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Why Italians should vote ‘NO’ in their Constitutional Referendum on December 4th

In a year that has brought us Brexit and President-elect Trump, Italians have an historic opportunity to save their democracy from elitist authoritarianism.

One of things I’ve always admired about the Republic of Italy is that her citizens, her culture, her rich traditions both modern and ancient, are able to exist and thrive in spite of her government. The Italian Parliament is famous for deadlock and whilst Italians are generally never shy when it comes to complaining about their righteous grievances against government corruption and inadequacy, the current Italian Prime Minister wants to transform Italy from an imperfect yet functional democracy into a kind of technocratic state ruled by Parliamentary super-majorities and a presidential Prime Minister.

On the 4th of December, Italians will vote on Matteo Renzi’s Constitutional Reform Referendum, a piece of ill thought out and poorly written legislation designed to bring Italy in-line with the kind of political system that will make further domination from Brussels more effective and thorough.

The referendum seeks to abolish the Italian Senate in all but name, curbing so many powers of the currently co-equal legislative chamber, that it would effectively make it nothing but a gilded talking shop.

At the same time, the Referendum if passed, would allow for Parliamentary super-majorities in the Chamber of Deputies, with fixed terms of rule. No matter how bad a government, it would be difficult to thrown it out.  This would drastically curtail the power of small parties that have a lot to say and offer.

It would allow megalomaniacs like Renzi to act as powerful presidential style leaders. The ability  of the Chamber of Deputies to put checks and balances on government power would be reduced to  mere window dressing. This would destroy the imperfect but rich nature of Italian democracy, wherein many parties have a say in the running of a large and diverse country.

I hope that Italians know that when complaining about the two part system in modern Britain (though this is slowly changing in Britain thanks to UKIP and the Scottish Nationalists) and America, Italy is often looked to as an example of a country where small parties can make a big difference.

The referendum is anti-democratic to the core. Whilst many in Italy see it as establishing a system whereby Rome dominates the rest of Italy, it will really mean that a power hungry Renzi will be sitting on his throne in Rome, waiting for Brussels to email him his marching orders which he could then push through a docile Chamber of Deputies and an irrelevant Senate. Inside Italy is the Holy See where the Pope sits on his gilded throne. Italy doesn’t need both Pope Matteo and Pope Francis.

The referendum proposals would also curb regional powers which are crucial to preserving Italy’s existence as a state. Bismarck famous referred to Italy is a mere geographical expression rather than a unitary state. The fact that Italy with her diverse regions became a united kingdom in 1861, actually helped inspire German unification. The intellectual discussion at the time stated that if Cavour, Mazzini and most importantly Garibaldi could help to unite the historically divided and diverse states of Italy, than surely under Prussian military and economic leadership, with the long established Zollverein, the Germanic states leftover from Napoleon’s dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, could do the same.

Frankly, there are two things one should never do out of jealousy for Italians: start a restaurant or start a state. The Germans have done both. Now the German dominated EU with help from an obedient and complicit Italian Prime Minister, seek to dominate the country whose unification was one of the reasons there is a Germany in the first place. The irony is almost too bitter to swallow.

Opposition to the referendum is diverse, ranging from Communist and socialist parties to Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Lega Nord (the Northern League). Inversely, all of the Eurocratic and technocratic liberal parties are for the changes.

Most crucially, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement are vehemently opposed to the referendum. In many ways Grillo is staking his political career on the referendum failing as much as Renzi is staking his on its success. As Alexander Mercouris recently wrote, of the many anti-neo-liberal parties emerging throughout the western world, so derided and erroneously labelled ‘populist’, Grillo’s is the most unique. Grillo’s ideas are, for me, a mixed bag for this very reason. Yet in many ways he speaks for the frustrations of ordinary Italians and isn’t afraid to proffer highly original and anti-dogmatic ideas to help make Italy better for her citizens.

Put simply, I’d take a democratic Grillo over a pseudo-dictatorial Renzi any day.

The Italian Referendum of December the 4th represents an opportunity to be the third and final electoral blow against the establishment and the elite in a year that has already seen the success of Brexit and Donald Trump. But do not vote no, merely to prove a geopolitical point that Italy too can join the Brexit bus and the Trump train. Do it for yourself, do it to save your country. Do it to preserve your culture which is so widely loved throughout the world.

I shall end with the word of Lord Byron who said the following of Italy in his epic poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

The commonwealth of kings, the men of Rome!

And even since, and now, fair Italy!

Thou art the garden of the world, the home

Of all Art yields, and Nature can decree;

Even in thy desert, what is like to thee?

Thy very weeds are beautiful, thy waste

More rich than other climes’ fertility;

Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin graced

With an immaculate charm which cannot be defaced.

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