The Latest: Lombardy chief says 95% vote 'yes' for autonomy
Oct. 22, 2017
MILAN (AP) — The latest on autonomy referendums in Italy's two richest regions, Lombardy and Veneto (all times local):
The president of Italy's rich Lombardy regions says an overwhelming 95 percent of the vote in the northern area's autonomy referendum went to "yes" to seeking more powers and tax revenues from the national government.
Lombardy President Roberto Maroni has told reporters in Milan that turnout for Sunday's ballot was above 40 percent — exceeding the 34 percent target that he had set for success. The latter figure was the turnout for a national referendum on constitutional reform in 2001.
Turnout was an even higher 60 percent in the neighboring Veneto region, which posed the same autonomy question to its voters.
Veneto President Luca Zaia said returns were slow coming in because computers in the region had been hacked. But he said officials were able to confirm the high turnout by calling city halls.
The presidents of Italy's wealthy northern regions of Veneto and Lombardy are both claiming victory for the "yes" vote in autonomy referendums that seek to grab additional powers and tax revenue from Rome.
Sunday's two votes are nonbinding, but the leaders of the neighboring regions hope to leverage strong turnout in talks with Italy's government.
Veneto President Luca Zaia said in Venice after polls closed that "Veneto offers itself as a laboratory of autonomy." His counterpart in Lombardy, Roberto Maroni, said that with the referendums the two regions "can unify our forces so we can do the battle of the century."
The two leaders say they will meet with their regional councils to finalize their requests before going to Rome to meet with Premier Paolo Gentiloni.
They want to keep more tax revenue and have autonomy over such policy areas as immigration, security, education and environment.
A ballot initiative that seeks popular backing in Italy's Veneto region to grab power from Rome has attracted a voter turnout of more than 50 percent turnout, ensuring the measure's validity.
News agency ANSA says the turnout after 12 hours of voting on Sunday was 52 percent. A similar referendum also aiming for greater autonomy was being voted on in neighboring Lombardy, where turnout was 30 percent four hours before polls were scheduled to close.
Of the two regions, only Veneto set a quorum of 50 percent plus 1 for vote's to be valid. The president of Lombardy had lowered expectations for a turnout of 34 percent.
Unlike the independence referendum held Oct. 1 in Spain's Catalonia region, the votes in Lombardy and Veneto are not asking if the regions should break away from Italy.
The leaders of Lombardy and Veneto say votes on seeking greater autonomy from Rome are a historic opportunity for their wealthy northern regions to achieve greater self-determination and keep more tax revenues.
In San Vendemiano on Sunday, Veneto President Luca Zaia said "a page of history is being written."
Lombardy President Roberto Maroni said as he voted that the referendum represented "a historic occasion" for the two leaders to seek "greater responsibilities and resources."
The leaders are seeking a resounding "yes" vote to gain political leverage in talks with Rome. Maroni has lowered turnout expectations to one-third of Lombardy's voters; by noon 6 percent had voted.
Zaia needs a quorum of 50-percent plus one to validate the referendum. By midday, Veneto turnout was 21 percent.
Voters in the wealthy northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto are heading to the polls to decide if they want to seek greater autonomy from Rome, riding a tide of self-determination that is sweeping global politics.
While the twin referendums are non-binding, a resounding "yes" vote would give the presidents of the neighboring regions more leverage in negotiations to seek a greater share of tax revenue and to grab responsibility from Rome. The leaders want more powers in areas such as security, immigration, education and the environment.
At their respective polling places, Lombard President Roberto Maroni and Veneto President Luca Zaia cast the referendum as a historic opportunity for their regions.
Maroni says he would be happy if 34 percent of the region's 7.5 million voters cast ballots, equal to the national turnout in a 2001 constitutional referendum.
Veneto's aspirations will wither if voter turnout is below 50 percent plus one of the region's 3.5 million voters.