The Italian Referendum of December 4th: What’s it all about and does it really matter how the vote goes?

On December 4th, Italians will be called upon to vote “for” or “against” an amendment to the Italian Constitution proposed by the Renzi government, inter alia, calling for a number of constitutional reforms, the principal being a new and revised Senate reduced from the current number of 315 popularly-elected Senators to 100 Senators, 95 of which are to be appointed from among existing local government officials, including City Councilmen and Mayors. The President of Italy will continue to appoint 5 senators for a term of seven-years. Unfortunately past presidents will continue to be gifted with lifetime seats in the Senate, when the original draft had aimed to do away with the practice (See, “Italy, Between Default and Decline”). As the referendum looms near, the debate is expected to heat up with both sides making terrifying predictions of what is to come if the “Ayes” prevail over the “Nays” and vice-versa. There is talk about a sort of “doomsday” effect for Europe if the “Nays” prevail. Fortunately, nothing of the kind is likely to happen because Italy does not seem to carry much weight in Europe these days. Politically, the Country is weak and divided. Economically, Italy’s biggest asset is the Country’s astronomical national or “public” debt, as the Italians prefer to call it. No one in his right mind would want to push Italy over the brink for fear of the potential fallout to global financial markets. Or would they?

Ironically, Italy’s greatest strength could well lie in its inherent weakness!


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