Italy’s voting public have overturned no less than four laws by the Berlusconi government in today’s referendum. In the wake of Fukushima the public’s clear ballot against a revival of nuclear energy in Italy understandably takes up a prominent position in news headlines. The ballot is also being seen as one of a number of heavy blows Berlusconi’s fragile coalition has been dealt recently, after two serious regional defeats in Naples and Milan.
In today’s referendum several questions were to be decided upon by the public: Should politicians be given a certain immunity in legal trials? Should Italy have –
at last again – its own nuclear plants? And should the public water service be run and capitalized upon by private companies? The latter question takes up a less prominent position in the perspective of foreign news coverage, but is one of great importance to many Italian families.
The law on water privatization is a part of so-called “Ronchi Decree”, named after Andrea Ronchi, minister of communitarian politics in the current Berlusconi government, which has become a law in 2009. The decree revises community service practices and envisaged to give way to a de facto privatization and capitalization on public water services by private stakeholders by guaranteeing “non-discrimination and equal treatment” to private companies who wish to participate in the public water services sector. Furthermore, public water service companies who were already listed on stock exchange were allowed to be owned by only less than a third, whereas 70% had to be in the hands of private investors.
A broad social movement subsumed in the “Italian Forum of Water Movements” consisting of 150 communities and political organizations called for a halt of broad liberalization of public services and the capitalization on something most Italians seem to see as a public good. Their campaigning work has reached a considerable amount of concerned voters: The ballots of today’s referendum are extremely articulate: 96% of those who went to vote (which were in turn 57% of the voting public) refused to accept the Ronchi Decree, the ballots against nuclear energy and legal immunity for politicians were equally high.