Italy polls get worse for Renzi; ref­er­en­dum nears

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Opin­ion polls are mak­ing in­creas­ingly grim read­ing for Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi less than three weeks ahead of a ref­er­en­dum on con­sti­tu­tional re­form on which he has staked his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture. Of 32 polls pub­lished by 11 dif­fer­ent poll­sters since Oct 21, ev­ery­one has the ‘No’ camp ahead, and gen­er­ally by a widen­ing mar­gin. In three polls pub­lished on Mon­day the lead for ‘No’ ranged from five points, according to IPR Mar­ket­ing, to seven points, according to Tecne, with EMG Ac­qua in the mid­dle at 6 points.

Th­ese re­sults ex­clude un­de­cided vot­ers, which are es­ti­mated at 25.9 per­cent by EMG Ac­qua and 16.5 per­cent by Tecne. The most worrying as­pect for Renzi is that as the num­ber of un­de­cided vot­ers de­clines, the lead for ‘No’ ap­pears to be ris­ing. Book­mak­ers also hold out lit­tle hope for the 41-year-old premier, with Lad­brokes es­ti­mat­ing a roughly 75 per­cent prob­a­bil­ity of a win for ‘No.’ The sur­veys are so one-way that at­ten­tion is turn­ing to what Renzi will do if he loses the vote on his plan to dras­ti­cally re­duce the role of the up­per house Se­nate and take pow­ers back from re­gional gov­ern­ments.

At the start of the cam­paign he re­peat­edly said he would re­sign in the case of de­feat. He then de­clined to con­firm that, say­ing dis­cus­sion of his own fu­ture de­flected at­ten­tion from the mer­its of the re­form, but in the last few days he has once more be­gan hint­ing that he will not try to hang on in power if he loses. How­ever, most poll­sters con­tinue to say the out­come of the Dec 4. bal­lot re­mains un­cer­tain. They point out that opin­ion polls al­ready proved no­to­ri­ously wrong in the June ref­er­en­dum in which Bri­tons chose to leave the Euro­pean Union and most re­cently when Amer­i­cans elected repub­li­can Don­ald Trump to the pres­i­dency on Nov 8.

Rea­sons for cau­tion

More­over, in Italy’s case there are some spe­cific rea­sons for cau­tion. One is that the polls show that the ‘No’ vote is strong­est in the south of the coun­try, where turnout is nor­mally low­est. “It may be that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of those in the south who say they are go­ing to vote ‘No’ will end up stay­ing at home,” said Fed­erico Benini, head of the Win­poll agency. Some 4.2 mil­lion Ital­ian ex-pats who are el­i­gi­ble to vote but are not in­cluded in opin­ion polls could also come to Renzi’s res­cue. Benini forecast that of those that cast a bal­lot, up to 80 per­cent will back ‘Yes’ be­cause they fol­low Ital­ian pol­i­tics less closely, tend to be less an­tiRenzi and see it as broadly pos­i­tive that the coun­try is try­ing to re­form.

How­ever, he also said he ex­pected only about 30 per­cent of Ital­ians abroad to vote, mean­ing they will only be vi­tal if ‘Yes’ is less than one point be­hind among do­mes­tic vot­ers. Another fac­tor that could save Renzi is the word­ing of the ques­tion on the bal­lot sheet, which has been the sub­ject of bit­ter dis­pute and le­gal cases be­cause it men­tions the more pop­u­lar as­pects of the re­form but not the less pos­i­tive ones. Poll­ster Ni­cola Piepoli said as many as 8 per­cent of voter with lit­tle in­ter­est in pol­i­tics could head to the polling sta­tions with­out hav­ing pre­vi­ously made up their minds, and th­ese may be swayed by what is writ­ten on the bal­lot sheet.

Poll­ster Re­nato Mannheimer said it was too soon to say whether Trump’s sur­prise elec­tion will af­fect Ital­ian vot­ers. How­ever, six out of seven polls pub­lished since the U.S. elec­tion have shown the ‘No’ lead widen­ing com­pared with the pre­vi­ous sur­vey by the same poll­ster. More­over, in a Win­poll sur­vey pub­lished on Satur­day, 52 per­cent of Ital­ians said they be­lieved Trump’s vic­tory would fa­vor ‘No’, com­pared with 42 per­cent who thought it would have no im­pact, and just 6 per­cent who said it would help ‘Yes’.

The fi­nal polls will be is­sued on Fri­day, as Ital­ian law pro­hibits their pub­li­ca­tion in the 15 days be­fore an elec­tion or ref­er­en­dum. — Reuters

FLORENCE: De­mon­stra­tors clash with police dur­ing a protest against Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi, in Florence to show op­po­si­tion to a con­sti­tu­tional ref­er­en­dum on Dec 4 that Renzi has called. — AP

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