Italy: Will a referendum topple the government?
First Britain voted to leave the European Union. Then America put Donald Trump in the White House. Will Italy be the next Western nation to be engulfed by a populist wave? asked James Politi in the Financial Times(U.K.). It might be, thanks to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s decision to hold a referendum next week on his flagship plan to amend the Italian constitution. Renzi wants to end the perennial gridlock between Parliament’s two equally powerful chambers by shrinking the Senate, the upper chamber, in power and size. But the center-left leader made a devastating mistake, “excessively personalizing the referendum by vowing to resign and leave politics if he lost.” That pledge “galvanized the opposition, which quickly turned the vote into an opportunity to oust the prime minister rather than issue a verdict on his reforms.” Now, everyone who opposes Renzi for whatever reason is against the reforms, and if Renzi does step down after a No vote, the way is clear for a populist takeover by Beppe Grillo, the comedian turned politician who heads the anti-EU, anti-euro Five Star Movement.
Nevertheless, Italy should vote No, said The Economist(U.K.). The country needs reforms, but not these particular reforms. Coupled with a new electoral law that gives more than half the seats in Parliament’s lower house to whichever party wins a plurality of votes, Renzi’s reforms would make it all too easy for Italy to end up with “an elected strongman.” Given that the country is already “worryingly vulnerable to populism,” having previously created a Mussolini and a Berlusconi, such concentration of power is simply too risky. A Prime Minister Grillo would be bad now, but just think of what he could do if he were “elected by a minority and cemented into office” by Renzi’s reforms.
Many of us are sick of Renzi and ready to see him go, said Pippo Corigliano in L’Eco di Caserta(Italy). If Renzi wins the referendum, his Democratic Party will be emboldened to continue on its path of expanding gay rights and pushing a liberal agenda. Italy could end up with “gay adoption, gender theory taught in elementary schools, even abortion on the last day of pregnancy.” This is the kind of “ideological colonization” by the decadent West that the pope has warned us against.
Conservative Catholics could end up swaying this vote, said Paolo Rodari and Alessia Candito in La Repubblica(Italy). Many of them want “revenge against Renzi for the law on civil unions for gay couples,” which the prime minister pushed through over the objections of the Church. Anything that will deny him power is good in their eyes. When the final opinion polls were taken, at least a quarter of voters were still undecided, said Marcello Sorgi in La Stampa(Italy). That means the vote will come down to emotion, not reason. Win or lose, Renzi is surely now doubting “whether it was really such a good idea” to take his reforms to the people.