Italians begin voting in referendum on reducing parliament size

Italians will head to the polls on Sunday to vote in a referendum on the size of parliament and in regional elections across the country.

Voting will take place on Sunday and Monday in the first election since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.

The referendum will decide whether parliament is cut form 945 members to just 600 with the lower house being cut down to 400 parliamentarians and the Senate to 200.

The constitutional amendment was already approved by parliament and if confirmed, would take effect in 2023 during the next elections.

The vote was originally scheduled for May but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic which killed more than 35,000 people in Italy. The latest polls show that many Italians are in favour of the cut to parliament.

Italians will also vote locally to elect 1,000 mayors and seven regional governors, another vote that was delayed due to the pandemic.

The regional election will be a test for the government over its handling of the pandemic. Italy was the first European country to issue a lockdown and was an early virus epicentre.

Since then, however, the country has avoided rising cases longer than several other countries, recording daily increases under 2,000 compared with the more than 10,000 daily cases in France and Spain.

“Presidents of the regions can issue orders that can derogate… national law. So they are quite powerful and people understand this,” Cristina Fasone, assistant professor of comparative public law at Luiss University in Rome, told the Associated Press.

The right-wing coalition led by former interior minister Matteo Salvini is likely to confirm strongholds in two regions, according to polls. Three other regions could move to the right.

Salvini’s League candidate Susanna Ceccardi is polling head-to-head with her Democratic opponent in Tuscany, which has historically been governed by the left.

Voting will continue until 11:00pm and resume on Monday morning at 7:00am until 3:00pm, Italian media reported.

This story is being updated as the election unfolds.

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