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Italy’s Referendum on Oil Drilling: ‘Anti-Democracy Is the Winner…’

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April 17, 2016: Italy held a referendum against the extension of oil drilling concessions within 12 miles of the Italian coast. What was the result? The quorum wasn’t reached (31% was the voter turnout) and oil companies will keep drilling until wells are exhausted… The post-referendum phase was something disastrous; talks and debates about winners and losers have broken out and television programs have provided some (I would say often absurd) figures on off-shore drilling in Italy... But who really are the winners? There’s no doubt on that: Oil lobbies and anti-democracy... However, some positive aspects emerge from this referendum .... Let's see what they are.

 
The Referendum’s Results
 
Overall, 31.18% of voters (both living in Italy and abroad) (over 13 millions) went to polls on Sunday April 17, 2016 in Italy. Of these, 85.8% said ‘Yes’ to the proposed abrogation of the laws that allows oil drilling concessions extracting Hydrocarbon within 12 nautical miles of the Italian coast to be prolonged until the exhaustion the fields. Basilicata was the only Italian region where the quorum was reached, with a turnout voter of  50.2%. The turnout was also high in Puglia and in Veneto. Calabria, Campania and Trentino Alto Adige recorded the lowest data.
 
 
Figure – Voter Turnout (%) at Italy’s Referendum on  Offshore Oil Drilling (April 17, 2016) in Each Region
 

Source: LTEconomy, elaboration on Italy’s Ministero dell’interno

 

Table – Italy’s Referendum on Oil Drilling (April 17, 2016): Turnout and Results

 
Turnout (%)
Yes Votes (number)
No Votes (number)
Yes Votes (%)
No Votes (%)
PIEMONTE
32.74
890,655
203,970
81.4
18.7
VALLE D'AOSTA
34.02
27,776
5,330
83.9
16.1
LOMBARDIA
30.46
1,785,734
457,600
79.6
20.4
TRENTINO-ALTO ADIGE
25.19
164,128
31,864
83.7
16.3
VENETO
37.86
1,191,939
200,041
85.6
14.4
FRIULI-VENEZIA GIULIA
32.16
247,935
54,520
82.0
18.1
LIGURIA
31.62
322,718
64,726
83.3
16.7
EMILIA-ROMAGNA
34.27
901,088
221,090
80.3
19.7
TOSCANA
30.77
722,166
142,228
83.6
16.5
UMBRIA
28.42
156,326
32,535
82.8
17.3
MARCHE
34.75
346,253
60,221
85.2
14.8
LAZIO
32.01
1,231,214
163,341
88.3
11.7
ABRUZZO
35.44
325,025
43,209
88.3
11.8
MOLISE
32.73
75,612
7,697
90.8
9.3
CAMPANIA
26.13
1,078,437
100,861
91.5
8.6
PUGLIA
41.65
1,290,778
66,686
95.1
4.9
BASILICATA
50.16
224,228
8,373
96.4
3.6
CALABRIA
26.69
382,023
28,655
93.0
6.1
SICILIA
28.4
1,048,825
84,492
92.5
7.5
SARDEGNA
32.34
410,048
33,739
92.4
7.6
 
 
 
 
 
 
ITALIA
32.15
12,822,908
2,011,178
86.4
13.6
ESTERO
19.73
511,846
187,635
73.2
26.8
IN COMPLESSO
31.18
13,334,754
2,198,813
85.8
14.2

Fonte: LTEconomy, elaborazione su dati del Ministero dell’interno

 

Matteo Renzi’s Post-Referendum Speech
 
Matteo Renzi’s Post-Referendum speech focused on  three unsubstantial elements. Let’s see what they are and why they are so unsubstantial.
 
1) Renzi’s 1st argument: ‘Workers and engineers are the only winners of the Referendum as they will keep working on the platforms.’  FALSE! Workers and engineers would have kept working the same, as the platforms would have kept operating until the concession expires.
2) Renzi’s 2nd argument: “These workers and engineers amount to ’11,000.’” FALSE! Totally, offshore platforms within 12 miles are under 90; among these, actual operative platforms are fewer than 30. Let’s try putting  those 11,000 people on these platforms and see what happens… So what is the truth? It’s that direct employees in these platforms are fewer than 100. The number quoted by Italy’s Prime Minister is just an 'estimate' of the people employed in the satellite activities. These activities will continue to exist also in the absence of such platforms.
3) Renzi’s 3rd argument: ‘300 million euros have been wasted just to hold a worthless  Referendum.’ THE SENTENCE MAKES NO SENSE! Referendum is the most important institution in a democracy. It is never useless. (inviting people not to vote is an insult to democracy). According to Renzi, those 300 million euros could have been used to improve hospital services or buy trains for commuter transportation. It is true, these are two very important issues. But if Renzi was so sensitive to them, it wouldn’t be an endeavor to find 300 million euros in a country with a GDP of almost 2,000 billion euros. Enough should have been cutting the salaries of top public executives and the so called ‘gold pensions.’
 
 
Why Wasn’t the Quorum Reached?
 
There are several reasons that explain why the Referendum didn’t reach the quorum. Let’s have a look at the most important:
 
1) In Italy, a structural growing abstention from voting is recorded. Ever fewer people go to vote. And this is gold for lobbies and castes, as they can better control a smaller pool of voters. Let’s consider turnout outcomes in the last four Italian Referendums (2005, 2006, 2009, 2011): only two of them reached a quorum, while in the others the percentage of voters was even lower than 20%. At the same time, in Italy’s general elections, turnout has steadily decreased to 75% from almost 90% in the 80s.
2) Most people were not ‘directly interested’ by the Referendum’s subject (as it was for example in the Referendum on the privatization of water services in 2011). The turnout was higher in the regions mostly involved and were people were more aware of the potential damages from oil drilling (Basilicata and Puglia).  
3) Italy’s government played an important role, by inviting people not to vote.
 
 
Conclusions
 
So let’s see what are the negative and the positive points emerging from Italy’s Referendum on oil drilling:
 
a) Negative points: lobbies and anti-democracy continues to dominate the Italian political landscape. A 30% turnout for a Referendum is clearly a defeat for a democracy.
b) Positive points:
-  Almost all the people who voted at Italy’s Referendum gave a clear message: they want a different energy system, one no longer based on fossil fuel.
-  People who were well-informed on the theme (as in Basilicata) showed a greater interest on it.
-  The government seems to uderstand that more people in Italy want a different energy strategy. Will this mean some more incentive for renewables?
 
 
In conclusion, anti-democracy still continues to dominate in Italy.
We must roll up our sleeves and make people come back to vote....
 
 

 

  
LTEconomy, April 23, 2016
 
see also: 
Interview with Giuseppe Onufrio (Greenpeace Italy - Executive Director)

 

  
  

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