Italian regions Lombardy and Veneto will hold autonomy referendums in October, Lombardy’s President Roberto Maroni told reporters on Thursday.
After the U.K and Spain, now Italy faces the specter of fragmentation.
The two wealthy northern Italian regions are in the hands of the separatist and nationalist far-right movement Lega Nord, which has a long history of participating in Italian center-right coalition governments. Veneto generates 10% of Italy’s GDP and Lombardy 20%.
Polls suggest Lega Nord’s appeal is surging beyond the current 12%.
The initiative is driven by two of the stars of the Lega Nord movement, Roberto Maroni from Varese, President of Lombardy, and leader of the Northern League, and Luca Zaia, President of Veneto. The latter aspires to lead Italy’s “center-right,” seating at the helm of a party that stands by the Dutch PVV, the German AfD, and the French FN.
Originally, Zaia wanted a referendum to decide whether Veneto should secede of Italy or keep 80% of its tax revenue. However, after the framing of that question was rejected by Italy’s Constitutional Court, the question has been rephrased as to whether or not Venetians and Lombards want autonomy.
Should a yes vote prevail, the two regions will add the prospect of secession to an already fragile political landscape, with Italy struggling to leave behind a sluggish economy and an ailing banking system, with a government that can no longer take its parliamentary majority for granted. In any event, the campaigns are likely to energize Lega Nord voters ahead of the national legislative elections of 2018.