The Lombardy region includes the city of Milan - Press Photo
CAIRO – 24 October 2017: While the rest of the world has its eyes on the outcome of Catalonia's tussle for independence from Spain, two of Italy's most prosperous regions voted overwhelmingly in favor of greater autonomy from Rome in non-binding referendums on Sunday.
Voters in Lombardy and Veneto, both run by the once openly secessionist Northern League, backed the party’s autonomy bid by more than 95 percent, although in Lombardy less than half of the electorate turned out.
In both regions, which are among the wealthiest in Italy, members of the right-wing Lega Nord serve as president: in Lombardy, Roberto Maroni, and in Veneto, Luca Zaia. The Lega Nord is promising voters that within the framework of greater autonomy, it will be able to exert control over tax revenue and not have to transfer it all to the central government, “Roma ladrona”
Late Sunday, both Maroni and Zaia claimed victory, with more than 90 percent backing autonomy in both regions, according to preliminary results. Maroni said the outcome meant both regions could unite their forces for “the battle of the century.”
Five regions in Italy already boast autonomous powers, including Sardinia and Sicily, as well as Veneto's neighbor, Friuli-Venezia. Lombardy includes the city of Milan, and Veneto has Venice as its capital.
"We aim to have enough power to break the resistance of the government," Maroni told CNN before Sunday's ballots. "We want to manage the territory, manage the areas that handle migratory flows."
"For us, the most important thing is obtaining resources," he added.
Why are the votes important?
Politicians backing the referendums believe the successful economies of their region should not be used to fund poorer areas in the south of Italy.
Roberto Maroni, president of Lombardy
Maroni wants to slash his Lombardy's tax bill by at least 50%, claiming it sends more than €54 billion to Rome than it does in return. In Veneto, Zaia believes the deficit is around €20 billion and wants his region reimbursed.
President of Veneto region Luca Zaia speaks with journalists as he waits the results of Veneto's autonomy referendum in Venice, Italy, October 22, 2017.
Now, the party's dream of an independent state has been put on hold in pursuit of national success in next year's election.
"From the juridical standpoint, there is no analogy with the Brexit referendum," Zaia said in his party's manifesto.
"The objectives are radically different. The referendum of Veneto does not question a break in either the supranational right nor with respect to international law, nor with respect to the Italian constitution."
He added: "Unlike Brexit, this will create a positive impact. The referendum of Veneto is destined to have a strong impact," CNN reported.