Itexit Next? Italian Referendum Meets with Defeat

The Italian referendum on “reform” was decisively rejected, which may lead to the next Brexit.

The vote on the Italian referendum yesterday is another blow to the European Union. Here’s how BBC described the importance of the vote before the results were known.

According to AFP at Yahoo News,

Matteo Renzi’s time as Italy’s prime minister appeared to be over Sunday as exit polls indicated voters had overwhelmingly rejected constitutional reform proposals on which he had staked his future.

The reformist premier had vowed to quit if he lost the vote on proposals to streamline parliament and the first exit polls indicated he had been left with little other option.

Polls for national broadcaster Rai and the La7 television channel both called the vote decisively for the No camp. Their surveys put the winning margin at an average of 56.7 percent to 43.3.

Almost 70 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, first reports from polling stations indicated, underlining the stakes after Renzi’s resignation pledge turned the vote into a de facto referendum on his leadership and record.

The projected result was in line with what opinion polls had been indicating up until November 18, after which the media were banned from publishing survey results.

That last paragraph is questionable. According to other news sources, the results were quite surprising. In the video below, a journalist says the “No” votes outnumbered the “Yes” votes by twenty percent whereas polls had shown “No” only winning by five percent.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBuNuxZtm0Q

It that is accurate, then elites are surprised by how the public voted once again: first, Brexit, then Donald Trump, and now the Italian referendum.

Sky News reported that Renzi’s proposed referendum was designed “to reduce the role of the country’s Senate and take back powers from regional authorities.”

Whether the proposal would have been good for Italy is an open question. There are elements of “drain the swamp” in Renzi’s plan. But the same reasoning was used to grant fast-track authority to President Obama to get TPP. Sometimes democracy can be “inconvenient.”

But the bottom line is that voters did not think entrusting one man with that much power was wise. They also seem to be rethinking the benefits of the European Union.

Spearheaded by the populist Five Star Movement, the biggest rival to Mr Renzi’s Democratic party, the “No” campaign took advantage of the Mr Renzi’s declining popularity, a struggling economy and problems caused by tens of thousands of migrants arriving from Africa.

The vote is a major victory for Five Star leader Beppe Grillo, who urged Italians to follow their gut instincts.

But it is another blow to the European Union, which is struggling to overcome a number of crises and was keen for Mr Renzi to continue his reform drive.

Once again we see a populist reaction to the direction that financial and political elites want to take the world. While, we might not agree with everything in the Five Star Movement or any other party in European politics, we can appreciate that elites are being resisted.

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Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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