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Italy's PM Resigns After Losing Constitutional Referendum

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Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says he takes full responsibility for the crashing defeat at the referendum he proposed, which would have reduced the powers of the Senate. Renzi intends to send in his resignation tomorrow.

According to Italy’s Interior Ministry, some 70 percent of Italy’s eligible voters took part in the referendum, after more than two-thirds of polling stations reported their results. An exit poll conducted by the Piepoli Institute/IPR for RAI television estimated that 40.9 percent voted “Yes,” while 59.1 percent voted “No.” RAI projections indicate that voters in only three of Italy’s 20 regions cast ballots to approve the reform, while in 17 regions the proposal was rejected.

Ahead of the referendum vote, Renzi promised that he would step down if his proposed constitutional reform was not approved.

The proposed legislation envisages a significant reduction in the powers of the Senate, the upper house of the Italian parliament. Under Italy’s 1948 constitution, both chambers of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, have equal importance in the adoption of any legislation. Before a bill can be made into law, it has to be passed by both chambers. The two-step approval system often led to a gridlock and was blamed for being ineffective. The constitutional amendment put forward by Renzi would have capped the power of the Senate so the government would no longer need its approval on an array of laws, including budget issues.

The Senate was set to lose much of its authority with the number of senators reduced from 315 to 100, and 95 of those would be appointed by regional assemblies.

‘Renzi failed to take his radical rhetoric on migration to EU meetings’

Italian journalist Marchello Foa told RT that Renzi’s inability to deliver on the promises of radical change and standing up to the EU resulted in his popular approval slipping away.

“The problem with Mr. Renzi is that he was very popular at the beginning of his mandate, but he has been promising too much and people are now realizing that… a big part of the things he says are not coming true,” Foa said, adding that “a large part” of Italian population “does not trust him anymore.”

He argued that Renzi lost credibility as a strong leader after he repeatedly failed to take his rather aggressive public rhetoric on migration to actual EU meetings, “giving up his opposition every time.”

Renzi appeared to have sharpened his rhetoric on the EU immigration issue, claiming in October that Italy would “put veto the future European budget” if the bloc does not come together to tackle the problem. He also said Italy “will not handle” a similar influx of migrants in 2017, estimating that the government has “six months” to deal with it.

Foa believes that the same factors that have triggered Brexit in the UK and contributed to Donald Trump’s victory in the US elections – that is overall dissatisfaction with mainstream politicians – played a role in Renzi’s downfall.

“The sentiment is that now the governments do not perform well, too many people are unemployed, people lose control over their destiny,” Foa said, adding that people want “radical change” and “do not trust the establishment anymore.”

“Mr. Renzi, himself, used to propose such radical change, but like it happened with Tsipras in Greece, for example, he was unable to fulfill his promises,” he said.


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