go, arguing that they give much more than they get back. Lombardy accounts for around 20% of the country’s economy, with Milan, the region’s main city, serving as Italy’s financial and fashion capital. The Veneto region accounts for about 10%.
The referendums were called by the two regions’ governors, Roberto Maroni of Lombardy and Luca Zaia of Veneto. Both of them are a part of the Northern League, which has long argued that the north is subsidising the poorer south. The referendums were aimed at securing further powers over spending, immigration, education and healthcare. The referendum is non-binding but local leaders believe it will give them a mandate to negotiate with Rome for further powers.
“We aim to have enough power to break the resistance of the government,” Maroni said before the vote. “We want to manage the territory, manage the areas that handle migratory flows.”
Maroni wants to slash his Lombardy’s tax bill by at least 50%, claiming it sends more than €54 billion to Rome than it does in return. In Veneto, Zaia believes the deficit is around €20 billion and wants his region reimbursed.
Five regions in Italy already boast autonomous powers, including Sardinia and Sicily, as well as Veneto’s neighbor, Friuli-Venezia. Lombardy includes the city of Milan, and Veneto has Venice as its capital.
Italy does not fear that the situation will escalate into something akin to ongoing tension between Catalonia and Spain. According to the BBC, critics of the polls call them a stunt to bolster the right-wing Northern League before a general election next year, while the central government in Rome says the polls are unnecessary although they are permitted under the Italian constitution.