Italians reject Berlusconi and his neoliberal policies in referendum
As well as a political blow to Berlusconi and his majority, the outcome of the Italian referendum on 12/13 June was a great democratic victory for the defence of common goods, health, and equality of citizens before the law. An overwhelming majority of 95% of voters said no to the privatisation of water, no to the exploitation of nuclear energy and no to the law that gave Berlusconi and his ministers immunity from trial proceedings.
Susanna Camusso, General Secretary of CGIL which endorsed the campaign for the referendum, said:
“there is no doubt that the government faces a political defeat. Italians have a different understanding about priorities and the policies Italy needs.”
The last time the 50% quorum for an Italian referendum was reached was in 1995, voter participation rate this time was 57% which makes its results binding. The ruling majority campaigned for abstention, but Italians voted in crowds and sent a very clear message.
The right-wing coalition was against the referendum because it directly questioned their laws and long-term political choices. They did their best to avoid the quorum being reached. They refused to hold the referendum on the same day as local elections in May (wasting hundreds of millions of euros); they approved a last-minute decree trying to nullify the nuclear energy referendum; and the national television channels owned or controlled by Berlusconi didn’t ensure proper coverage of the referendum. The news even gave the wrong date for the referendum twice!
The victory in this referendum is the result of the commitment of citizens. First they organised themselves in spontaneous committees to collect the necessary signatures to hold a referendum. Then they ran a mass awareness campaign and a big effort of information to make people familiar with what was a stake.
The outcome of the referendum is important not only for party politics, but even more in terms of policies. Italians refused the neoliberal dogma that everything has to be privatized; they rejected nuclear energy as an option (as they already had in a 1986 referendum) preferring alternative energies; and they firmly refused to allow the Prime Minister and others to avoid justice.
This referendum follows the defeat of the ruling majority in the recent local elections where Berlusconi’s party (the People of Freedom – PdL) lost control of important cities such as Milan (Berlusconi’s home city), Naples, Cagliari, etc. The coalition with the far-right xenophobic Northern League is weakening because, as the leaders of the latter said expressly, they don’t want to sink with the PdL. Tensions between the two parties are increasing day by day.