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Venice voting on independence in on-line referendum

Closely watched by Russia

20 March, 19:59
Venice voting on independence in on-line referendum (ANSA) - Silea, March 20 - Residents of Venice and the surrounding affluent Veneto region continued voting Thursday in an extended on-line referendum that asked whether they wanted to remain part of Italy or secede as an independent state.

"The whole world understands and is watching Veneto," said Gianluca Busato, who led the drive for the referendum. Busato spoke at a press conference in Silea, outside Treviso, which was attended by international media, namely from Russia, which recently supported the independence referendum of Crimea. The results are due to be announced after voting closes on Friday and follow a survey commissioned by the movement Idipendenza Veneta, which showed that in January, 56.7% of residents questioned said they were in favour of secession compared to 53.3% a year before.

The outcome will have only political significance but is expected to lend weight to a bill currently before the Veneto regional council calling for a referendum on whether Veneto should break away from Rome.

Veneto is governed by Luca Zaia of the regionalist and separatist Northern League party, which supports the initiative.

However opponents on the council, including members of the centre-left Democratic Party as well as centre-right Forza Italia and New Centre Right (NCR) oppose the scheme on grounds that a popular vote on the long-mooted issue would be illegal, even if it was not legally binding.

Regardless, Busato said that if the referendum receives a requisite two million votes, "there will be some immediate actions, such as the nomination of a 10-member committee who will engage with foreign governments". Supporters of the initiative point out that for more than 1,000 years, Venice and its surrounding region formed an independent republic - older than the modern Italian State.

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