Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hinted he may resign if Italy’s Sunday referendum on constitutional reform does not pass.
The referendum is a “test of strength of the anti-Europe and anti-establishment forces in Italy,” former Italian diplomat Stefano Stefanini told The New York Times. The proposed vote would rewrite 47 of the 139 articles in the Italian constitution, which Renzi says need to be replaced to allow the government to compete with European economies.
“If Renzi’s referendum fails, it will be seen as another symbolic victory for the populists that portends greater risk for other states and the EU,” a Eurasia Group Europe analyst told The Telegraph. He continued, “It will make the EU defensive and inward-looking, and more incapable of addressing the problems that are giving rise to the populists in the first place.”
Italian bookmakers surveyed by Reuters indicate the referendum is likely to fail, which will breathe steam into Italy’s burgeoning populist movement. The Five Star Movement, an anti-EU party, has been the main organizer against the referendum and hopes to force Renzi to resign the Prime Ministership. Renzi himself likened the leader of the Five Star Movement to President-elect Donald Trump.
Italy’s banks are reportedly holding nearly 360 billion euros in bad loans. Resolving the debt-saddled banks would likely require intervention by the European Central Banks and a strong Italian national government.
Analysts predict an economic crisis within the EU if the referendum fails, which will increasingly strain the European Central Bank. “If Italy struggles to cover its redemption requirements next February, confidence in the ECB as buyer of last resort could be badly shaken,” an economic analyst at Johns Hopkins explained to the Telegraph.
The referendum results will be available at 5pm Eastern Standard Time.
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