Italian referendum wrap-up
Uncertainty not to be dispelled immediately… only in the event of a ‘Yes’ victory On Sunday, 4 December, Italians will vote on the constitutional confirmative referendum. Polling stations will open at 7am CET and close at 11pm CET. We expect the result to be known by early Monday morning. Why a referendum? On 12 April 2016, the Italian parliament, in its final reading, passed the Boschi Bill, which seeks to amend part of the Italian constitution. The Bill secured an absolute majority in both branches of parliament, but fell short of obtaining the two-thirds of votes needed to avoid the additional step of a confirmatory referendum. The constitutional referendum is, therefore, a necessary follow-up to confirm the bill into constitutional law. Voters will cast their vote to decide whether to accept (‘Yes’) or not (‘No’) the amendments to the Italian constitution set out in the Boschi Bill, as already passed by parliament. These touch upon various sections of the Italian constitution. The key points of the proposed reforms • Eliminate the current ‘perfect bicameralism’, which assigns the same powers to both the Senate and the House of Deputies. • In an amended setting, power would shift markedly to the Chamber of Deputies. It would have exclusive power to cast confidence votes on the government. Importantly, it will retain the almost exclusive legislative power over ordinary laws and budget law. • The new Senate would become the House of the Regions, representing regional autonomies. It would be reduced in size (100 members; 95 nominated by regional representatives and five by the President of the Italian Republic). Its role becoming that of coordinating central and local administrations. It would no longer have the power to vote on government confidence votes, but would maintain non-binding power to propose amendments and opinions on bills approved by the Chamber of Deputies. • The Boschi Bill also seeks to modify Title 5 of the Italian constitution and the repartition of competences between the central State and Regional Administrations. Majority needed The referendum does not require a quorum. As a consequence, the result will be valid whatever the turnout. State of play A very long and difficult campaign is coming to an end. Attempts made by PM Matteo Renzi to de-personalise the contest have mostly failed. During the final days of his campaign, PM Renzi focused exclusively on the issues that will be voted on. Our feeling is that many electors will still consider the referendum as a test of Renzi’s government. From Saturday 19 November until the polling date of 4 December, Italy is in a blackout period, during which the publication of results of opinion polls on the referendum is prohibited. Up until 18 November opinion polls consistently indicated a widening lead for the ‘No’ camp, irrespective of the twists and turns of the campaign. The last seven days of publicly available polls had, on average, ‘Yes’ at 47.1% and ‘No’ at 52.9% (a 5.9ppt lead), with the percentage of undecided voters (absent in some opinion polls) at 20%. Statistically speaking, these numbers are inconclusive, but the bias in favour of ‘No’ is undisputable. Notwithstanding the clear bias shown in the polls, some caution in considering the result a ‘done deal’ should be taken. Opinion polls did not include expatriate voters, a numerically relevant group that has been addressed by the ‘Yes’ camp with a targeted campaign and who are expected to have a ‘Yes bias. In addition, polls disclosing anagraphical and geographical breakdowns have consistently showed that a propensity to vote ‘No’ was stronger among young voters and in the southern regions. In both groups, the turnout could be lower than the national average. Voter turnout might ultimately play a crucial role in determining the referendum result.