A referendum will be held in Italy on the 25 and 26 June, offering Italian voters the opportunity to vote on the reform to the constitution passed by the previous parliament in which the centre-right coalition Casa della Libert had the governing majority.

The principal question in the referendum is about the devolution of power from the central government to the regions on questions of health, education and law and order, but also on the reduction in the number of members of parliament and new voting procedures for the senate. The constitutional reform would also reduce the power of the president of the republic and increase that of the prime minister.

The new prime minister Romano Prodi, head of the centre-left coalition that won the general elections in April, has begun a campaign to vote no to the constitutional reforms on the grounds that devolution as foreseen by the reform will cause a fragmentation of the country in which the poorer southern regions will be the losers; Prodis coalition also claims that devolution would increase bureaucracy, waste and inefficiency. Prodi declares that the LUlivo coalition is interested in reform of the constitution, but by way of debate in parliament, not via a referendum.

This referendum is unusual for Italy in that no quorum (50 per cent of the electorate plus one) is required for the validity of its result; a simple majority of yes or no will be enough. All political parties are pressing the electorate to go to vote in this referendum, as every vote will count.

The full text of the constitutional reform can be consulted on line at http://gazzette.comune.jesi.an.it (click on 2005, November, n.269 del 18/11/2005).