Prime Minister Romano Prodi has joined other Italians by voting in a referendum that could herald the country’s biggest constitutional shake-up in half a century. He opposes the proposed changes, even though they would give him more power. The reforms were championed by the previous government before it was ousted in April. Over two days, voters will decide whether to approve the package that would also give new powers to the regions.
Italy’s constitution was drawn up after World War Two with the aim of preventing the return of a dictator like Benito Mussolini. But critics say it contains so many checks and balances that it has been hard to govern, with many post-war administrations surviving barely a year.
Some of the electorate seems confused about exactly what the changes would mean. “I voted without really knowing what I was voting for,” said one man. “Italians are not really able to fully understand this kind of referendum. It is too complicated.”
“Italians want to be governed,” a woman added. “The fundamental law must be observed, by any means. I don’t understand why we have to go through this. In any case, I voted.”
Former centre-right Premier Silvio Berlusconi says the changes will regenerate Italy’s antiquated system of government. His centre-left successor however argues the package will wreck national unity and cost over 250 billion euros to implement.