- Title: Renzi makes final appeal to Italians ahead of referendum
- Date: 2nd December 2016
- Summary: RENZI ENDING SPEECH, SAYING (Italian) "Long live Italy, long live the Italy that votes 'Yes'. Thank you all, good bye and good luck." AND WALKING AWAY FROM PODIUM / CROWD OF SUPPORTERS WAVING FLAGS
- Embargoed: 17th December 2016 23:17
- Keywords: Italy referendum Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi constitutional reform Florence rally
- Location: FLORENCE, ITALY
- City: FLORENCE, ITALY
- Country: Italy
- Reuters ID: LVA0025B70N5Z
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: With his career on the line, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi made a final appeal to Italians on Friday (December 2) to support a referendum to change the constitution, saying Italy could become Europe's strongest nation if the 'Yes' vote wins.
"If yes wins, Italy will become a leader in Europe," he told a large rally in his home city of Florence.
"Not because we're good, not because we are good but because the international scene is in chaos and Europe is struggling. The countries that were brought into the European project today are those that dream of building walls," he said at the end of a frenetic day of campaigning that included numerous media events and public rallies.
Financial markets and European political leaders fear victory for the opposition "No" camp in Sunday's (December 4) vote could trigger political instability and renewed turmoil for Italy's battered banks, pushing the euro zone toward a fresh crisis.
Renzi has promised to resign if Italians reject his plan to drastically reduce the role of the upper house Senate and claw back powers from regional authorities.
The opposition says the reform will reduce vital democratic checks and balances.
Renzi, who has been trying to turn around a plethora of opinion polls showing a lead for "No", said voting "Yes" would "give Italians the possibility to write a page of history".
"It's time for us to start telling Europe what we want from it, to give it a soul, a dream and values because Europe isn't only Brussels. Europe is also made of the streets of Florence, of Rome, Naples, Genoa and Bologna, of our cities," said Renzi, who has pledged to immediately veto the European Union's budget to force Italy's partners to give it more help in handling an influx of migrants arriving on its shores.
If Renzi is defeated, he is expected to go to President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinale Palace, a ritual for a prime minister about to resign.
But supporters attending the rally said voting "No" would not mean the end of Renzi.
"It's not true that if 'No' wins Renzi will be cut out," said Florence resident Alessandro Calvelli.
Another supporter spraying a Giorgio Armani perfume called "Si" (Yes in Italian) across the square invited women to vote for 'Yes'.
"If they vote for 'Yes', good. But if they don't they have the perfume nonetheless. Giorgio Armani's 'Yes', paired with a 'Yes' vote," Giuliano Balducci said.
Mattarella might try to convince him to stay in office to guarantee political stability, officials have said.
A blackout on the publication of surveys was imposed on Nov. 18, but private polls are still being carried out and bookmakers say the "No" camp remains the clear favourite to win.
European shares fell to a three-week low on Friday as investors stayed cautious ahead of Italy's vote, with Milan's blue chip index off 0.75 percent.
The bond market was more sanguine, with the gap between Italian and German 10-year bond yields, a key bellwether of investor sentiment, dipping to 165 basis points against a 2-1/2 year high of 190 points registered last week.
Market jitters have concentrated on Italy's banks, saddled with 360 billion euros ($380 billion) of bad loans, and most specifically on Monte Dei Paschi di Siena, its oldest and third largest lender.
The bank needs to raise 5 billion euros ($5.3 billion) by the end of the year to plug a capital shortfall or risk being wound down. Government officials say potential investors may be deterred by political instability if 'No' wins on Sunday.
With bookmakers odds suggesting a roughly 75 percent chance of a win for "No", speculation is rife on what Renzi will do in the event of defeat.
Renzi has said he will play no role in any unelected, so-called "technical" government, which Mattarella may try to put in place. Some of his allies have urged him to stay in power regardless of the result.
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