Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is keeping his promise to step down after suffering what by all accounts looks to have been a stinging defeat in his plan to reform the country’s constitution. According to exit polls at least, the result wasn’t even close and Renzi may have lost by as much as 20 points.
“I have lost,” Renzi said in a televised statement. “We gave the Italians an opportunity to change, but we didn’t succeed.” The prime minister will present his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella on Monday after two-and-a-half years in office.
The euro plunged to a 20-month low as Renzi announced his resignation and the 41-year-old became the second European leader this year to lose his job amid a wave of populist sentiment and anti-European backlash. The Guardian explains:
The results will be seen as a clear rejection by voters of establishment politics in favor of populist and anti-immigrant forces, much as the UK’s vote in June to leave the European Union and the election last month of Donald Trump in the US were.
The referendum was regarding a proposal that Renzi said would have made Italy much more efficient and cut down on bureaucracy that has made it impossible for the government to pass much-needed economic reforms. But more than one policy though, the vote was largely seen as a referendum on Renzi himself. And the region—and the world—were watching closely to figure out whether populist and Euroskeptic parties had a future in Italy. It seems they do.
Matteo Salvini, who leads an anti-immigrant party, said that if the exit polls are confirmed it would mark a “victory of the people against the strong powers of three-quarters of the world.” Right-wing leaders across Europe celebrated the Italy vote. “The Italians have disavowed the EU and Renzi. We must listen to this thirst for freedom of nations,” wrote France’s Marine Le Pen.
The results in Italy brought joy to the European right-wing that had earlier in the day suffered a setback in Austria, where a former leader of the Green party, Alexander Van der Bellen, beat the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in the presidential election. The results were largely greeted with a sigh of relief from centrists and liberals who feared Austria was going to be the latest country to hand a victory to an anti-immigrant, populist leader.