Matteo Renzi lost the referendum, with 59.1% of Italians voting against his proposed changes, so what is next for Italy?
Matteo Renzi’s referendum would have changed the Italian Constitution to decrease the number of seats in the Senate, and its power. 68% of the populations voted, which is a very high turnout for Italy. However, 59.1% of the population voted against the changes, with that number rising to 40% among Italians under 35, showing the anger felt towards a Prime Minister who some accused of failing to decrease unemployment and improve the economy.
The opposition included former Prime Ministers, factions of the Renzi’s own centre-left Democratic party and famous academics as well as Italy’s two far right parties, the Northern League and the Five Star Movement. Mr Renzi stated very early on that he would resign if he lost, and by doing so he made the referendum personal. That, as well as the far right’s vitriolic campaigns led to the no camp winning the day.
Whilst European leaders accepted the defeat of one of the EU’s forward thinking leaders with sadness, the far right rejoiced. Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front tweeted that Renzi’s defeat showed ‘thirst for freedom’, and the Five Star Movement celebrated their victory.
The referendum’s result has provoked concern over Italy’s future. The Euro stock briefly fell, but quickly recovered. Hhowever future financial stability is now the main concern – if one of Italy’s major banks went under, it could easily provoke a crisis.
Mr Renzi quit the day after the referendum, but the president Sergio Mattarella froze his resignation until the 2017 Senate’s budget was passed on Wednesday. After it passed Mr Renzi officially resigned. Mr Mattarella is resisting pressure from the two Eurosceptic parties (the Northern League and the Five Star Movement) to call a snap election. In such a situation, the far right and more popular Five Star Movement would likely benefit the most, and potentially win.
It now seems likely that the president will form a caretaker government that would ensure important commitments are fulfilled, such as the passing of the budget and a reform of electoral laws. The government could be led by the Pier Carlo Padoan, the finance minister, or the speaker of the senate, Pietro Grasso, both of whom are part of the Democratic Party. This would delay new elections until 2018.
The President is expected to reach a decision within the next few days, after consulting with all party leaders, he has indicated he could name the new Prime Minister by the end of this weekend.