On Monday, May 29, the governor of the Lombardy region, Roberto Maroni from the far-right Northern League party, signed an official decree that a referendum for increased autonomy will be held on October 22. The region of Veneto will hold a similar referendum on the same day; however, neither referendum is legally binding. Lombardy’s referendum has received support from center-right parties within the region, as well as the populist Five Star Movement. Protests related to the referendum may occur in the coming months.
The referendum would provide greater legislative and administrative autonomy, particularly related to finances.
The Northern League (Lega Nord) is a collection of regional parties in northern and central Italy that advocates for increased regional autonomy and a decentralized, federal Italian state. Party leaders claim that the more economically productive and rich northern Italy subsidizes government services for the less productive and poorer southern regions. The region of Lombardy accounts for 20 percent of Italy's GDP while Veneto accounts for 10 percent.
The regions of Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-South Tyrol, Aosta Valley, and Friuli-Venezia currently have a similar type of regional autonomy. Experts believe that should the referendums pass, the central government in Rome could respond by granting special autonomy or moving all of Italy towards a federal system.
Individuals in Italy are advised to avoid large gatherings and any potential protests related to the referendum.