The air is clean and re-energising, but the journey does not end here; we are now entering a period that will be more delicate and, in some respects, more difficult.
Today, the stresses and strains of the long journey embarked upon over a year ago are still present, yet there are many miles to go before we sleep.
Of course, from the triumphant heights of this victory, the air is clean and re-energising, but the journey does not end here; we are now entering a period that will be more delicate and, in some respects, more difficult. To equip ourselves for this new phase, a good starting point would be to analyse events so far.
The referendum on the reform of the constitution saw 32,243,845 voters – 65.47% of the electorate – cast their vote on whether to change or preserve the Italian constitution. This is a significant turnout for the referendum which, unlike on past occasions, did not require a quorum of 50% plus one voters to make the result of the vote valid.
The Yes vote won approximately 13.5 million votes, or 40.89%, while the No vote obtained almost 19.5 million, or 59.11%. This figure includes voters living abroad who, for this particular vote, are the subject of lively debate both in relation to the personal details that the prime minister used to send them communications from the Yes campaign, and the voting process itself and whether or not votes were vulnerable to tampering by consulate staff.
The geographical map of the results shows us an Italy almost completely on the side of No, with only the province of Bolzano, Tuscany and Emilia Romagna coming down with a majority in favour of Yes. The most marked geographic trend is that the south and the islands voted No at a rate of around 70%, peaking at 74% in some provinces in Sicily and Sardinia.
A breakdown shows that the No vote was particularly widespread among the young, especially those without job security or who are unemployed, along with their elders in favour of defending constitutional values and the disadvantaged.
Ultimately, the No vote was a popular vote in the face of the current economic and social situation, as voters did not accept Renzi’s plans as a solution to the country’s problems. A stagnant economy, unemployment and rising poverty levels have not been resolved to any significant degree by the austerity measures introduced by the Monti, Letta and Renzi governments, all of which were doggedly faithful to the edicts of the European elite.
The vote itself was a response to the anti-democratic transformation of the political system into an extreme version of heedless “governance” that is only interested in maintaining the economic and social system. At the same time it was a rejection of the measures employed to date that have let the competition of globalisation play havoc with the jobs market and rights (Pensions Reform, Jobs Act, Buona Scuola, Sblocca Italia, etc.).
The diverse No campaign, referred to by Renzi as a “jumble”, brought together political forces ranging from the Leghisti (lepeniste) of the extreme right to the 5 Star Movement and which even saw Berlusconi get involved in the final phases of the campaign. Initially, Berlusconi had thrown his television channels behind the Yes vote, in favour of a reform that partly mimicked those he tried to push through but were rejected by a referendum in 2008. Obviously influenced by the polls showing the No vote pulling ahead with a significant margin, he finally came out against the reform to give himself more sway in the future negotiations to form a new government and a new electoral law.
The media is trying to present these political forces as the political representatives of the No campaign, glossing over the large part the committee of the No campaign played in creating the successful alliance.
However, although the very important figures on the No committee may have failed to gather the requisite 500,000 signatures to be formal political representatives, they were able to garner broad popular consensus. They also set up local committees across the country and can rightly be referred to as the engine of the No communications machine.
Members of the committees worked together to ensure that tens of thousands of people working or studying away from their home polling station could vote through their list representative.
Many people have forged new relations, leaving to one side partisanship and egos and setting in motion the body of volunteers that was ultimately the winning card.
A settling-in period is about to begin, in which the left must address an internal dialogue that is far from clear. What this victory does show, beyond any doubt, is that the left has a space and a following upon which it can depend.
There is a real risk of the victory being subsumed by the populist right and absorbed by the forces that are pushing for Italy to leave the EU, without changing the economic or social framework, and the internal tensions in the PD will cause upheaval, the nature of which is not yet clear.
As for Renzi, he appears convinced of an early election, banking on those 13,500,000 voters who went along with his atrocious proposal.