After months of campaigning and animated political debate, Italians cast their votes in a constitutional referendum on November 4th called on by current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Italy plunged into political and economic uncertainty as voters decisively rejected the constitutional changes called on by the referendum, with the ‘no’ vote winning by a clear margin (60%).
The referendum, a project close to Mr. Renzi’s heart and a prime concern of his administration, focused on a series of constitutional reforms that caused much controversy amongst opposing parties in Italy. By modifying certain sections of the second part of the constitution, the proposed reform was meant to affect the bicameral system of the Parliament. Conceived in the hopes of facilitating the legislative process, the power of the Senate was to be reduced, giving legislative power largely to the Chamber of Deputies.
Those campaigning for the NO side to the referendum emphasized the reforms proposed by Renzi were awarding excessive power to a single chamber of parliament and the executive branch. As exit polls began to show a significant advantage for the NO vote, opposing parties started suggesting Mr.Renzi should resign immediately.
The Premier, who had previously made the mistake of personalizing the referendum by suggesting he would resign had the NO vote won, gave his opposers an ideal occasion to oust him from power. As a result, many may have voted against him rather than against the changes the reform put forward, at the country’s loss.
The result was instantly celebrated by leaders of opposing parties who had been bitterly campaigning to reject the changes suggested by the referendum, one of the strongest voices being that of Beppe Grillo, leader of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement. The political and economic uncertainty facing the country as the premier resigned this 4th of November is significant, and might reverberate against an already weak European Union.
The referendum resulted in a significant voter turnout, with 65% of Italians casting votes at the polls throughout the country. The NO vote was victorious from region to region, with the exception of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Trentino Alto Adige, according to an analysis by Corriere della Sera. The strong fight against the passing of the referendum coming from the Five Star Movement accused the reform of concentrating too much power in the executive hands of Mr.Renzi.
The result of the referendum rejects a chance for Italy to modernize the country by clearing away some of the bureaucracy and foster a more efficient organization of government. It also paves the way for increasingly populist and anti-establishment sentiments that have gained widespread support across Europe in the current year.
As vowed at the beginning of this campaign, premier Renzi announced he will turn in his letter of resignation to President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella.
As for what will come forward, the political future of the country is uncertain at the moment. President Mattarella might call for a general election of 2017, in which the Five Star Movement is expected to make significant gains.
In a speech about the result of the referendum, Mr. Renzi took full responsibility for the loss on the side of the ‘yes’ front. In a heartfelt address to the nation putting an end to his time in government, Mr.Renzi acknowledged his loss and concluded that, “Doing politics against someone is easy, doing politics for something, is better, harder but better”.
- Ludovica Grieco