Italy’s center-left leader, Matteo Renzi, has stepped down after his Democratic Party fell from first to fourth place in the election on Sunday.
I argued here in January that Renzi had two challenges: uniting the left and convincing voters he could still deliver reforms.
He failed at both. He watered down labor reforms in an attempt to appease the left wing of his party, but they walked out anyway. He didn’t secure a supermajority for constitutional reforms, necessitating a referendum to which he then foolishly tied his own political career.
Italy’s Democratic Party leader, Matteo Renzi, launched his candidacy for reelection this week by presenting himself as the alternative to nationalist leaders in his own country as well as America and France.
“Some people wanted a party congress to find an alternative to Renzi-ism. It needs to be done as an alternative to Trumpism, Le Penism and even Grilloism,” the former prime minister said, referring to the new president of the United States, the leader of France’s National Front and the founder of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Read more “Renzi Picks Side in Italy’s Blue-Red Culture War”
After Brexit, the Dutch “no” to the European Union’s association agreement with Ukraine and the election of Donald Trump, Italy’s constitutional referendum in December is being portrayed as the next battle in the war between populists and the powers that be.
There is something to this. The Italian referendum campaign pits a center-left leader, Matteo Renzi, who is very much in line with the European consensus against an assortment of insurgents, from the populist Five Star Movement on the left to the anti-immigrant Northern League on the right and some of Renzi’s nemeses in the ruling Democratic Party in between for good measure.
European democracy is in a state of crisis. The British referendum on EU membership has just backfired spectacularly on its promoters, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party recently came within a hair’s breadth of capturing the presidency and in France, Marine Le Pen’s Front national looks set to make it through to the second round of voting in the French presidential elections next year.
Now Italy is facing its own moment of reckoning with a referendum on constitutional reform, likely to go ahead this autumn. Like Brexit, the decision to hold this vote might end up destroying the man who sponsored it — Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The reform is a package aimed at reducing the fragmentation that causes so many problems in Italian politics. The idea is to increase executive stability and the efficiency of the whole system. But Renzi has staked his political future on the outcome having said, earlier in the year, he would resign if the vote went against him. Read more “Italy’s Referendum Is Giving Matteo Renzi Sleepless Nights”