The Referendum is much more than Renzi’s politics.
A serious contradiction to democracy is centralization of legislature. After all, power in the hands of few is not what democracy states. The head of the state being vested with supreme powers to run the state or dissolve it, is definitely not democracy; or so claim some populist movements. Renzi’s contemplation of a centralized Italy has several points of contention. A ‘power-hungry politician’ is his name in some circles, while a ‘reformist’ is another name. The referendum will decide his future, as well as the future of Italy, the EU and the world. Deliberation of a national state of power and giving lesser legislative powers to regions is something that Italy or any sovereign state will not dream of. However, unfavourable economic climate, and decades-old severe political instability have taken a toll on Italy. Renzi’s decision of defragmentation of the economy is hardly a new strategy in these circumstances.
While history has made it clear that decentralization has had its merits, in the political continuum, it has more to do with influence of the Centre on the regions. Influence has paved way to revenues, political position, and faith. Participation and accountability to the Centre come naturally. Decentralization is associated with both progressive and detrimental outcomes; proliferation of true democracy is seen as one of the long-lasting outcomes, whereas lack of coordination, and delay in public services is another perceived outcome. In Italy’s case, decentralization delivered the latter outcome. In addition to this, there have been issues like interregional competition, too many tiers in the government, which delayed policy actions, disagreements between the national and regional legislation, and other points of disintegration, all of which has led to socioeconomic imbalances and slow economic growth.
With this in mind, there are two distinct but interconnected aspects that Renzi wants to deal with: political centralization and administrative decentralization. They are inexorably interdependent, and will demand a government with greater tenacity. For this reason, it is essential that authoritarianism be separated from centralization and decentralization. His propagated referendum makes it clear that democracy does not mean decentralization, and centralization does not mean undemocratic structures. In line with the reforms that Renzi is wanting, regions in Italy would be locally represented, and would auger local interests and needs. Bargaining power and decision-making powers of the local appointed representative and the influence of regions on the Centre’s functioning has what has been limited, for obvious reasons of earlier incongruities and obnoxity. Concentration of local power has made it difficult to diffuse power from the Centre, earlier. This has made public policy hard to reach the economy and has delayed growth substantially. There is still a national base in these regional structures, making the regional bodies representative of not just local interests, but also politically on track with the national legislation. Comparatively less national representation in the regions has been the agenda of the Referendum. Such drastic trimming and Renzi’s notable almost as if intimidating stance that he would quit if the No vote won has made Italians ponder over his intentions. Perhaps Renzi making this a personal battle has not won many hearts, apparently. His attention-demanding nature has chances of setting people against him in wanting a more stable economy, in the end. The reform would definitely come as an exemplification of his political strength, but more importantly, it has the potential to modify a looming degenerating economy. A centralized political and administrative rule is what Italy needs straightaway. However, a power-hungry strategist who devours local authorities of representative power is unwarranted.