The regions of Veneto and Lombardy in Northern Italy are going to the polls on Sunday, in a referendum for greater autonomy.
For local regionalist movements, the question is whether 50% of the electorate will go to the polls. Without a 50% quorum, the referendum result will not be valid. But, if it passes, it opens the floodgates of criticism against social transfers and redistributive politics on a national level.
European attention in Veneto and Lombardy is rising, amidst a surge of nationalist movements in Europe.
Like Catalonia, the Lombardy and Veneto regions are the richest in Italy and together account for 30% of the GDP and unemployment there is much lower than the national average. They are both net contributors to the national budget, meaning that they put in more than they get back. This was the first argument of Catalan secessionist politics when the economic crisis erupted in Spain.
The far-right government of the Veneto region is led by the Liga-Veneta, the local chapter of Lega Nord. Its leader, Luca Zaia, has a long career in local and national politics, having served as Governor of the Province of Treviso (1998-2005) and Minister of Agriculture in the fourth Berlusconi government.
The far-right government of the Lombardy region is led by Roberto Maroni, the Federal Secretary of Lega Nord. He has served as a minister is three Berlusconi governments.
Unlike the Catalan referendum, this is approved by the Italian state. If the vote is “Yes,” Veneto will have greater tax-raising authorities. The next step will be more scope for spending locally on infrastructure, environment, health, and education, moving away from national redistribution. Similar arguments are being voiced by regionalists in Emilia Romagna.
Secessionism is currently not a strong movement, although it was stronger in the 1990s and early 2000s. The question on Sunday is whether the surge of the national debt will bolster the argument for regions to seek less redistribution, as in Catalonia.