Episode
December 5, 2016

Italy decides its future

What’s at stake in the Italian constitutional referendum?
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Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has resigned after a resounding defeat in a referendum over his plan to reform the constitution. The reforms were an effort by Renzi to streamline Italy’s political system, push through economic reform and stabilise Italy’s notoriously fragile government. The eurosceptic Five Star Movement emerged as the winner on Sunday evening. The populist movement, led by comedian Beppe Grillo, spearheaded the winning “No” campaign. The movement has called for a referendum to withdraw from the euro currency. Sunday’s referendum was closely watched in Europe as a barometer of anti-establishment sentiment and also because Italy has the third largest economy in the Eurozone. Renzi’s resignation could trigger fresh elections and lead to political instability.

Few in Italy doubt the need for reform. The country has seen more than 60 governments come and go over 70 years, and Italy’s economy has been stagnant for the last 16 years. Renzi wanted to strengthen the powers of the executive by reducing the number of senators and taking away a significant amount of their legislative powers, making it easier for him to pass economic reforms. He also wanted to reduce some of the power of Italy’s 20 regions. Opponents said that the changes would concentrate too much power in the hands of the majority ruling party and the prime minister. Critics also said the proposed reforms were too complicated and would have created more problems than they would have solved.

An exit poll for state broadcaster RAI has 42-46 percent voting to back reform, compared with 54-58 percent voting "no". In the wake of  the UK’s Brexit vote and the US elections, many Western countries will be closely watching what happens next as elections draw near in France, Germany, and most likely Italy.

On this episode of The Stream, we’ll discuss the implications of the referendum beyond institutional reform, and what the “no” vote means for the future of Italy.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Federiga Bindi @Fedbindi
Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Ignazio Corrao @ignaziocorrao
Politician, Five Star Movement
europarl.europa.eu

Mattia Tarelli @mattiatarelli1
Deputy Field Director, National Yes Campaign

Axel Keicher @Axelkappa
Student, John Cabot University

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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