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Referendum reverse prompts Renzi resignation

Source: HOPE note hate | Monday, 5 December 2016

Luca Orfeo reports from Rome

In sections of the international media, yesterday’s results of the Italian referendum have already been simplified (and downgraded) to a populist vote in line with Brexit and Trump’s election in the USA.

Before going into explanations and analysis, however, it is useful to line up the facts:

• Italians are living through a long-lasting period of crisis and poor economic performance. Thus, the discussions on Constitutional changes are much older: a previous attempt to change the Constitution (passed by Berlusconi's government) was rejected by a referendum in 2006.

• Italian PM Matteo Renzi put a lot of effort into the referendum campaign (“he put his face on it”, as Italians like to say) and the debate turned pretty soon into a pro v. anti-Renzi vote. However, Renzi tried – and partially managed – to reverse this dynamic and force the public debate onto the topic of the Constitutional changes.

•In the end, the Constitutional reform was backed only by one party, the Democratic Party, and then not even entirely. In this sense, the 60-40% final result (with about 12 million votes for “yes”) is a highly valuable pool of consensus. The very high turnout (about 70%) is also a variable to be considered.

• Renzi announced his resignation as prime minister, taking full responsibility for the loss. However, he did not announce whether he would step down as secretary of his party.

These are the bare facts.

A possible analysis of what will happen next involves 3 key issues:

• Matteo Renzi himself. On Tuesday, the Democratic Party will decide what to do next. If Renzi manages to stay in charge, he might, despite the loss, be the next candidate to the forthcoming elections, with 12,000,000 votes and a strong demonstration of coherency to validate.

• The opposition. The “ NO front” is mixed (members of Renzi’s party also campaigned and voted for “NO”) and there is not a clear winner in any ”party” sense. The next elections would be difficult to forecast – and they are, in any case, not certain.

• The others. Renzi's campaign insisted on a possible economic disaster as a result of a “jump in the dark”. For sure, the Chambers still have to pass the 2017 budget law and a long phase of uncertainty could be dangerous to the still instable Italian economy.

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