Two of Italy’s wealthiest northern regions on Sunday voted overwhelmingly in favour of greater autonomy in the latest example of the powerful centrifugal forces reshaping European politics. Voters in the Veneto region that includes Venice, and Lombardy, home to Milan, backed more powers being devolved from Rome in votes that took place against the backdrop of the crisis created by Catalonia’s push for independence. Veneto President Luca Zaia hailed the results, which were delayed slightly by a hacker attack, as an institutional “big bang”. But he reiterated the region’s aspirations were not comparable to the secessionist agenda that has provoked a constitutional crisis in Spain. Turnout was projected at around 58% in Veneto, where support for autonomy is stronger, and just over 40% in Lombardy. The presidents of each regions said more than 95% of voters who had cast ballots had, as expected, voted for greater autonomy.
The votes are not binding but they will give the right-wing leaders of the two regions a strong political mandate when they embark on negotiations with the central government on the devolution of powers and tax revenues from Rome.
Secessionist sentiment in Veneto and Lombardy is restricted to fringe groups but analysts see the autonomy drive as reflecting the same cocktail of issues and pressures that resulted in Scotland’s narrowly-defeated independence vote, Britain’s decision to leave the EU and the Catalan crisis.