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  • What Is the Upcoming Referendum Vote in Italy?

    Discover what Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is proposing, an idea that many Italians don't understand despite its importance and potential ramifications
    Our Paesani

    By Francesca Di Meglio

    Italians are in the middle of making a big decision. They have to choose whether to vote yea or nay for a constitutional referendum that would weaken the role of the Senate. But since Prime Minister Matteo Renzi initiated this proposal, he has said he would resign should Italians vote against it.

    This whole political circumstance is causing concern in the markets because of the uncertainty about the future of the Italian government. And it could have similar consequences to Brexit, Great Britain's decision to leave the European Union, which happened earlier in 2016.

    Italians will vote on "a proposal to reshape the Senate so that it no longer can block legislation indefinitely, gets consulted on fewer matters and loses its power to call a vote of no confidence in the government," explains an article in Bloomberg. "Today's 315 directly elected senators would be replaced by 100 regional councilors and mayors who are indirectly elected or appointed."

    One of the more disturbing facts is that many pundits and news outlets are warning that Italians don't really understand on what they are voting. At this point, many believe this is simply a referendum on Renzi and whether people are satisfied with his work. Those in this camp argue that they are right, that they are voting on whether to keep on Renzi.

    See, if the Senate is weaker, the prime minister will have more power. The idea, after all, is to give Italy a more stable government. That wouldn't necessarily be such a bad thing because Italy has had 63 governments since the end of World War II, which is kind of incredible. The place is perhaps the greatest example of bureaucracy hampering the people. The stagnant economy and inability to make any change – not to mention the rampant corruption – certainly hasn't been helped by the constantly changing governments and divisions brought on by numerous political parties.

    What many political experts are saying is that this is also a fight of conflicting ideologies. Renzi's center-left government is facing strong competition from the Five Star Movement, an anti-establishment group that has little experience but lots of attention, especially from young people. Southerners also tend to be anti Renzi. Therefore, the struggle is real, folks.

    There are critical reasons for voters to have doubts about Renzi. "Analysts say one thing is clear: the usually confident Renzi made a big error when he decided to stake his own political career on the vote," according to the Guardian. "Much to his chagrin, the vote is beginning to resemble a national election – something which, thanks to the maneuvering that got him into power, he has never personally won. In 2014 Renzi elbowed out prime minister Enrico Letta in a tussle for power within his own Democratic party." His lack of a general election win frightens many, who fear a prime minister getting too much power without a stronger Senate for checks and balances. And technically the people didn't elect this guy. Not ever.

    Yet, many are more worried about what a "no" vote for the referendum would do to the country. "There would be calls for electoral reform before any new elections are held, potentially paralyzing Italy's decision-making," according to Bloomberg. "The Five Star Movement, which is virtually tied with Renzi's Democratic Party, would press its call for a referendum on continued Italian membership in the euro. Business lobby Confindustria says the economy could fall back into recession." Yikes!

    Sounds like many countries are struggling with how to define themselves in the post-globalization economy. Italy is simply among the next to decide who it is in this new world.

    You can read more about all things Italian and living the dolce vita on the Italian Mamma blog, and you can follow Di Meglio at Italian Mamma on Facebook or on Twitter @ItalianMamma10.

    Article Published 9/17/16


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