Veneto to hold one vote on independence, another one on increased autonomy

Non-binding referendum on secession should be held within 6 months · Referendum law could be challenged if considered unconstitutional · Vote on more self-government should come after Veneto-Italian governments hold negotiations

The Veneto Regional Council passed this week two laws providing for the holding of two non-binding referendums. On Wednesday, Veneto councilors approved a proposal for a vote on increased autonomy for Veneto, and on Thursday a popular vote on independence from Italy was also passed. Veneto President Luca Zaia (Venetian League-Northern League) said although he "believes in autonomy," the non-binding vote on independence "is an opportunity for the Venetians."

The law on the independence referendum was approved at the initiative of councilor Stefano Valdegamberi (Popular Future party). It received the support of 30 councilors (mainly members of Northern League and Popular Future, plus some from Forza Italia and New Centre-Right party. 12 Regional Council members voted against, including Democratic Party and Italy of Values councilors. Another 3 councilors abstained, while the others did not vote.

The law should have been voted in September 2013, but the decision was then postponed.

According to the law, the vote should be held within six months. All citizens living in Veneto will be eligible to vote. The result will be valid if the turnout reaches 50%.

Negotiating more autonomy as an alternative

It is unclear if the vote will be finally held, since the law passed by the Venetian chamber could still be challenged by the Italian state if it considered to be unconstitutional. In any case, Zaia now has a mandate to negotiate an increased autonomy for Veneto with the Italian government, thanks to the fact that the Regional Council also passed another law allowing him to do so. If the Veneto and Italian governments reach an agreement, it would be put to vote. This law had been proposed by the New Centre-Right party, and it won the support from 33 councilors.

Zaia had travelled in April to Rome seeking a special autonomous status for Veneto from the Italian government. Five territories in the Italian Republic currently enjoy special autonomy: Aosta Valley, Trentino-South Tyrol, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sardinia, and Sicily. The remaining territories have ordinary statutes, with less self-government.

The laws passed this week come nearly three months after an on-line referendum showed 89% of Venetians are in favor of secession, with a turnout of 63%. However, the reliability of the computer system raised many doubts about the results. Newspaper La Repubblica then commissioned an opinion poll: according to Demos pollster survey, 55% of Venetians want independence.