People have taken to the streets in the Italian capital to celebrate a victory in a national referendum that both rejected constitutional reform proposals by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and prompted his resignation. The supporters of the “No” campaign marched in the streets of Rome as others gathered outside the outgoing prime minister’s office in the early hours of Monday.
“Go home,” they chanted and waved flags as riot police stood guard outside Renzi’s office. “The ‘No’ vote won, Roma won, it couldn’t have gone better than that tonight. Go Roma, go ‘No!’” said a demonstrator. “I think, with this vote, the Italian people wanted to express not only a ‘No’ to the constitutional reform but also a firm ‘No’ to the policies of the government and of the European Union,” said another euphoric “No” vote supporter.
Voters were asked in the referendum, which was conducted on Sunday, whether they agreed to constitutional modifications to reduce the role of the Senate and limit the powers of regional governments. They voted “No” by 60-40, according to projections by the Interior Ministry, which put the turnout at almost 70 percent.
Prime Minister Renzi had said before the referendum that he would step down if the proposals were voted down. He handed in his resignation on Sunday. “When you lose, you cannot pretend that nothing has happened and go to bed and sleep. My government ends here today,” he said.
Political parties such as the opposition 5-Star Movement, which had campaigned for a “No” vote, had said that the proposed changes to the constitution would lead to a concentration of power in the central government.
The referendum results are considered a boost to eurosceptic opposition parties in Italy, and thus an alarm for the eurozone and the European Union (EU). Italian President Sergio Mattarella should now decide whether to call a general election or ask the parliament to form a new government and appoint a prime minister for the eurozone’s third largest economy.
Analysts say the 5-Star movement, led by Beppe Grillo, stands high chances of making gains in the event of early elections next year. If he comes to power, according to analysts, it is also very likely that he will call a referendum to scrap the euro and will even follow in the footsteps of the United Kingdom out of the EU. His party recently launched a campaign to hold a referendum to scrap the euro.