26 April 2019
Matteo Renzi gambled everything by pledging to quit if he lost the referendum. Photo: AFP
Matteo Renzi gambled everything by pledging to quit if he lost the referendum. Photo: AFP

Italy’s Renzi announces resignation after referendum rout

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has announced that he will resign after suffering a resounding defeat in a referendum over constitutional reform.

That leaves the eurozone’s third largest economy in political limbo, according to Reuters.

Italy’s largely ceremonial head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, told the prime minister to stay on until parliament had approved the 2017 budget.

That could be achieved as soon as later this week, after which, the president said, Renzi would be free to tender his resignation.

His decision to quit after less than three years in office deals a new blow to western political establishments, still in shock from Britain’s unexpected vote to leave the European Union and the US election of outsider Donald Trump as president.

The referendum, intended to change rules to make Italy more governable, was opposed by right-wing and populist parties, including groups that want Italy to ditch the euro.

Those groups have crowed that the referendum showed voters reject traditional elites, in the vein of the victories of Brexit and Trump, although mainstream opposition parties and even some leaders of Renzi’s fractured center-left Democratic Party (PD) had also campaigned for “no”.

Italy’s youngest ever premier had been feted around the world as a pro-European reformer and lauded by US President Barack Obama for his “bold, progressive” leadership.

Obama had hoped Renzi would stay on even if he lost the referendum.

But the 41-year-old Renzi said he would leave office after voters decisively rejected his plans to reduce the role of the upper house Senate and centralize power.

Voters had turned the referendum into a de facto vote on Renzi, who gambled everything by pledging to quit if he lost.

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