Italy is preparing for a referendum on whether to institute a radical overhaul of the country’s constitution. The changes would give greater autonomy to the regions and boost the powers of the prime minister. The vote over the course of Sunday and Monday is necessary because parliament did not pass the bill with a two thirds majority.
Umberto Bossi, the leader of the Northern League, is the greatest champion of the changes. His party argues Italy is too centralised and that regions should have control over education, health and local policing. He is backed by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has even gone so far as to claim that anyone who votes ‘No’ is not “100% Italian”.
Current PM Romano Prodi says the constitutional changes will split the country and are “full of contradictions”. Voters are divided. “I think Yes is a good vote. But quite frankly, I don’t even know if I’m going to vote because I’m fed up,” said one man. A woman said: “This is an issue that should concern all Italians. “Everybody should vote if they care about their country. I hope a high percentage of people will vote and will vote ‘No’.” Most pundits predict the left-wing ‘No’ campaign will win. All that is needed for the reforms to pass is a majority of voters to say ‘Yes’, regardless of how low the turnout is.