The independence referendum held in Veneto between the 16 and 21 of March adds to a growing list of struggles for territorial autonomy within established nation states and advanced democracies in Europe. As is well known, this year Scotland will go to the polls to decide whether it becomes an independent country. Crimea has also recently made the headlines for its sudden desire to secede from Ukraine and re-join Russia – a decision supported by a landslide victory in a recent, if contested, popular referendum. And yet, in many respects, the Veneto independence referendum cannot be directly compared to these cases. In the first place, the referendum was unconstitutional and defective. According to the Italian Constitution (Article 5) “the Italian Republic is one and indivisible” – which, put simply, means that no referendum could ever be lawfully called to question or change this principle.
Another issue concerns the way in which the political group Veneto Indipendente managed and organised the referendary ballot, mainly through the web platform plebiscito.eu. Unlike other cases in Europe, in fact, the result was not legitimate because the vote followed unconventional rules – i.e. people could cast their vote online, via telephone or at polling stations improvised in town squares across the region. Hence, when the organising committee declared with enthusiasm that the referendum was won with an overwhelming majority (89%, with nearly 2,5 million votes cast), many politicians and commentators hurriedly shelved the issue, arguing that the vote was only hypothetical and not verifiable, and therefore null.
Moreover, the political movement behind the referendum is neither a strong nor a coherent political force. Veneto Indipendente (and the so-called ‘Venetists’) brings together a number of small and fractious autonomist groups and ‘leagues’, which over the years have never managed to coordinate their forces to create a credible agenda or gain any real political clout. As a consequence, the Venetists and their claims have never been taken seriously by the Italian political class.
Full Article: Arrivederci, Veneto? | openDemocracy.