Reforms referendum to go ahead despite quakes: Italiam PM

Rome, Nov 2 (IANS/AKI) Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Wednesday ruled out delaying a crucial referendum on overhauling the country’s political machinery next month due to the recent earthquakes in central Italy.

“The referendum is non-negotiable,” Renzi told Italy’s Radio24.

“It’s fine to talk about the earthquakes and fine to talk about the referendum. But let’s keep them separate as they have nothing to do with each other.”

Renzi’s remarks came after Interior Minister Angelino Alfano suggested on Wednesday that the December 4 constitutional referendum could be postponed due to the disruption caused by several earthquakes that have hit the central Apennines since August 24.

Opinion polls suggest Italians are split over the government’s plans to save money and simplify law-making by reducing the role of parliament’s upper house Senate and reining in the powers of regional governments.

“It is absolutely clear that right now a very bitter and harsh referendum campaign is out of place and illogical. Especially when we are all working to give a home to those who have lost them,” Alfano told the RTL 102.5 radio station.

Dozens of towns and villages have been evacuated in central Italy and at least 22,000 people have been left homeless since a magnitude 6.5 tremor struck on Sunday, the fourth since a major earthquake killed almost 300 people on 24 August.

There may also be legal reasons to reschedule the referendum if a Milan court accepts a request to ask voters separate questions on different aspects of the reforms instead of asking them to back or reject the entire package.

A ruling by the Milan court could come by the end of next week.