Italian Regions Overwhelmingly Vote For Autonomy

Jacob Bojesson | Foreign Correspondent

More than 90 percent of voters in two of Italy’s wealthiest regions, Lombardy and Veneto, backed greater autonomy in referendums Sunday.

Leaders from both regions claimed overwhelming support in non-binding referendums. The regions — home to major cities like Milan and Venice —  account for about 30 percent of Italy’s national wealth combined and local politicians argue they subsidize the poorer south.

“We can now write a new page: The regions that ask for more power will get it,” Lombardy President Roberto Maroni told reporters in Milan, according to Reuters. “I am talking for example about the power to discuss about tax proceeds that normally go to Rome … this is the first step in a path towards big reforms.”

Unlike the fight for Catalonian independence from Spain, the push in Italy has more to do with financial reasons than cultural identity. Maroni claims Lombardy pays out $64 billion more to the national government than it gets back.

It is also perfectly legal and the national government did not intervene before the referendums like Spanish authorities did in Catalonia.

Political party the Northern League has pushed for a federal Italy with greater autonomy for regions since its founding in 1991. Some argue that Sunday’s referendums were a political stunt by the party to boost its chances in next year’s general election and that it will have little actual effect.

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