MILAN: Two of Italy's wealthiest northern regions on Sunday (Oct 22) voted overwhelmingly in favour of greater autonomy in referenda that took place against the backdrop of Catalonia's push for independence from Spain.
Voters in the Veneto region that includes Venice and Lombardy, home to Milan, turned out at the high end of expectations to support the principle of more powers being devolved from Rome, officials said.
Veneto President Luca Zaia hailed the results, which were delayed slightly by a hacker attack, as an institutional "big bang" while reiterating that the region's aspirations were not comparable to the secessionist agenda that has provoked a constitutional crisis in Spain.
Turnout was projected at between 57-61 per cent in Veneto, where support for autonomy is stronger, and at around 40 per cent in Lombardy. The presidents of both regions said more than 90 per cent of voters who had gone to the ballots had, as expected, done so to support greater autonomy.
The votes are not binding but they will give the leaders of the two regions a strong political mandate when they embark on negotiations with the central government on the transfer of powers from Rome to the regions.
Secessionst sentiment in the two regions is restricted to fringe groups but analysts see the autonomy drive as reflecting the same, centrifugal pressures that resulted in Scotland's narrowly-defeated independence vote, Britain's decision to leave the EU and the Catalan crisis.