The Italian people have voted to slash the size of their Parliament by a third, with voters turning out in big numbers despite the pandemic.
With most of the vote counted, almost 63 per cent of Italians voted in favour of the reduction.
The turnout of almost 54 per cent of eligible voters, after a two-day poll confirming the measures, was a sign of Italians’ strong “anti-political sentiments”, said Luiss University political science professor Giovanni Orsina.
“The reason why most voters have voted in favour of the reductions of the parliamentarians, in my opinion, is that they wanted to have less professional politicians around,” Mr Orsina said.
“So they thought that the reduction of the number was a kind of moralising factor on professional politicians.”
The ‘Yes’ vote, supported by the Government Coalition which includes the Democratic Party and the Five-Star Movement, confirmed a constitutional amendment already voted by the Parliament to cut Lower House representatives from 630 to 400 and those in the Senate from 315 to 200.
“This might be an occasion to make all the Parliamentary procedures more efficient, to rethink the relationship between Government and Parliament,” Mr Orsina said.
“But it must be seen whether this occasion is going to actually be exploited by the present majority that remains quite weak and divided.”
Even though the referendum had cross-party support, the Coalition majority Five-Star Movement claimed victory in its success, saying it showed voters still responded to the party’s anti-establishment, reform-minded ethos.
Democratic Party leader Nicola Zingaretti said his party was “very, very satisfied” with the result.
“This is a confirmation that the Democratic Party is a force of change, granting also during this Government mandate, a path of innovation and modernisation of institutions which we have long felt the need for,” Mr Zingaretti said.
Luciana Lamorgese, from Italian Ministry of the Interior, said the turnout was only slightly smaller than the 2016 Italian referendum proposing extensive constitutional reform, which was held without the threat of the coronavirus.
Coronavirus still a threat in the one-time outbreak epicentre
Italy was one of the country’s hardest hit by coronavirus in the initial stages of the pandemic.
While it has so far managed to avoid a devastating second wave so far — unlike France and Spain — the country has reported increasing numbers of cases since mid-August.
Health authorities there reported another 1,350 coronavirus infections on Monday with 17 COVID-19 deaths.
This brings the death toll to 35,724, the second-highest in Europe after Britain.
Italy on Monday also added Paris and other parts of France to its COVID-19 blacklist, requiring proof of negativity or tests on arrival.
Italy already has similar restrictions in place for anyone coming from Spain, Croatia, Malta or Greece.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said the data from other parts of Europe must not be underestimated, given the efforts Italians made during a three-month spring lockdown to tame the virus.