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June 13, 2005

ITALY'S REFERENDUM A FIASCO

"No Quorum," shouts the headline on La Republicca's website. That means that not enough Italian voters came to the polls today to pass the referendum on sexual reproduction (52% were needed--but the latest figures from Italy's Interior Ministry say only some 30% went to the polls). DIRELAND's Rome Correspondent, veteran ex-pat journalist Judy Harris, follows up on her Saturday pre-referendum report for DIRELAND, "It's Really About Abortion'', with a just-received analysis of what the defeat of the referendum means:

"Ha finito col vino e taralucci" means, to an Italian, "all's well that ends well." But when a voter was offered "vino e taralucci" upon Popes_mitre_3 entering a polling station in the Southern Italian town of Vibo Valentia Sunday morning, it was clear that things were going to end in tears. At ten o¹clock, he was the first to show up to vote in the referendum which was called to overturn a nastily restrictive law on assisted procreation and stem cell research  Otherwise there was little to celebrate. Of the 35,000 inhabitants of that Calabrian town, no more than 3,500 chose to vote in the referendum. The situation brightened only somewhat in the North Central region of Emilia-Romagna, where almost one out of three took part in the vote.

It was never enough. To succeed, one out of every two potential voters had to participate, or there would be no quorum. The two days of polling are ending as I write, with no statistics yet available, but it is already clear that no quorum has been achieved, with the vote smallerBaby  than the bleakest prediction.

The primary losers are the infertile individuals who will have to emigrate for treatment. Leaving Italy with them will be a  number of Italian scientists, whose laboratory work can no longer take place here. And many see the restrictive law, passed just last year, as a prelude to an attack on the 25-year-old legislation which permits abortion.

The Roman Catholic Church¹s formal boycott of the referendum may have kept some voters at home. On Saturday, when campaigning was officially barred, some parishes held prayer vigils on the themes of the referendum. At a funeral that day, complained one Roman, "TheRatzinger_2  homily was entirely about the referendum." And in Palermo a priest told his flock, "Those with the Church must stand up against those who would substitute themselves as God." The tactics offended some, but they worked.

Il_manifesto(at left, the front page of the daily Il Manifesto)

And there are other reasons behind the debacle:

--The yuk factor. Several over-sixties Italian women have had embryo implants, and the smarmy press coverage of these old dears hugging their babies did not sit well in this conservative country, particularly the
South.

-- Lack of education. Reading the referendum was hard work, and the Italian electorate is not the only one to have little patience with unfamiliar scientific words. "Hitler¹s genetics" was the phrase often heard and accepted acritically.

-- Sick sentimentalism. A vote to preserve the law (a no vote in the referendum, that is) is "a vote for the freedom to believe," trumpeted
neo-con newspaper editor Giuliano Ferraro, whose finest hour was teaching a sex-education class on TV some years ago.

-- Not my problem. A hard division between Church and State is not Pope_cartoon_ii_1 yet a familiar concept to Italians, despite its being specifically stated in the country¹s first republican constitution, promulgated just after WWII. This was the crucial issue behind the referendum, yet it was not understood.

Now what?

Constitutional law expert Stefano Rodota, one of the wiser heads in Italy, was mildly optimistic today, saying that if nothing else the referendum acquainted the larger public with issues it would otherwise go on ignoring. But as the Italian cardinals, Ferrara and company tuck  into their wine and taralucci, some in the fractured left are saying that to have called the referendum at all was a misstep caused by unresolved Seventies nostalgia. This is all too likely, but to agree that the left suffers from a time warp does not mean make the after-tasteJudy_hareris_2  of today¹s referendum less bitter.                                                    --- by Judy Harris (right) from Rome

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Comments

While we're bemoaning the fractured left, let's at least give some props to the Left forces that held firm on this issue --- the DS, the Greens, and Rifondazione. The sell-outs to the Vatican: Bindi and Rutelli's Margherita. After the referendum Berlusconi invited Rutelli to join him in "La Casa"; Rutelli rejected the offer as "foolishness." But Rutelli and company probably can be peeled away from the centrosinistra, in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that becomes part of Berlusconi's strategy for the '06 elections.

Posted by: George De Stefano | Jun 15, 2005 9:53:28 AM

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