The Strategist

Renzi steps down, Eurosceptics cheer

12/05/2016 - 14:13

On Monday night, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced his resignation after defeat of his initiative constitutional reform in the referendum. Mr. Renzi’s proposition was to reduce role of upper house of the parliament, and strengthen centralization of political power. This, in his view, would help to enact laws without unnecessary bureaucratic procedures. Basically, the referendum was considered a chance to express dissatisfaction with Prime Minister’s strategy. Opposition parties, such as Northern League, Forza Italia and Five Stars Movement, welcomed Prime Minister’s resignation, and called for early elections, expressing willingness to take power into their own hands.

Alex Valli
Alex Valli
"I could not bring victory, but I did the best I could do at that time. And I take full responsibility for the defeat on myself "- said Matteo Renzi after results of the referendum on constitutional reform became clear. Prime Minister added that he is leaving "without remorse." Mr. Renzi also said that he will gather a meeting of the Council of Ministers on Monday, and then go to the Quirinale Palace (official residence of President of Italy) to submit a petition on his resignation to President.

Mr. Renzi declared his readiness to leave the post in case of defeat in the referendum earlier. "If I lose the referendum, it would mean failure of my policy," - he said at a press conference on results of 2015.

Matteo Renzi’s fail, predicted by exit polls earlier, became apparent during the vote count. According to Ministry of Internal Affairs of Italy, turnout was around 70%, and 59.1% of the population from all regions of the country were ‘against’. Proponents of reform have won only 11 of 110 central provinces of Italy, plus in the northern province of Bolzano, where German-speaking minority lives. Mr. Renzi’s reform was to lower role of the upper house of the Italian Parliament (by reducing number of senators and their authority), as well as transfer of certain powers of regional authorities to the central government. Italian opposition forces, especially Northern League, Forza Italia and Five Stars Movement, were seriously concerned about such a prospect.

The main rival of ruling Democratic Party and personally Matteo Renzi is Five Stars Movement, which takes sharp populist positions, preaches euroscepticism and ranks second in the Italian parliament. Now, it has got a chance to come to power. Earlier, Five Stars Movement commented on Matteo Renzi’s initiative: "the reform is designed to give more power to the one who is already in power." The movement’s leader, satirist Beppe Grillo, welcomed results of the referendum on his blog and said that they will have two main effects: "1. Farewell to Renzi. 2. The Italians must be called to vote as soon as possible. Fastest, realistic and concrete decision to go to elections is to vote according to the law that already exists."

Similar statements were made by leaders of other political forces. For example, Head of Northern League Matteo Salvini after publication of exit polls’ results called for immediate resignation of Mr. Renzi and early parliamentary elections, "If these findings are confirmed." In addition, he thanked citizens for expressing their positions, and stated that it is fail not only of Matteo Renzi, but "all his lackeys."

Failure of Matteo Renzi and his center-left Democratic Party has become a challenge for the entire EU. This event is seen as next stage of strengthening of populism in the world after Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s victory. Italy, the third largest Eurozone economy, may now face not only political instability caused by the opposition’s struggle for power, but also economic challenges. French President Francois Hollande was first among European leaders to comment on Matteo Renzi’s resign. He, particularly, said that he welcomes Mr. Renzi’s activity, "aimed at embodiment of bold reforms in the country" and "shares his desire to direct Europe towards growth and employment", but at the same time he takes decision on resignation of Italian Prime Minister "with respect". Meanwhile, leader of French Eurosceptics, Head of National Front party Marine Le Pen replied on results of the Italian referendum enthusiastically: "We need to hear this thirst for freedom of nations" - she wrote in her Twitter.


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