EUROPP is running a series of articles on the Italian constitutional referendum, held on 4 December 2016. This page collates all of the material in the series and the most recent polling results. The first section of the page provides details on the referendum, the second section gives an overview of the proposed reforms, while the latest polling is shown in the chart and table below. The final section contains links to analysis of the reforms and the campaign from our contributors.

Italy’s referendum

The referendum
The referendum will be held on 4 December and will be the third constitutional referendum of its kind to have been held in Italy (the other two referendums were held in 2001 and 2006). The precise question put to the public will be:

Do you approve the constitutional bill concerning the dispositions to overcome the perfect bicameralism, the reduction of the number of members of the Parliament, the restraint of the institutions’ operating costs, the abolition of CNEL and the revision of Title V of the 2nd part of the Constitution, which was approved by the Parliament and published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale n. 88, on April 15, 2016?

Parliamentary process

The reforms were previously approved in the Italian parliament. Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, and his Democratic Party (PD) put forward a bill which was approved by an absolute majority in both houses of parliament: the Senate (Senato della Repubblica) which issued its second and final approval of the bill on 20 January 2016; and the Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei deputati) which issued its second and final approval of the bill on 12 April 2016. However, as the changes would require a two-thirds majority in parliament to be implemented, they have instead been put to a referendum.

Political significance

When the referendum was initially proposed, Renzi indicated that he would resign as Prime Minister should the proposal be voted down and potentially leave politics for good. However, it is now expected that even if the referendum results in a No vote, the government will continue until the end of its scheduled period in office (the next Italian elections are due to be held no later than 23 May 2018).

The reforms
There are a number of different elements to the proposed reforms. One of the most important changes is that the reforms would alter the nature of Italy’s parliamentary system. At present, Italy uses a form of bicameralism where both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies have effectively equal powers. The reform would change this relationship, with the Chamber of Deputies remaining directly elected and with similar powers, but the Senate becoming a chamber composed of regional representatives, which will not vote on motions of confidence in the government, and will have reduced powers over new legislation.

In addition to reducing the Senate’s powers and changing its composition to include regional representatives, the reforms also aim to tackle overlapping responsibilities between the national government and regional governments. This would involve returning some delegated powers back to the central government, while simultaneously devolving responsibilities in other areas. This new clarification of competences is expected to be a significant change to the way the country is governed if it comes into force.

Other proposed changes include new provisions for direct democracy. These changes would establish a rule which would allow a referendum to be called if 800,000 citizens support it. Under this procedure any referendum called in this way will be valid so long as more than half the total number of voters who took part in the most recent election vote in it. This effectively reduces the threshold for referendums of this nature (currently there needs to be an absolute majority of eligible voters for such a referendum to be valid). It will also be mandatory for parliament to discuss a legislative initiative supported by 150,000 Italian citizens.

The electoral law

A related and highly contentious element to the reforms is a proposed change to the system used for Italian elections. However, this new electoral law itself is not part of the reform package being voted on in the referendum. It has only been linked to the referendum in a political sense, given it was also proposed by the Prime Minister and his government.

The most important feature of the electoral law is that it would provide a large ‘electoral bonus’ to the party that receives the highest vote share in an election: the party that receives the highest vote share (and as a minimum has more than 40% of the vote) would be automatically assigned 55% of the seats in parliament. If no party gets more than 40% then the two largest parties would go to a second ballot to gain this bonus. The aim of this system is to ensure that a party ends up with a relatively stable majority, but several parties have criticised the system’s potential to create ‘artificial’ majorities and deny representation to smaller parties. The electoral law is due to be reviewed by Italy’s Constitutional Court after the referendum.

Latest polling

 

bigitalychart20nov

Polling data
DateYes (%)No (%)Polling Company
28 September 20165149Istituto Ixè
28 September 201648.551.5Index Research
29-30 September 201647.552.5Scenari Politici - Winpoll
30 September 201647.652.4Euromedia Research
30 September - 1 October 20164852Ipsos
1-2 October 201646.653.4EMG Acqua
3-5 October 201646.553.5Sondaggi Bidimedia - Bi3
5 October 201648.351.7Index Research
5 October 20165149Istituto Ixè
8-9 October 201647.152.9EMG Acqua
8-9 October 20164852Lorien Consulting
10-12 October 20164951Demopolis
12 October 20165050Istituto Ixè
13 October 201648.651.4Index Research
14 October 20164654Scenari Politici - Winpoll
14-15 October 20164753Euromedia Research
14-15 October 20164852Tecnè
15 October 201648.551.5IPR Marketing
15-16 October 201647.752.3EMG Acqua
18-19 October 201648.551.5Index Research
19 October 20164951Istituto Ixè
19 October 20164654Eumetra Monterosa
19-20 October 20165149Demopolis
20 October 20164654Ipsos
21 October 20164852Scenari Politici - Winpoll
21-22 October 201647.552.5Tecnè
21-22 October 201649.250.8IPR Marketing
21-23 October 201647.952.1EMG Acqua
26 October 201648.751.3Index Research
26 October 20164852Istituto Ixè
26 October 20164654Eumetra Monterosa
24-27 October 20164753Demos & Pi
26-27 October 201649.550.5Demopolis
27-28 October 201647.552.5Scenari Politici - Winpoll
27-29 October 201647.152.9Tecnè
28-30 October 20164852EMG Acqua
2 November 20164951Istituto Ixè
2 November 201648.251.8Index Research
2 November 20164555Eumetra Monterosa
3-4 November 201648.551.5Demopolis
4 November 20164753Scenari Politici - Winpoll
4 November 201647.952.1Euromedia Research
4-5 November 20164753Tecnè
4-6 November 201647.652.4EMG Acqua
9 November 20164852Istituto Ixè
9 November 201647.852.2Index Research
9 November 20164555Eumetra Monterosa
9-10 November 201647.752.3Tecnè
10-11 November 201647.552.5Scenari Politici - Winpoll
12 November 201646.553.5Tecnè
11-13 November 201647.152.9EMG Acqua
11-14 November47.552.5Euromedia Research
15-16 November4852Demopolis
16 November43.956.1Eumetra Monterosa
16 November4654Euromedia Research
16 November47.252.8Index Research
16 November4753Istituto Ixè
14-17 November49.450.6Termometro Politico
15-17 November46.753.4EMG Acqua
16-17 November47.152.9Tecnè
16-17 November46.553.5Scenari Politici - Winpoll
17 November45.854.2Lorien Consulting

Analysis

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