THE LEADERS of Italy’s wealthy northern regions of Veneto and Lombardy claimed victory yesterday in Sunday referendums on gaining additional powers and tax revenue from Rome.
The votes were advisory only, but the far-right leaders of the adjacent regions hope the strong turnouts will bolster their position in talks with the government.
Both members of the anti-migrant, anti-EU Northern League, they want to keep more tax revenue and have autonomy over such policy areas as immigration, security, education and environment.
“This is the big bang of institutional reform,” Veneto President Luca Zaia boasted in Venice.
“We are convinced, and I hope Rome understands, that this is not the wish of a political party. These are the wishes of the people.”
His Lombardy counterpart Roberto Maroni claimed in Milan that, following the votes, the two regions “can unify our forces so we can wage the battle of the century.”
The two leaders will meet their regional councils to finalise their demands before going to Rome to transmit them to Premier Paolo Gentiloni.
The referendums, which did not seek independence, had been approved by Italy’s constitutional court.
Veneto and Lombardy account together for 30 per cent of Italy’s GDP and nearly a quarter of the country’s electorate.
Mr Maroni said that an overwhelming 95 per cent of participants voted Yes, with turnout exceeding 40 per cent of Lombardy’s eight million-strong electorate.
Veneto’s turnout was higher at 60 per cent of those eligible to vote, with 98 per cent backing the proposals.