On December 4th 2016 the Italian people will be called upon to vote in a referendum on the constitutional reform put forward by Matteo Renzi’s conservative and pro-austerity government. The topic is dominating Italian political life, because of the major impact the reform would have on the political and institutional life of the Italian Republic if approved, and because of the political turmoil that would follow if rejected.
The focus on the referendum has quickly polarized the Italian socio-political world, allowing every major socio-political force to divert attention from its own flaws. The Government and the Democratic Party are facing growing popular opposition, due to the enormous gap between the trumpeted effects of policies and the real-life struggles of a growing number of people living in Italy, struggles caused by neoliberal European Union driven government policies. The Five Star Movement, despite recent electoral victories in Rome and Turin, is still struggling with its identity and structure, and the mediocrity of its MPs and local politicians is showing. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, the Northern League and the rest of the right-wing parties see the referendum as a way of dislodging Renzi from power, only to get it back and apply the very same neoliberal policies. The various left-wing parties see the opportunity as a way of coming back to the national stage as a reliable and stable political force. The employers’ federation Confindustria is also favouring this national debate, since it’s conveniently diverting attention from diminishing salaries, labour rights and safety and increasing precariety, and employers’ corresponding enrichment.