Veneto: an unreliable referendum or a real warning to Italy?

Unofficial on-line referendum finishes with 89% of votes in favour of independence · Computer management system allowed to vote by using a false name · Survey shows 55% of Veneto inhabitants would support independence · Veneto president insists that an official referendum should be held

A debate is ongoing on how reliable the results of last week's on-line referendum on Veneto independence are. The vote had been organized by the Plebiscite 2013 group. Final data released by the organization say that 2.36 million people cast a valid vote, which is roughly equivalent to 63% of those eligible to vote. Out of them, 89% voted for independence, and 10% against.

The organization was quick to say on Friday that the vote had been a historic success. The group even declared independence in a ceremony in Treviso, and chose a citizen committee responsible for "diplomatic relations aimed at international recognition of the Veneto Republic". The relevant press release is signed by Gianluca Busato, a former member of the Northern League, founder of several pro-independence parties, and promoter of Plebiscite 2013.

Critics suggest that the on-line referendum had no validity or accuracy. Nationalia checked the reliability of the referendum's on-line management system last week. Using a false name and address, a staff writer easily obtained the code needed to cast the vote, and he did so in a matter of minutes without any hindrance. It was not possible to check whether that vote had been counted as valid or not (the organization has reported 6815 invalid votes).

Survey: 55% for independence

As the on-line referendum went by, newspaper La Repubblicacommissioned a poll on the issue. The survey, by institute Demos, shows 55% support for independence of Veneto. Regarding the on-line referendum, the Demos survey says that half of the Veneto inhabitants had voted or intended to do so, and out of them, less than 80% intended to vote "yes".

According to the survey data, then, the on-line referendum figures could be somewhat higher than reality, but possibily not far away. Thus, La Repubblica writes that the Demos survey shows that the on-line referendum's "signal should be taken seriously". President of Veneto Luca Zaia (Veneto League-Northern League) feels the same way: according to him, the vote was "an optimum signal, a signal of impatience, of pro-independence sentiments that are widespread and that cross all social classes".

On several occasions, Zaia has said he would vote "yes" in an independence referendum. But he also pointed out that demands from the territory could also be met through an increase of Veneto's powers within a federal Italy with "variable geometry".

Zaia considers that the on-line referendum has only been a "survey", but nevertheless he says he is in favor of organising an official vote on independence. The Veneto Regional Council last September should have decided on a bill to hold am official referendum on independence, but the Council members chose to postpone the decision. Zaia insists that the bill will be brought forward. The Veneto President says that those who only link the pro-independence movement to the Northern League are wrong: Veneto secessionism is "decades long", he argues. Zaia is considering running for 2015 Veneto election as the leader of a new pro-sovereignty list, not necessarily linked to the Northern League. This list could bring the issue of the referendum on independence to the voters' consideration. But this remains to be seen.