An estimated 40,000 people gathered in Rome on Saturday afternoon to protest against the government of Matteo Renzi.
The “No Renzi” day was called by left-wing and union activists against what they say are the government’s liberal policies.
The protest march across the Eternal City came a day after a 24-hour nationwide strike affecting public transport, schools and some airport services.
The protesters condemned what they described as the government’s “uncontrolled liberalism” and the erosion of workers’ rights.
They urged members to vote “no” in Italy’s referendum on constitutional reform on December 4th, arguing that a “yes” vote would strengthen the government’s power.
What will the referendum do?
Italy is due to hold a national referendum on major constitutional reform before Christmas.
Italians will be able to vote on a range of changes that would significantly alter the government’s constitution.
By limiting the powers of the upper house, or Senate, the vote could effectively end Italy’s two-chamber political system.
If agreed, the plan means there will only be 100 elected members instead of the 315 who currently are in position.
Additionally, the upper house will no longer be able to hold confidence votes on the government and will only have jurisdiction over a limited number of laws.
The government could also request that some legislation is fast-tracked through the lower house.
The aim is to generate greater political stability in Italy and to end the so-called “waltz of governments”:
A “big test” for the Renzi government
Commentators say the referendum will be a big test for the Renzi government.
The reforms are one of the main pillars of the 41-year-old’s agenda.
He has said he will resign if people vote against them.
Are thee any indications of how Italians might vote?
The great majority of opinion polls over the last month put the “no” camp ahead.
However, with many voters still undecided, the margin remains narrow.
For example, a public opinion poll from July 1 suggests:
- 34% of Italians will vote against Renzi’s reform plan
- 28.9% will vote in favour
- 19.4% are undecided on how to vote
- 17.7% are undecided on whether to vote at all
(Poll based on 1,000 interviewees, conducted on July 1 by Euromedia Research)
The Italian Constitution in dates:
- 1848 – first enacted (for the Kingdom of Sardinia)
- 1861 – adopted by Kingdom of Italy
- 1 January 1948 – latest enactment
- 2012 – most recent amendment
- 2016 – further amendment planned for autumn
(Source: “CIA World Factbook”: