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Posted at: Dec 5, 2016, 12:17 AM; last updated: Dec 5, 2016, 12:32 AM (IST)POLITICAL OVERHAUL

Renzi’s future on the line as Italy votes on his fate

While Europe breathes ‘a sigh of relief ’ after Austria’s Freedom Party conceded defeat in its bid to elect first far-right Prez since WW-II, Italy referendum continues to raise fears of turmoil

What it means

  • “Yes” vote will reduce the role of the Senate and allow regional lawmakers, not constituents, to pick the senators who serve
  • “No” vote could spur poll after PM Renzi has promised to resign if he loses and rise of Northern League and Five Star Movement
Renzi’s future on the line 
as Italy votes on his fate
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, flanked by his wife Agnese, casts his vote for the referendum on constitutional reform in Pontassieve, near Florence, Italy, on Sunday. REUTERS

Rome, December 4

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi voted today in a constitutional referendum that has put his future on the line, divided Italy and raised fears of political and economic turmoil across Europe. 

Renzi, who has vowed to quit if he loses, was counting on a last-minute turnaround in voter sentiment to win backing for his proposals to streamline Parliament and centralise some powers currently held at regional level in the name of more effective and stable government.

“Have you decided how you are going to vote, Prime Minister?" a woman voter cheekily asked Renzi as he turned up at a voting station in his home town of Pontassieve near Florence. "Now I'm thinking about it!" Renzi quipped back before spending 10 minutes standing in line to register his vote.

Opposition parties have denounced the proposed amendments to the 68-year-old constitution as ill-considered and dangerous for democracy because they remove important checks and balances on executive power.

Spearheaded by the populist Five Star Movement, the biggest rival to Renzi’s Democratic Party, the “No” campaign has also sought to capitalise on the Renzi's declining popularity, a sluggish economy and the problems caused by tens of thousands of migrants arriving in Italy.

“God willing it’s over. A new era starts tomorrow I hope,” said Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right Northern League, after voting in Milan. Former PM Silvio Berlusconi, who belatedly backed the “No” side, was also out early as the interior ministry reported brisk morning voting.

By midday nearly one in five of the 47 million Italians entitled to vote today had cast their ballot. Polls close at 11 pm (local time) with the result, anxiously awaited across Europe, expected in the early hours of Monday.

If Renzi goes, some market turbulence is inevitable. Analysts fear an investor confidence crisis that could derail a rescue plan for indebted banks, triggering a financial crisis across the eurozone. — AFP

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