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How Italy Voted on June 12, Who Lost – And Why
6/25/2005 7:33:00 PM by www.chiesa.espressonline.it - Sandro Magister
ROMA, June 24, 2005 - The definitive results of the referendum against Law 40/2004, which regulates artificial procreation in Italy, have increased by four tenths of a percent the tally of the non-vote, the "double no" preached by Cardinal Camillo Ruini. According to the definitive data, the referendum of June 12-13 showed the lowest voting participation in the entire history of the Italian republic.
Three out of four citizens declined to vote: 74.5 percent of those eligible to vote in Italy, who are a little more than 50 million persons.
And not all of the 25.5 percent of those who went to vote responded in the affirmative to all four points of the referendum, as its promoters had wanted.
Three of these four points were aimed at striking down the prohibitions that Law 40/2004 established in regard to the selection, use, and killing of embryos produced in vitro.
The fourth one was aimed at removing the ban on "heterologous" fertilization, or using an egg or semen taken from "donors" outside of the couple.
About 12 percent of those who voted rejected the first three points, defending the legal prohibitions, and even more rejected the fourth point: 22.6 percent.
The affirmative response to the fourth point, then, is the one that proved to be a tough nut to crack for the promoters of the referendum, who in their campaign for the four "yes" votes had the full support of (among others) the major daily newspapers and the most powerful party on the left, the Leftist Democrats, the heirs of the Italian Communist Party.
In absolute numbers, 9,406,370 Italians responded in the affirmative to the fourth point. This is 20.06 percent of eligible voters, or one out of five.
This is the national average. Region by region, the tally of the "yes" votes was very different, although it did not come close to a majority in any of the regions, not even in those traditionally dominated by the left, like Emilia Romagna and Tuscany.
Here are the percentages of the "yes" votes for the fourth point of the referendum, calculated according to the total number of eligible voters. These are given for Italy as a whole and for each region individually (the major city of each region is shown in parentheses):
Emilia Romagna (Bologna) 34,44
Tuscany (Florence) 33,19
Liguria (Genoa) 27,78
Lazio (Rome) 25,31
Umbria (Perugia) 23,64
Piedmont (Turin) 22,85
Friuli Venezia Giulia (Trieste) 22,44
Sardinia (Cagliari) 22,14
Marche (Ancona) 20,85
Valle d’Aosta (Aosta) 20,30
Lombardy (Milan) 20,21
Veneto (Venice) 18,57
Trentino (Trent) 18,06
Abruzzo (L’Aquila) 17,98
Molise (Campobasso) 13,61
Basilicata (Potenza) 12,37
Alto Adige (Bolzano) 12,23
Campania (Naples) 12,12
Sicily (Palermo) 11,59
Puglia (Bari) 11,35
Calabria (Reggio Calabria) 9,89
These and other data were compiled by Stefano Borselli. And what follows is an analysis of them, written for www.chiesa by Pietro De Marco, an expert in religious geopolitics and a professor at the University of Florence and the Theological Faculty of Central Italy:
Remnants of Hegemony, without a Majority
Or, the growing importance of the "Italian exception" for the future of relations between religion and civil society
by Pietro De Marco
There is much that can be learned from the clear victory of the defenders of Law 40/2004 in Italy, and much to be learned also from the political geography of those who lost; that is, the political and ideological forces that struggled for a drastic revision - and the substantial repeal - of the law.
The national tally of those who voted was 25.5 percent. It is a percentage worthy of consideration. The decision to vote was already a de facto decision in favor of the revision/repeal of the law. The great majority of the voters should have voted yes, against Law 40/2004, and they did vote as expected. So what was at stake was whether this majority would or would not correspond to a majority of the electorate. An overall vote of 25.5 showed that this was not the case. Furthermore, among those who went to vote just 78.1 percent voted yes on the most controversial point of the referendum, the fourth point, which was aimed at abolishing the ban on heterologous insemination. So out of all eligible voters, the yes vote to all points of the referendum just barely exceeded 20 percent. So in the end, only one Italian citizen out of five voted against Law 40/2004.
Not even in the regions referred to as "red" because of their traditional orientation to the left (which represent a fourth of the national electorate) did as much as half of the eligible voters decide to go to vote, much less to vote yes. This is true even if one adjusts the number of voters in this referendum according to the figures for the European elections in 2004, subtracting the 19-22 percent of voters in those regions who did not vote then, either.
If one considers Tuscany, for example, almost 40 percent of the voters participated in the referendum last June 12-13, the highest figure for Italy after the 41.6 percent for Emilia-Romagna. But just 33.19 percent of eligible voters, or one citizen out of three, responded in the affirmative to the fourth point of the referendum.
Close consideration of the "yes" votes to the fourth point, therefore, reveals the effective dimensions of the militant core of the referendum, the part impervious to any differentiated evaluation of its points: this comes to about 20 percent of the adult Italian population.
Beginning from this core, the effort for mobilization generated by the "sociétés de pensée [societies of thought],” with the support of the leftist parties and the powerful network of female/feminist solidarity, was able to influence politically and emotionally one fourth of the country. It was at least able to get them to vote, in opposition to the boycott promoted by the Catholic and secular defenders of Law 40/2004, inspired by the solid strategy of cardinal Camillo Ruini.
One fourth of the country is no small portion. And the regional differences tell us that the capacity for hegemony of the cultural sectors that turned out for the "yes" vote remains high in Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, but also in Liguria and Lazio. Lombardy, on the other hand, shows the extent of the strength of the counterbalancing moderate forces and an organized and intellectually qualified form of Catholicism. There is no doubt that the results in Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Liguria, and Lazio were made possible by the influence that the secular-radical-feminist ethos still exerts in these regions, even upon the conduct of the Catholic world itself.
This is the (residual?) effect of hegemony. By this I intend the classical meaning of an ethical-political culture's ability to propose authoritatively and successfully its own system of values to cultures with a different, and often opposing, vision of the the world. This means the ability to radically control and determine the public choices of these groups, in apparent respect for their autonomy (and even, paradoxically, in "real" respect for this, because the hegemonized culture doesn’t itself have a sense of initiative different from that of the hegemonic group).
It must be emphasized that the Northern Apennine bloc composed of Emilia Romagna, Liguria, and Tuscany (along the chain of mountains that makes up the spinal column of the Italian peninsula) has for decades been characterized by an internal contrast between the political and regulatory room given to emancipatory, super-libertarian ambitions (including recently determined regional statutes, which echo the government of Spain's José Luis Zapatero) and the manifest and often ritual concern of these same leftist administrations for initiatives of multiculturalism and solidarity.
Without entering into other details, it must least be emphasized that, apart from the Northern Apennine bloc, the Catholic and predominantly German-speaking region of Alto Adige practiced a deliberate and widespread boycott of the vote (only 16.6 percent went to the polls); that is, it drastically opposed the revision of Law 40/2004, just like southern Italy with its densely populated regions of Sicily and Campania. The non-vote of Alto Adige makes a good refutation of the argument that the non-vote of southern Italy can be explained by systemic local factors. The non-vote of the south is, instead, analogous to that of Alto Adige: a vote of adherence to stable institutions and principles, and to natural ties.
So on the national scale, although the influence of the secular intelligentsia's hegemony is not slight, at the same time it is shown to be less than what was expected by the promoters of the referendum.
The gap between expectations and results should be understood as a symptomatic indication of something else. The fact that the results were so significantly below expectations for the portion of the electorate thought to be susceptible to the radical-feminist-secularist mobilization effort is certainly not due to indifference or inertia, but rather to the cultural stature and persuasive power of the various fronts of the non-vote: scientists and intellectuals, Catholic and secular personalities and movements (an important role was played by the newspaper "il Foglio," directed by Giuliano Ferrara, an adherent of the theories of Leo Strauss which inspire a large part of the American neoconservatives, but also by the rest of center-right thought, senate president Marcello Pera and others, and some voices from the left, like Francesco Rutelli). It was a rational and reasoned grassroots opposition effort, which not only impeded the growth of the bloc upon which the supporters of the referendum were counting (about one third of the electorate), but even deprived them of a portion of their own membership, almost ten percentage points.
The result of the referendum, in short, suggests to us the following considerations.
First, a very large part of the country is and wants to remain apart from the objectives, the values, and the rallying cries of the "sociétés de pensée." And even the educated sectors of society belong to this part of the country, in spite of the fact that scholastic formation in Italy, from the high schools to the universities, is dominated by that same secularist intelligentsia, as is well known to teachers of religion and university professors who have a strong Catholic identity and remain in what is frequently a severe state of isolation.
The "sociétés de pensée" - this machine for the production of public opinion identified and analyzed by Augustin Cochin, a machine that tends to speak in the name of civil society and even to put itself forward as the authentic society - have failed, especially among the voters in the regions that surround the Northern Apennine bloc and constitute the "major center" of an Italy that is in many respects modern and secular. In this Italy, which represents fully 43 percent of the national electorate, the "yes" vote did not exceed 20 percent. The failure of the referendum thus represents - for those who know how to interpret it - a spectacular debacle for the Italian intelligentsia in its excssively haphazard alliance among libertarian, feminist, gay, and secular-anticlerical components, in its presumption of intellectual superiority, and in its ambitions to take moral and political control of the country.
The second consideration. The hypothesis of the promoters of the referendum was this: a summons to register a "no" vote would not have prevented the victory of the "yes," and at the same time it would have guaranteed the quorum of the 50 percent of the voters plus one required by Italian law in order for a referendum to be valid. Very neat and tidy. So the decision to boycott was, in consequence, the obligatory response for the defenders of Law 40/2004, to avoid becoming a ridiculous bunch of losers before the fact: this is what is meant by a political rationality dutifully and ethically directed toward an end, the means that this implies, and the dignity of one's own activity.
So the militant initiative of the intelligentsia - as a continual pressure exerted upon the primary institutions of the family and natural procreation in order to promote "subjective rights" that are irresponsible, in the technical sense, with respect to our founding culture - can be successfully opposed, provided that there are adequate resources of intelligence and action.
The Catholic world and that vital segment of secularists who "cannot help but call themselves Catholic" are now once again capable of unity and joint activity in regard to areas and situations of ultimate importance. This prefigures a core of "Christian intellect" which could represent the future for Italian and European culture, not in the sense of an alternative hegemony, but as a polarity capable of offsetting the perverse effects (whether these are intended or not) of the intelligentsia that is objectively antagonistic to the Western-Christian order. This intelligentsia has been growing in Europe since the 1930's, and since that time it has always celebrated, without much discernment, every mirage of the destruction of this order.
For the results of the Italian referendum of June 12-13, 2005, in an early and original compilation, see the website managed by Stefano Borselli from Florence, and in particular his newsletters 272 and 273: