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Lombardy and Veneto back greater autonomy from Rome

Voters overwhelmingly demand more regional control over tax revenues and immigration from central government.

Lombardy and Veneto

The leaders of Italy's two wealthiest northern regions have claimed victory in a non-binding referendum, seeking greater autonomy from the central government in Rome. 

Voters in Lombardy and Veneto overwhelmingly backed more regional control over tax revenues, immigration and education systems on Sunday.

The turnout in Veneto was projected at around 58 percent - above its 50 percent threshold - while just over 40 percent of the eligible voters cast their ballots in neighbouring Lombardy, where no quorum was set. 

More than 95 percent voted "yes" in both regions, according to the projections.

An approval of the parliament will be now required to allow regional autonomy.

Lombardy and Veneto account for 30 percent of Italy's GDP, but many taxpayers in the north resent subsiding the relatively poor south of Italy.

Italy's twin referendums come on the back of the vote on Catalonia's secession from Spain.

Tensions have been high in neighbouring Spain after an overwhelming 90 percent voted in favour of secession.

Analysts in Italy fear the vote could have a "snowball" effect, while paving the way for other regions to demand greater leverage in negotiations with the central government. 

"We already have other regions calling for referendums," Pietro Basso, sociology professor, said. "So, if each region calls for autonomy, then there will be a clash of power centres and more chaos."

Despite the vote, pro-autonomy campaigners admit the regions will face obstacles in the parliament, but believe greater independence is good for governance.

"I suppose Europe has to evolve something like a very federal system that the US has with its 50 states," Gianluca Busato, a Veneto resident and pro-autonomy activist, said. 

"Europe can have 50 independent regions, that is not a problem for governance, and it will also be the direction that people want from an economic and civic point of view."


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