ROME (AFP) – With a turnout of barely 13 percent, Italy appeared set to keep its tough assisted procreation law after the powerful Roman Catholic Church called on voters to boycott the two-day referendum.
The vote is seen as a first test for newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI, who backed a call by Italian cardinals for predominantly Roman Catholic Italians to abstain on moral grounds.
The appeal appeared to have its effect, with only 13.3 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots by 7:00 pm (1700 GMT) Sunday, in a vote in which turnout is key since more than 50 percent of the electorate must vote for results to be valid.
The low turnout left little hope for supporters of change. Experts say that at least 35 percent of the electorate must vote by Sunday at 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) for the quorum to be considered attainable by the close of voting on Monday at 3:00 pm (1500 GMT).
To explain their abstention, some Italians cited indifference, others referred directly to the Church’s appeal.
"I am not voting because of the Church’s appeal and I think many people will follow it," said Roman waiter Maurizio di Carlo, as he took a cigarette break from his busy Sunday afternoon shift.
"It’s immoral," said Mario Bitonte, a 29-year-old from the Adriatic port city of Brindisi. "You can’t have a referendum on life." [Source]
Amazing what can happen when bishops forcefully speak out on a subject – not to mention that the Pope also weighed in. Italians are not exactly know for voting lockstep with their Catholic faith anymore.