This coming Sunday, Italians go to the polls in a constitutional referendum. This has been widely dubbed as offering the stage for a third ‘popular revolt’ against the establishment following Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the right-wing populist Northern League, on receiving the news of Trump’s election was heard to exclaim: “Now its our turn!”
And the potential consequences of the referendum have often been painted in lurid colours with suggestions that it could bring the populist Five-star Movement (M5S) to power. The party has demanded a referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro. This could herald the break-up of the EU, it is said. On the left, it is pointed out that the proposed changes to the Constitution are massive. These, it is said, could lead to a reduction of political accountability and checks and balances that put in doubt Italy’s very status as a constitutional democracy.
The reality is much more prosaic and here’s why.