The constitution of the Italian Republic designs this as a parliamentary democracy , which means that the people exercise their sovereignty indirectly through representatives of the people (the chambers as well as the regional representative bodies). However, this principle is broken in certain areas; Although the Constituent Assembly has generally used the instruments of direct democracy very sparingly , it has allowed the people to participate directly in certain areas that were considered to be very sensitive.
The "abrogative" referendum ( referendum abrogativo ) can lead to the total or partial repeal of a law or an act with legal force . It should have an exceptional character and supplement or control the legislation of parliament. For this reason, too, only an abolishing referendum is provided for simple laws, and not an approving or repeating one (voting on bills rejected by the chambers). The subject should in principle be legal provisions with profound significance, which should be entrusted not only to parliament but to the whole people. The legal institution is provided for in Article 75 of the Constitution, which at the same time subjects the executive provisions to a legal reservation. Abrogative referenda have only been held since the 1970s, as there was no implementation law until 1970.
As mentioned, the subject of a referendum can be any legal provision, or just parts or individual words. Particularly sensitive matters that are not subject to the will of the people (considered unstable and insufficiently competent) are excluded from this. This concerns tax and budget laws , amnesties and penalties or international treaties and all provisions that are systematically and logically related to the subject areas mentioned.
The abolishing referendum is initiated by a motion submitted by 500,000 eligible voters (equivalent to 1.0 percent) or by five regional councils , who have to pass it with an absolute majority of their members. There are strict formal requirements. The motion has to begin with the words "Do you want that ... to be abolished". The application must be filed with the Central Office of the Court of Cassation ; It is not possible to deposit an application in the last year of the (regular) legislative period of the chambers or in the last six months after new elections have been scheduled. This is to avoid that two election events and their campaigns meet; Preference is given to the elections to the chambers because they are much more relevant.
The Court of Cassation examines the legality of the referendum, i.e. compliance with the formal requirements and the required number of votes. If the determination of which referendum is to be the subject of the referendum is abolished or revoked by the Constitutional Court before it is held, it must declare the proceedings to be ended. Applications must be submitted by September 30th of each year at the latest; the Court of Cassation will investigate the application until October 31, after which the applicants will be given further time to correct any inconsistencies. The final decision will be made on December 15th.
The constitutional court is responsible for the next level of examination . This is responsible for checking the content: not only obviously inadmissible referenda, which deal with the (above) excluded subject areas, are rejected, but also those which concern a large number of different topics and thus form an inconsistent question; furthermore, referenda are rejected, which would lead to contradicting results, because other provisions that are to be seen in the same context remain in place. In summary, only applications are allowed that are clear, coherent, unambiguous and simply structured, since it only makes sense to subject them to a “black-or-white” vote for these questions. This judgment must be made by February 10th. In the event of a positive judgment, it will be announced by the President of the Republic by decree in the Official Gazette (Gazetta ufficiale).
Referenda have to take place on a Sunday within April 15th and June 15th. The legislative provision brought to a referendum is deemed to be abolished if the majority votes in favor and at least 50% of the voters ( participation quorum ) have taken part in the vote. The President of the Republic has to publish the result in the Official Journal, whereby the provision loses its effect on the day after publication. In order to allow the legislature any time required to close any legal loopholes, the announcement of the result can be postponed for a maximum of sixty days at the request of the specialist minister, which must be confirmed by a resolution of the Council of Ministers.
The Constitutional Court has specified the legal position of the abolishing referendum in its rulings. If the legislature re-enacts provisions that are rejected by the people, these are mostly considered to be unconstitutional. This was justified with the otherwise senselessness of a referendum.
The frequent use of this referendum by smaller oppositional groups, combined with a steadily decreasing participation quorum, led to discussions as to whether the thresholds for a motion should not be raised. This could be done, for example, by increasing the number of required signatures, limiting the number of referenda per year, a grace period for newly promulgated laws, etc.
With regard to the amendment of the constitution, the Constituent Assembly found a compromise between parliamentary sovereignty (as at the federal level in Germany ) and the mandatory participation of the people (as in some German states, such as Bavaria ). In principle, parliament can change the constitution on its own (if it does not violate the explicit and implicit limits). This requires two readings and votes in each chamber, between which there must be a time interval of three months. In the course of the second vote, the draft constitution must be supported by at least two thirds of the members of each chamber. The adopted constitutional law is promulgated by the President of the Republic and comes into force within the set deadline.
If the chambers, or even just one of them, pass the constitutional law with a majority of their members, the promulgation of the law is suspended. A time window of three months opens up, within which one fifth of the members of a chamber, 500,000 voters (= 1.0 percent) or five regional councilors can put the constitutional law to a vote. This is called a "confirmative" referendum ( referendum confermativo ).
The law that is put to the vote will only be promulgated if it has received the approval of a majority of all valid votes. This is to prevent constitutional laws from being enacted that do not have a large majority in the chambers and are therefore not sufficiently legitimized. Constitutional amendments are steps that can have profound effects on the daily life of every citizen and should therefore be carefully considered and supported by broad consensus.
Consultative referendum / referendum on territorial reorganization
Citizen participation elements are also planned at the level of the lower regional authorities. A “consultative” (advisory) referendum ( referendum consultivo ) according to Art. 132 of the constitution must take place in the case of territorial reorganizations. It says: “After hearing the regional councils , the merging of existing regions or the creation of new regions can be ordered, whereby each new region must have a population of at least one million inhabitants. Such a reorganization can take place if a number of municipal councils representing at least a third of the affected population so requests and if the application is accepted by a referendum by the majority of the affected population. The detachment of a province or a municipality from a region and its annexation to another region can - with the consent of the majority of the populations of the affected province or provinces or the affected municipality or municipalities - at the request of the affected provinces and municipalities may be approved by a law of the Republic after hearing the regional councils . "
Regional and local levels
Further referenda are planned at regional and local level. These are regulated by regional or state law.
Referendums since 1970
The vast majority of referenda in Italy are abrogative referenda. With them, a majority of yes votes means that the relevant law has been repealed .
|date||template||Eligible voters||Participation (%)||Yes votes (%)||Vote no (%)|
|May 13, 1974||Repeal of the Divorce Act||37,646,322||33,023,179 (87.71)||13,157,558 (40.74)||19,138,300 (59.26)|
|June 12, 1978||Repeal of the law on public order||41,248,657||33,489,688 (81.18)||7,400,619 (23.53)||24,038,806 (76.47)|
|June 12, 1978||Abolition of state party funding||-||33,488,690 (81.18)||13,691,900 (43.59)||17,718,478 (56.41)|
|May 18, 1981||Repeal of the Act on Urgent Measures to Protect Democratic Order and Public Security||43.154.682||34,257,197 (79.38)||4,636,809 (14.87)||26,524,667 (85.13)|
|May 18, 1981||Abolition of the life imprisonment||-||34,277,194 (79.42)||7,114,719 (22.62)||24,330,954 (77.38)|
|May 18, 1981||Removal of the authority of police chiefs and prefects to issue gun licenses||-||34,275,376 (79.42)||4,423,426 (14.07)||26,995,173 (85.93)|
|May 18, 1981||Lifting restrictions on abortion||-||34,270,200 (79.41)||3,588,995 (11.58)||27,395,909 (88.42)|
|May 18, 1981||Abolition of almost all legal reasons for abortion||-||34,277,119 (79.42)||10,119,797 (31.99)||21,505,323 (68.01)|
|June 10, 1985||Removal of urgent measures on fees, fixed prices and cost of living||44.904.290||34,959,404 (77.85)||15,460,855 (45.68)||18,384,788 (54.32)|
|November 9, 1987||Abolition of the civil law responsibility of the courts in the case of intentional misconduct||45.870.931||29,866,249 (65.10)||20,770,334 (79.92)||5,126,021 (20.08)|
|November 9, 1987||Repeal of the parliamentary commission of inquiry against government officials||-||29,862,670 (65.10)||22,117,634 (85.04)||3,890,111 (14.96)|
|November 9, 1987||Cancellation of the location of a nuclear power plant by the CIPE government committee||-||29,862,376 (65.10)||20,984,110 (80.57)||5,059,819 (19.43)|
|November 9, 1987||Abolition of state contributions to municipalities with nuclear power plants or coal plants||-||29,871,570 (65.12)||20,618,624 (79.71)||5,247,887 (20.29)|
|November 9, 1987||End of ENEL participation in nuclear power plants||-||29,855,604 (65.11)||18,795,852 (71.85)||7,361,666 (28.15)|
|June 18, 1989||Mandate for the European Parliament to draw up a European constitution (consultative survey)||46,552,411||37,560,404 (80.68)||29,158,656 (88.03)||3,964,086 (11.97)|
|4th June 1990||End of the hunt for game animals||47.235.285||20,482,359 (43.36)||17,790,070 (92.19)||1,505,161 (7.81)|
|4th June 1990||Revocation of the permit to enter private property during hunts||-||20,274,101 (42.92)||17,899,910 (92.27)||1,497,976 (7.73)|
|4th June 1990||Abolition of the use of pesticides in agriculture||-||20,364,370 (43.11)||18,287,687 (93.50)||1,270,111 (6.50)|
|June 10, 1991||Abolition of the four preferential votes in the election of the House of Representatives||47,377,843||29,609,635 (62.49)||26,896,979 (95.56)||1,247,908 (4.44)|
|April 19, 1993||Abolition of municipal responsibility for environmental protection||47,946,896||36,845,706 (76.84)||28,415,407 (82.57)||5,997,236 (17.43)|
|April 19, 1993||Abolition of the criminality of drug use||-||36,911,398 (76.98)||19,255,915 (55.35)||15,529,815 (44.65)|
|April 19, 1993||Abolition of state party funding||-||36,896,256 (76.95)||31,225,867 (90.25)||3,373,039 (9.75)|
|April 19, 1993||Revocation of the appointment of the President and Vice-President of the Savings Banks by the Treasury||-||36,856,051 (76.86)||31,046,262 (89.80)||3,524,781 (10.20)|
|April 19, 1993||Dissolution of the Ministry of State Holdings||-||36,851,158 (76.85)||31,234,897 (90.10)||3,428,899 (9.90)|
|April 19, 1993||Repeal of proportional representation for the Senate||-||36,922,390 (77.00)||28,936,747 (82.47)||6,034,640 (17.53)|
|April 19, 1993||Abolition of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry||-||36,863,866 (76.88)||24,325,394 (70.22)||10,313,117 (29.78)|
|April 19, 1993||Repeal of the Ministry of Tourism and Amusement||-||36,863,866 (76.88)||28,528,528 (82.28)||6,143,898 (17.72)|
|June 11, 1995||Total abolition of the limits on the composition of works councils||48,458,754||27,730,224 (57.22)||12,291,330 (49.97)||12,305,693 (50.03)|
|June 11, 1995||Partial abolition of the limits on the composition of works councils||-||27,702,339 (57.16)||15,097,799 (62.14)||9,197,799 (37.86)|
|June 11, 1995||Removal of the authority of the Prime Minister which unions are representative in the public service||-||27,795,464 (57.35)||15,676,385 (64.67)||8,562,040 (35.33)|
|June 11, 1995||Removal of house arrest for mafiosi outside the place of residence||-||27,740,783 (57.24)||15,373,288 (63.67)||8,768,941 (36.33)|
|June 11, 1995||Repeal of the law that only allows concessions to TV stations that are owned by the state||-||27,807,196 (57.38)||13,736,435 (54.89)||11,286,527 (45.11)|
|June 11, 1995||Abolition of the municipal authority to issue commercial licenses||-||27,739,462 (57.24)||8,741,584 (35.63)||15,792,453 (64.37)|
|June 11, 1995||Abolition of the direct deduction of union contributions from wages or pensions||-||27,753,466 (57.27)||13,945,919 (56.24)||10,850,793 (43.76)|
|June 11, 1995||Cancellation of the double ballot for municipalities with more than 15,000 inhabitants||-||27,814,402 (57.39)||12,154,969 (49.39)||12,452,250 (50.61)|
|June 11, 1995||Abolition of community and regional competencies through shop opening hours||-||27,788,647 (57.34)||9,348,000 (37.39)||15,646,779 (62.61)|
|June 11, 1995||Repeal of the law that allows private individuals a maximum of three television channels||-||28,133,946 (58.05)||11,620,613 (43.07)||15,357,997 (56.93)|
|June 11, 1995||Abolition of break-time advertising on television||-||28,164,078 (58.11)||11,985,670 (44.34)||15,044,535 (55.66)|
|June 11, 1995||Eliminating the ability of advertising companies to operate on more than three channels||-||28,139,312 (58.06)||11,713,935 (43.58)||15,161,934 (56.42)|
|June 15, 1997||Abolition of the majority of shares held by the Treasury in privatized companies||49.054.410||14,790,505 (30.15)||9,539,459 (74.06)||3,340,893 (25.94)|
|June 15, 1997||Abolition of the admission restrictions for community service||-||14,860,894 (30.29)||9,561,009 (71.68)||3,775,660 (28.32)|
|June 15, 1997||Revocation of the permit to enter private property during hunts||-||14,817,553 (30.20)||10,936,576 (80.90)||2,581,753 (19.10)|
|June 15, 1997||Automatic promotion of civil servants has been abolished||-||14,791,735 (30.15)||10,786,069 (83.55)||2,123,452 (16.45)|
|June 15, 1997||Dissolution of the state association of journalists||-||14,735,975 (30.04)||8,322,166 (65.51)||4,380,284 (34.49)|
|June 15, 1997||Abolition of extrajudicial secondary employment for judicial officers||-||14,812,238 (30.19)||11,160,923 (85.58)||1,879,923 (14.42)|
|June 15, 1997||Repeal of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries||-||14,742,261 (30.05)||8,589,746 (66.85)||4,258,863 (33.15)|
|April 18, 1999||Repeal of the election of a quarter of the House of Representatives in proportional representation||49,309,060||24,447,521 (49.58)||21,161,866 (91.52)||1,960,022 (8.48)|
|May 21, 2000||Abolition of the reimbursement of election and voting campaign costs||49,067,694||15,796,834 (32.19)||10,004,581 (71.06)||4,073,688 (28.94)|
|May 21, 2000||Repeal of the election of a quarter of the House of Representatives in proportional representation||-||15,918,748 (32.44)||11,637,524 (82.01)||2,551,963 (17.99)|
|May 21, 2000||Abolition of the electoral list within the Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura||-||15,634,781 (31.86)||9,125,465 (70.57)||3,805,250 (29.43)|
|May 21, 2000||Eliminate the possibility of career change between the indictment and court chambers||-||15,681,225 (31.95)||9,237,713 (69.00)||4,150,241 (31.00)|
|May 21, 2000||Abolition of secondary employment for civil servants||-||15,696,528 (31.98)||10,200,692 (75.21)||3,360,487 (24.79)|
|May 21, 2000||Abolition of the restriction of protection against unjustified dismissal to companies with more than 15 employees||-||15,953,385 (32.51)||4,923,381 (33.36)||9,834,046 (66.64)|
|May 21, 2000||Abolition of the automatic wage deduction for trade unions and professional associations||-||15,800,947 (32.20)||8,632,445 (61.82)||5,331,053 (38.18)|
|October 7, 2001||Comprehensive regionalization (constitutional referendum)||49.462.222||16,843,420 (34.05)||10,433,574 (64.20)||5,816,527 (35.80)|
|June 16, 2003||Abolition of the restriction of protection against unjustified dismissal to companies with more than 15 employees||49,554,128||12,645,507 (25.51)||10,572,538 (86.73)||1,616,379 (13.27)|
|June 16, 2003||Removal of the obligation for landowners to have right of way for power lines||-||12,667,178 (25.56)||10,430,181 (85.55)||1,761,558 (14.45)|
|June 13, 2005||Removal of restrictions on research on embryos||49.794.704||12,723,221 (25.55)||10,764,600 (88.04)||1,463,027 (11.96)|
|June 13, 2005||Removal of restrictions on embryo implantation||-||12,719,614 (25.54)||10,837,827 (88.78)||1,369,705 (11.22)|
|June 13, 2005||Removal of restrictions on embryo implantation and recognition of the embryo as a participant||-||12,716,404 (25.54)||10,674,849 (87.72)||1,494,896 (12.28)|
|June 13, 2005||Repeal the ban on heterologous fertilization||-||12,712,708 (25.52)||9,406,370 (77.39)||2,746,782 (22.61)|
|June 25-26, 2006||Strengthening the prime minister; Introduction of the constructive vote of no confidence; Conversion of the Senate into a Federal Council; extensive federalization (constitutional referendum)||47.160.264||(52.30)||9,962,348 (38.70)||15,791,293 (61.30)|
|June 22, 2009||Abolition of list connections in the election of the Chamber of Deputies||50.221.071||11,708,247 (23.31)||8,051,259 (77.63)||2,320,087 (22.37)|
|June 22, 2009||Abolition of list connections in the election of the Senate||-||11,706,803 (23.31)||8,048,547 (77.68)||2,312,734 (22.32)|
|June 22, 2009||Repeal of multiple candidacies in the election of the Chamber of Deputies||-||11,973,196 (23.84)||9,489,791 (87.00)||1,417,819 (13.00)|
|June 13, 2011||Revocation of the lawful prevention of the Prime Minister and the ministers from appearing for the criminal hearing||-||(54.78)||(94.62)||(5.38)|
|June 13, 2011||Cancellation of the planning and construction of new nuclear power plants||-||(54.79)||(94.05)||(5.05)|
|June 13, 2011||Abolition of privatized profit from water supply||-||(54.82)||(95.80)||(4.20)|
|June 13, 2011||Abolition of the privatization of the water supply||-||(54.81)||(95.35)||(4.65)|
|17th April 2016||Abolition of coastal oil production||50,681,772||15,806,488 (31.19)||13,334,607 (85.85)||2,198,715 (14.15)|
|4th December 2016||Overcoming the two-chamber system, reducing the number of MPs, curbing the costs of the functioning of the institutions, abolishing the CNEL and revising Title 5 of Part 2 of the Constitution (constitutional referendum)||50.773.284||33,244,258 (65.47)||13,431.10 (40.88)||19,421,003 (59.12)|
- green - accepted
- pink - rejected
- blue - failed at the participation quorum
- yellow - another referendum
- Anna Capretti: Opening of power structures through referendums in Italy. A pluralism theoretical analysis . Frankfurt / Berlin / Bern / New York: P. Lang 2001, ISBN 3-631-37852-1
- Anna Capretti: Reform perspectives on the abrogative referendum in Italy . In: Theo Schiller / Volker Mittendorf (eds.): Direct democracy. Research and Perspectives . Westdeutscher Verlag: Wiesbaden 2002, pp. 305-315, ISBN 978-3-531-13852-7 .
- Joachim Gatterer: Against the trend. The Italy-wide referendums in the province of Bolzano from 1974 to 2009 , in: Günther Pallaver (Hrsg.): Politika 10. Yearbook for Politics. Edition Raetia: Bozen 2010, pp. 131–152, ISBN 978-88-7283-362-9 .
- Peter Weber: Ways out of the crisis. Electoral reform and referenda in Italy , in: From Politics and Contemporary History , B 34/94, Bonn, August 28, 1994, pp. 20-27.
- Peter Weber: Legislation in the Italian political system . In: Wolfgang Ismayr (Ed.): Legislation in Western Europe. EU countries and the European Union . VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften: Wiesbaden 2008, pp. 463-511, ISBN 978-3-8100-3466-3 .