Fellow Italians, please don’t vote 'No' in our referendum just because you dislike Matteo Renzi

Remember this referendum is about constitutional reform. Right now legislation can bounce between the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate for years – one bill, the ratification of the UN Convention of Torture, has been floating around for 27 years

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The Independent Online

Currently, Italians are bitterly split in two factions. On 4 December, we’ll be called to cast a vote on whether we agree to the constitutional reforms proposed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi or not.

Similar to Britain’s last June the government expects citizens to express their opinion on a number of various constitutional reforms that will recentralise power from Italy’s devolved regions and rework the balance of power between the two houses of parliament. Two highly complex reforms that will be answered with a simple or No instead of offering separate ballots in order to say yes or no based on the merit of each proposal.

Those arguing for Yes claim the reforms will shorten the time it takes to pass laws. Currently legislation can bounce between the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate for years – one bill, the ratification of the UN Convention of Torture, has been floating around for 27 years. The changes would reduce the power of the Senate and ensure a majority in the Chamber, allowing for laws to be passed more easily. 

Naysayers are vocal in their view that the fathers of Italy’s post-war constitution would've loathed such reforms as the constitution was born in 1948 out of a desire to balance power between the lower and upper house as to avoid a return to the Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. There are also others, who say that some reforms are needed, but should be implemented differently, and more gradually.

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I'm inclined to vote Yes, much to my friends' – a bunch of anti-establishment Five Star Movement supporters and diehard leftists – collective surprise and outward disappointment. They'll vote No because the reforms have been formulated clumsily, in a haste, although they do agree with the fact that Italy needs to be reformed. Mostly they disagree with the way Renzi has proposed it.

You see this isn’t just about the constitution. Renzi has misguidedly agreed to resign if the reform fails at the referendum. My friends and many like them desire is to stick to Renzi: the referendum has become a vote of confidence in his premiership, and it shouldn't be. Renzi is a braggart yes, but his naive enthusiasm to change Italy is something I appreciate.

But, there's one aspect that really bothers me about these reforms: they will increase Italy's centralised power, something the country could do with much less and not more of.

Renzi's government argue that some of Italy's ills originate from the self-interest with which local political classes have run their regions. He proposes that some of the devolved powers go back to Rome.

Yet, there have been cases of regions which have been steerd admirably. I think of German-speaking South Tyrol in the north, the place I call home. There are very valid reasons – historical and cultural – for this region to be autonomous. The truth is: South Tyrol should've remained Austrian after WWI, yet, after nearly a hundred years, the Alpine region has been doing well in Italy. Its self-government statute is a success, one that is much envied by the other regions. What a shame this model couldn't be adopted by others for the benefit of Italy as a system, resembling Germany a bit more, rather than...the same old tumultous Italy. The reforms will wipe any hope of this ever materialising. South Tyrol has been given plenty of assurances it'll keep its autonomy in any case.

What a shame these much-needed reforms couldn't find a different way of being put forward. The country is stuttering. Something has to be done. Either by hook or by crook, or almost so –legality is the core of a nation's life, one some political figures have dismissed for way too long.

That's why Renzi is resorting to an extreme referendum. I see no other reason, but will take part in the drama nonetheless. How could I not?

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