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1ST LEAD Leaders jubilant as two Italian regions vote for more autonomy By Annette Reuther, dpa

Europe
23.10.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Rome (dpa) - Voters in the economically powerful northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto have overwhelmingly opted for more autonomy from Rome in a referendum, with regional leaders on Monday demanding action from central government.

With all votes counted, 95.3 per cent of voters in Lombardy want more freedom with the turnout in Sunday‘s non-binding but legal poll at 38.4 per cent, the regional authority in Milan announced.

In Veneto, which counts Venice and Verona among its major cities, 98.1 per cent voted in favour of extra autonomy with all the votes now counted, the region said in a statement. The turnout was 57.2 per cent.

"If Rome does not accept our demands, it will be a tragic signal for the country, because it would go against democracy," Veneto regional leader Luca Zaia said.

The referendum comes hot on the heels of a disputed independence vote in the Spanish region of Catalonia and adds to the potential instability of Europe, with Britain‘s exit from the European Union also dominating the headlines.

Veneto and Lombardy are both run by the right-wing Northern League, whose ultimate aim is for the rich north of Italy to break away from the poorer south, although it has softened its stance in recent years.

"It was a lesson in democracy for the whole of Europe," Northern League leader Matteo Salvini told supporters and reporters in Milan, the financial hub of the country.

"It is a victory not only for the Northern League but also for the people," he earlier wrote on Twitter.

The regions, which comprise around 10 million people, want to keep more of the tax revenue generated there and they are now calling for urgent talks with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

"I have an important task to implement the historic mandate, that millions of people in Lombardy have issued, to gain real autonomy," Lombardy regional leader Roberto Maroni said.

The Italian government has so far not commented on the results.

Results were delayed in Veneto due to a suspected computer hack.

Critics of the votes said there were technical problems and that the high cost was unjustified given the Italian government does not have to heed the results and the regions could have asked for more autonomy even without a referendum.

 

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