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Image for Matteo Renzi all in for Italy's risky referendum 

Matteo Renzi all in for Italy's risky referendum 

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This Sunday, Italy will vote on a complicated constitutional reform that might foresee a smaller Senate. According to various European correspondants, however, the reform could have serious consequences for the country's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Italy's relationship with Europe in general. So how risky is Renzi's gambit?

Financial Times acting as Renzi's mouthpiece - Il Giornale, Italy

According to the Financial Times a victory for the No vote in the referendum would leave eight Italian banks facing collapse. The conservative daily Il Giornale accuses the paper of election propaganda:

“Just a few days ago the Financial Times, Europe's must prestigious business paper, claimed as if it were fact that if the No camp wins Italy will end up leaving the EU. On Tuesday it upped the stakes saying that eight Italian banks may fail if the Yes vote doesn't win out. The Financial Times is behaving more like an election campaign aid than a platform for serious debate. … Since there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that Italian banks are facing collapse and since we don't believe in fortune-tellers we are more inclined to believe that an accomplice of the 'yes-to-Prime-Minister-Renzi' gang is behind these articles. A gang of irresponsible individuals who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.” (30/11/2016)

A big fuss about a minor reformCorriere Del Ticino, Switzerland 

Those who keep warning of the consequences of Sunday's referendum should stop exaggerating, Corriere del Ticino comments:

“Too much meaning is being read into the referendum. … What exactly have the Italians been called to vote on? A constitutional reform that affects a number of paragraphs but basically hinges on three key points: a) a reform of the Senate; b) a redistribution of powers between the state and the regions; c) a revision of the rules for referendums. And that's it. Why Italy's future is supposed to depend on this mini-reform that is poorly conceived and even more poorly formulated remains a mystery. … December 4 cannot be compared with Brexit or the US presidential election, either on paper or in terms of its factual impact. If it does happen to have the same kind of political repercussions, we need to start thinking seriously about how solid the country's entire political system is.” (30/11/2016)

Italians must go and voteLa Repubblica, Italy

According to the latest polls a narrow majority will vote against the constitutional reform, but the number of those who still haven't decided how to vote remains large. This uncertainty must not lead people to abstain from voting, Michele Ainis, an expert on constitutional law, urges in La Repubblica:

“Depending on the type of consultation the impact of abstention can vary widely. In parliamentary or local elections abstention amounts to a fundamental and radical rejection of all the parties' programmes. When it comes to an abrogative referendum abstention can signify a lack of interest in the subject of the consultation and may result in the quorum not being reached. In the case of the constitutional referendum, those who don't vote are expressing their indifference towards the constitution, the basic rules that govern our coexistence. This is not exactly a show of public engagement and it is a problem, because a constitution without a people is like a church without churchgoers. Moreover, decisions made by minorities generally tend to be bad ones.” (29/11/2016)

Renzi's Russian rouletteKauppalehti, Finland

The Italian referendum could have extremely risky consequences for Europe, Kauppalehti fears:

“Renzi is playing a similar game of Russian roulette with the referendum as former British prime minister David Cameron played with Brexit. The problem with referendums is that the vote is often about something entirely different than the question at hand. In Italy too, the voters will use the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the government - rather than with the constitution. Although the Italian referendum does not pose a direct threat to the economy or political stability of the EU, it could have fatal consequences. Italy's ailing bank sector and national debt have kept the euro partners in suspense since the start of the financial crisis. If the populists take over [in fresh elections], uncertainty about Italy's ability to push through reforms and its ties with the Eurozone will only increase.” (29/11/2016)

Renzi's defeat would be catastrophic for EurozoneFinancial Times, UK 

If the Italians reject the constitutional reform on November 4 it could lead to the country leaving the Eurozone and ultimately the latter's collapse, warns the Financial Times:

“Italy has three opposition parties, all of which favour exiting the euro. The largest and most important is the Five Star Movement ... In democratic countries, it is common that opposition parties eventually come to power. Expect that to happen in Italy too. The referendum matters as it could accelerate the path towards euro exit. If Mr Renzi loses, he has said he would resign, leading to political chaos. Investors might conclude the game is up. On December 5, Europe could wake up to an immediate threat of disintegration.” (21/11/16)

Another domino about to fallExpresso, Portugal

Expresso also senses an impending crisis:

“Renzi has announced that he will resign if the constitutional reform is rejected. His threat hasn't helped the polls but it's music in the ears of populists, starting with the clown [and head of the Movimento Cinque Stelle] Beppe Grillo, who dreams of seeing Rome burn by decree. ... The next crisis of Western democracy will follow in just under two weeks: strangely, Austria will vote on the same day - and choose either a Green or a right-wing populist as its president. ... December 4 is clearly a dress rehearsal for the election year that will follow in all of Europe. ... The markets can make Trump more moderate, the world can act as if nothing had happened, the Italians can live without a government and the Austrians can wave a right-wing populist into office. But the sum of all these factors will cement the state we find ourselves in: the barbarians have broken through the gates and are already making merry.” (19/11/2016)


30 Countries, 300 Media Outlets, one press review. euro|topics presents the issues affecting Europe and reflects the continent's diverse opinions, ideas and moods.

Story by

Lara Bullens

English editor at Cafébabel and freelance journalist. 🚩Paris, France