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June 15th, 2011

Italian Voters Turn Out Against Water Privatization

By Rich Bindell

Italians voted earlier this week to overturn laws established by Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government. Voters blocked efforts by the Italian government to privatize water, reestablish the nuclear energy program and grant Berlusconi immunity from prosecution. If you’ve perused some of the articles in places like The Washington Post, The New York Times or Bloomberg, you may have noticed that most of the attention was paid to Berlusconi and his political survival. But, to many of us, the most critical element of this story is that the people of Italy do not want their water privatized.

The Italian government had initially pushed for private sector assistance to repair an aging water system, and they passed a law that would privatize water by the end of the year. But, Italians already had a poor taste of what water privatization would be like after some communities had to deal with mismanaged water resources at the hands of a few multinational corporations. Boosted by support from the Roman Catholic clergy and others who demand that water be treated as a human right, the people of Italy have called for their water to be managed by a public entity.

57 percent of eligible voters turned out to the polls and voted by an astounding 96 percent. This is certainly a victory for water advocates around the globe. Water privatization typically leads to higher consumer costs and services that are managed with an emphasis on profit over quality and safety.

If you’d like to learn more about the battle against water privatization, please visit our Food & Water Watch web page on privatization.

2 Comments on Italian Voters Turn Out Against Water Privatization

  1. Random Lurker says:

    An important detail from one of the “astounding 96%” of italian voters:
    The vote was a referendum that required a minimum of 50% of italians with the right to vote to actually vote; otherwise the referendum would have been considered “null”.
    As a consequence, people who would vote “no” (i.e. pro water privatization) had an incentive not to vote, in order to “nullify” the referendum. Parties that were pro privatization actively asked their followers not to vote.
    As a consequence, it is normal that the “yes” vote had an extremely high percentage, because “yes” voters were the only ones that went to vote.

  2. The 97% voting against is not astonishing.

    Under the Italian system, the real hurdle in the referendum is the 50% turnout requirement, so a non-vote is the same as a no-vote.

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