Why the Italian PM’s defeat is a boon for the far right in Europe

Italy has no government and a raging populist and far right movement

Francesca Astorri
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Just after midnight on December 4, the day of the Constitutional Referendum in Italy, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi spoke to all Italians. He took the floor knowing he had lost this challenge and made the announcement that he would resign. At that hour of the night everyone knew that almost 60 percent of Italian voters rejected the Constitutional reform promoted by the premier. The question wasn’t on the results of the referendum, but the consequences. And these consequences are tougher than a lost match.

“I take full responsibility for this defeat. I lost.” Renzi said. “This government experience ends here. We leave with no regrets. Tomorrow afternoon I will gather all ministries, go to the president of the Republic and resign.”


There is one clear loser, but it’s hard to find any winners. The Euro fell immediately as financial speculation is always the first to arrive on the crime scene. Political instability and a boost for populist and far right parties are some of the consequences all Italians will have to face now.

A potential new technocratic government not elected by the people, but to be nominated by the president of the Republic Mattarella, will take over and 80-year-old Berlusconi is declaring he is ready to run for the presidency.

The political alternatives to Renzi are now represented by personalities as comedian and actor Beppe Grillo, who does not possess a university education, and Berlusconi, who is remembered not only for his internationally known bunga-bunga parties, but more importantly for having left Italy almost on the edge of defeat in 2011.

Before having to face this worrying choice, Italy has to give itself an electoral law according to which Italians can vote in national elections. This is the most urgent step the country has to take now.

The reform of the Constitution promoted by Renzi was aiming at reducing the costs and number of politicians, at making the legislative process lighter and more efficient, eliminating administrative institutions and councils considered a burden. As reasonable as this reform seems, Italians did not want to see the Constitution changed by a non-elected prime minister, since it was approved unanimously by all parties in the parliament after the Second World War.

The impression is that the majority of Italians voted giving priority to reasons not related to the subject of the referendum. Initially, the referendum was mistakenly personalized and turned into a vote for or against Prime Minister Renzi. Some Italians didn’t manage to move beyond that point and now the misleading personification means no reforms, no Renzi.

A G7 member state facing a political crisis is not good news for the world. Italy is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the lack of a solid government could result in a lackluster approach to security, immigration and financial issues.

Italy has no government and a raging populist and far right movement – history does not bode well for the future but one hopes that the past will serve as a warning for the future.

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