Venetian independence referendum, 2014

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Venetian independence referendum, 2014
Veneto in Italy.svg
Map of Italy with Veneto highlighted in red.
Location Veneto, Italy
Date 16–21 March 2014
Voting system Simple majority, online voting
Do you want Veneto to be a federal, independent and sovereign state?
Turnout was 63.2%.
Should Veneto adopt the Euro as its currency if it becomes independent?
Turnout was 24.6%.
Should Veneto seek to join the European Union if it becomes independent?
Turnout was 22.3%.
Should Veneto seek to join NATO if it becomes independent?
Turnout was 19.8%.

The Venetian independence referendum of 2014 was an unofficial, non-binding, online and privately organised poll held among residents of Veneto, one of the 20 regions of Italy, 16–21 March 2014. The vote, known also as the "digital plebiscite" or "", was promoted by Plebiscite 2013, a Venetian nationalist organisation led by Gianluca Busato.


Turnout and results[edit]

According to's staff, 2.36 million Venetians (63.2% of all eligible voters) participated in the online referendum and 89.1% of them (that is to say 56.6% of all eligible voters) voted "yes" to independence.[1] P2013 proclaimed Veneto's independence from Italy in Treviso on the night of 21 March.[2][3][4][5]

In the poll, ten "delegates for independence" were elected: Busato was the preferred candidate with 135,306 votes, followed by Stefano Vescovi (48,320), Selena Veronese (46,947), Silvia Gandin (43,025), Lodovico Pizzati (25,731), Gianfranco Favaro (16,670), Raffaele Serafini (16,627), Manuel Carraro (16,627), Gianluca Panto (16,321) and Paolo Bernardini (16,299).

Finally, voters were asked to express their opinion on three "foreign policy issues", were Veneto to become independent: adoption of the Euro (supported by 51.4% of voters), accession to European Union membership (supported by 55.7% of voters) and accession to NATO membership (supported by 64.5% of voters); turnout was however much lower for these three questions (24.6%, 22.3% and 19.8%, respectively).[1]

Critique of turnout and results[edit]

Turnout and results were questioned by many news sources based on publicly available website traffic statistics released by Alexa Internet and similar providers. According to the critics, throughout the duration of the poll, the website received approximately 135,000 visits (just 3.6% of eligible voters). Moreover, a significant proportion of this traffic came from outside Italy, with 10% coming from Santiago, Chile alone.[6][7][8][9]

According to an opinion poll by Ilvo Diamanti's Demos&Pi for La Repubblica taken on 20–21 March, however, 48% of Venetians had voted or had intention to vote in the online referendum, 49% had not voted, and 3% did not answer. Among those voting, 78% favoured independence. Moreover, Diamanti found that 55% of all eligible voters favoured independence, which was opposed by 39%.[10][11] Other polling firms, including Ixè[12] and Istituto Piepoli,[13] offered comparable data., for its part, announced on 29 March that a short report on the referendum by a committee of international observers would be soon presented. The president of the committee, former ambassador of Georgia to Italy, Beglar Davit Tavartkiladze, anticipated that 100% of the voters who had been contacted confirmed to have voted.[14][15]

On 22 December 2014 announced that, after an analysis performed by Engineering Ingegneria Informatica SpA, a well-known Italian IT and software company, the result of the referendum was legitimate, inasmuch no trail of corruption and/or alteration can be detected about the voters of the referendum.[16][17]

On 28 March 2015, as reported in detail below, announced the certification of the referendum and unveiled the Final Report by the Commission of International Observers, who confirmed the validity of the results declared right after the vote, rebutting all allegations arisen before.[18] On 1 April Busato declared that "With the Final Report signed and delivered in Venice on 28 March 2015, the Commission of International Observers has moreover legitimated the referendum committee to act internationally without limitation to its action, permitting and authorizing to establish any form of relationship with states and intergovernmental organizations in order to recognise referendum results and therefore the full independence of the Venetian Republic, respecting the right of self-determination of the Venetian people. Finally, until proven otherwise, no other can today legally represent Veneto internationally about its full and legitimate political independence."[19]

Certification of the results[edit]

The staff of has stated and documented [18] that on Saturday 28 March 2015, in Venice, the Commission of International Observers, presided by Mr Beglar Davit Tavartkiladze, former Ambassador of the Republic of Georgia in Italy, delivered the Final Report on the Digital Plebiscite to the President of the Organizing Committee of Gianluca Busato. The Commission of International Observers, composed of observers coming from different countries in the world (between them USA, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Syria, Moldova, Georgia and Czech Republic) and representing a wide choice of different political orientations, was selected by the President of the Commission himself, invited to the purpose by the Referendum Organizing Committee in accordance with the principles of the Communication no. 191 of the UE Commission regarding assistance and monitoring of elections by the UE. Among appointed persons in the Commission of International Observers, to be mentioned Dr. George Kurdadze (Georgia, Transatlantic Studies Center, NATO Project), Dr. George Chikovani (USA, Founder member and Director of the Board Conflict Management International Institute Corp., Harvard Project), Dr. Franco Barion (Italy), Dr. Valekh Shakhverdiev (Ukraine), Dr. Khyzir Ugurchiev (Russian Federation), Dr. Najwa Zerik (Syria), Dr. Sergey Dedanin (Czech Republic), Dr. Zviadi Tsaguriya (USA). Some observers during operations had to leave their appointment for health problems and for their work commitments abroad: Dr. Giovanni Stancarone (Italy), Dr. Robert De Jong (Netherlands).

The Commission Final Report is composed of a long compilation examining every step of the referendum, from the introduction, explaining how it was called and how the Commission of International Observers was created and established, following the principles of international organizations about elections and referendums, to the recognising of the legal basis of the referendum, to the analysis of the electors database, of the procedure that assigned citizens their voting codes, to the features of the e-voting platform, to the data reliability, to the analysis of introductory steps of the referendum, of the voting procedure, to the verification carried out on the analysis of vote results that confirmed the vote of more than 2.3 million Venetians having voting right, with 89.10% of them voting Yes for independence, to a punctual analysis of eventual irregularities or difficulties that could invalidate the vote, up to the conclusions that are reported shortly as follows:

The Commission of International Observers has carried out a series of controls in organizational terms to ensure that it guaranteed authentic, free and legitimate vote. It was verified that polls were made in a responsible and transparent way and that voting system gave a real possibility of choice. Voting was made in a free environment: electors could express their preference without any intimidation, violence or administrative interference. Voting secrecy was assured, except some limited cases of persons unable to express e-vote without assistance. Furthermore, votes counting was honest, with no possibility of alteration, and votes announcement was prompt. Observers have been free to verify, directly or indirectly, every single step of the voting process, before, during and after the referendum period. The Committee of International Observers, analyzing the above-indicated elements, verifies that the referendum for independence of Veneto that took place from 16th until 21st March 2014 included, was carried out in accordance with the principles requested by the International Organizations, and, in particular, in accordance with the CSCE/OCSE Document of the Copenhagen Meeting, 26/06/1990. The Committee of International Observers considers that the use of e-voting in a controlled environment, like the Internet, creates more security and secrecy and that e-voting procedure applied to Referendum is innovative and minimizes possibility of vote rigging. The Committee of International Observers considers that minor irregularities and some difficulties before and during voting could be minmized through the creation of a permanent federal structure in order to organize at the best e-voting process. The Committee of International Observers has invited its members to meet in Venice, in order to discuss the recommendations of the Final Report, on 27 and 28 March 2015.
Venice, 28 March 2015

Reactions and aftermath[edit]

The event was covered by several international media. During an interview with foreign journalists on 19 March, Luca Zaia, President of Veneto and leading member of Liga VenetaLega Nord, announced that he too had voted (yes) in the online poll and explained that he would seek "total independence" for Veneto.[20][21]

On 1 April 2014 a committee of the Regional Council of Veneto put forward bills calling for a referendum on independence and on more autonomy for the region. The move was supported by the representatives of Liga Veneta–Lega Nord, Forza Italia (the minority faction), New Centre-Right, Popular Future, Union of the Centre and North-East Union, with the opposition of the Democratic Party, Italy of Values and the Federation of the Left.[22][23] The day after, all the floor leaders of the parties (but the federation of the left) represented in the council officially asked the Italian government to give Veneto the status of a special-statute autonomous region and fiscal autonomy.[24] The final document was approved by Liga Veneta–Lega Nord, Forza Italia (both fations), New Centre Right, Union of the Centre, Italy of Values and North-East Union.[25]

On 28 April, during a visit in Veneto, Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano acknowledged that "there is a Venetian question, which will be central in the government's relation with regions". In reference to what he called "Agenda Veneto", he said: "We think that Veneto could be the laboratory for a form of strong and advanced federalism. [...] We cannot close our eyes in front of independentist risings. [...] The answer is dual: enhancing autonomy and improving the government's services". For his part, Zaia explained to Alfano the "legitimate request of Venetians" for autonomy and independence, and that "the issue of autonomy and the desire of independence of Venetians cannot be resolved with an aspirin", concluding that "if Rome continues to sleep, it is inevitable that Veneto will organise by itself".[26][27]

On 10 June the Regional Council discussed and passed a law concerning five referendum questions concerning special autonomy. On 12 June the same legislative assembly passed Valdegamberi's 342/2013 bill in order to hold a referendum on the independence (question: "Do you want Veneto to become a sovereign and independent republic?") with 30 yeas, 12 nays and 3 abstentions.[28] On 26 June 2015 the Constitutional Court ruled the independence referendum out as contrary to the Constitution, but authorised one of the five autonomy referenda ("Do you want the Region of Veneto to be granted of further and special forms and conditions of autonomy?").[29][30]

In March 2016 President Zaia announced that he had written to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in order to start the negotiation both on the organisation of the referendum on autonomy and the devolution of further powers to Veneto according to article 116 of the Constitution.[31] Zaia proposed the referendum to be held on the very same day of the 2016 constitutional referendum (which would reduce the regions' powers—article 117, while expanding the powers that can be devolved to regions according to article 116 and creating a regionalised Senate), a notion deemed legally impossible by undersecretary Gianclaudio Bressa,[32] and the negotiation started in May.[33][34]

According to an opinion poll taken in June, 78.5% of Venetians would take part to the autonomy referendum, 78.4% would vote yes, 3.5% no and 18.1% did not know. According to the same poll, 70.7% of voters would participate also in the constitutional referendum, 41.3% would vote yes, 22.2% no and 36.5% did not know.[35][36]

Contextually, two bills calling for an independence referendum were introduced in the Regional Council, one by Liga Veneta's Marino Finozzi, Gabriele Michieletto, Alessandro Montagnoli and Luciano Sandonà,[37] with the support of Roberto Ciambetti (President of the Council),[38][39][40] and the other by Antonio Guadagnini.[41]


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