Italy fired up for referendum

ON THE LINE: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi casts his vote for constitutional reform, in Pontassieve, near Florence. Picture: REUTERS
ON THE LINE: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi casts his vote for constitutional reform, in Pontassieve, near Florence. Picture: REUTERS

Prime minister puts future on line in vote on constitutional reforms

Italians went to the polls yesterday in a constitutional referendum on which reformist Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has staked his future.

Whatever the outcome of a vote being anxiously watched in capitals across Europe and carefully scrutinised on trading floors around the world, it will lead to change.

If the centre-left Renzi’s proposals to streamline a 68-year-old parliamentary system are voted down, he has vowed to resign.

That would usher in a period of political uncertainty and potential economic turmoil for the country and its European Union allies.

The most apocalyptic scenarios involve a crisis of investor confidence causing the failure of a rescue scheme for Italy’s most indebted banks, triggering a broader crisis across the euro zone.

But markets last week, while jittery, appeared to have discounted that risk.

If Renzi wins, the country’s youngest ever prime minister will be energised in his bid to transform Italy.

Critics say Italy will have been deprived of democratic checks and balances  put in place in the aftermath of World War 2 following the disastrous rule of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Victory for Renzi will mean a new mandate to pursue reforms he sees as key to unshackling Italy’s creativity from the influence of a self-serving political caste that has exploited institutional weakness to stymie change.

“If we miss this chance it won’t comeback for 20 years,” he warned voters before campaigning was suspended at midnight on Friday.

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