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What next following Italian referendum?

Monday 5 December 2016

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has resigned from office following a heavy defeat in a constitutional referendum held on Sunday.

Professor James Newell, an expert in Italian politics from the University of Salford's School of Arts and Media, said:

“Like Brexit and Trump, the outcome of the Italian referendum has been a great surprise, but for the opposite reason – polls suggested that the result would be very close and instead there has been a decisive and unequivocal result. On a very high 68 per cent turnout, Italians have turned their backs on the proposed constitutional reforms by 60 to 40 per cent.

“This has been no ‘anti-establishment, populist revolt’ with the division between Yes and No cross-cutting the usual political and social divisions. The No side mobilised people on the left and the right, including members of the liberal elite and those in less exalted circumstances. Matteo Renzi wasn’t an establishment figure and had in fact been proposing reforms to sweep away vested interests.

“However, this referendum has become a de facto vote on his premiership. He was opposed on one side by the centre right and on the other side by the populist Five-star Movement (M5s), neither of which would have anything to do with the other.  Now that this ‘rag bag’ of forces - to use Renzi’s own expression - has been able to come together in a straightforward yes-or-no contest he has, for the moment, been ousted from power.

“The M5S are now saying they want immediate elections based on the law as it stands. So either they are willing, on their own, to assume the responsibilities of government, or they want a governing alliance – and it is not clear which. Either way, it is an open question whether a party that draws support from across the political spectrum and has hitherto been a party of protest would be able to remain cohesive in face of the pressures of governing. Its experience in local government does not augur well.”