Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigns after referendum defeat

Voters reject constitutional changes, leading to warnings of an 'Italexit' that would 'make Brexit look like a picnic'

ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 05:Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi give a speech after the results of the referendum on constitutional reforms at Palazzo Chigi on December 5, 2016 in Rome, Italy.
Matteo Renzi gives a speech in Rome following the referendum
(Image credit: 2016 Getty Images)

Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, has said he will resign after voters overwhelmingly rejected a raft of constitutional changes in Sunday's referendum.

With most ballots counted, "the No vote leads with 60 per cent against 40 per cent for Yes", the BBC reports.

Renzi conceded defeat hours before official results were released. "My experience of government finishes here," he said.

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The result marks a "major victory for anti-establishment and right-wing parties" and threatens to plunge "the eurozone's third-largest economy into political chaos", says The Guardian.

Renzi aimed to restrict the power of Italy's senate by reducing the number of senators from 315 to 100 and stripping it of the ability to hold votes of no confidence in the government.

However, the referendum became "a litmus test for the rising wave of populism spreading in Europe", says CNN, "and the chance to register discontent with the current government".

Unlikely allies the anti-immigrant Northern League party and the populist Five Star Movement "locked arms to take on Renzi in the hope – now realised – of driving him out of office", the Guardian adds.

The "anti-establishment revolt" could now "gift power to populists wanting to taking the country out of the euro", says the Daily Mail. "Now for Italexit!" it adds. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"104569","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"794","width":"566"}}]]

Desmond Lachman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, warns a "prolonged period of political uncertainty is the last thing that a sclerotic Italian economy now needs" and that a future "Italexit" would "make Brexit look like a picnic".

The two frontrunners for the post of prime minister are Pier Carlo Padoan, the finance minister, and Dario Franceschini, the culture minister.

The task of forming an interim government will fall to President Sergio Mattarella. However, Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the Five Star Movement and "widely tipped to be a prime minister in any future Five Star government", is calling for immediate elections, says the Daily Telegraph.

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