- Title: Over 57 percent of Italians voted in referendum by early evening
- Date: 4th December 2016
- Summary: ROME, ITALY (DECEMBER 4, 2016) (REUTERS) PEOPLE OUTSIDE POLLING STATION WOMAN RECEIVING BALLOT PAPERS AND ENTERING BOOTH POLLING STATION WORKER HANDING OUT BALLOT PAPERS TWO WOMEN PLACING BALLOTS IN BOX BALLOT BEING PLACED IN BOX PEOPLE ENTERING POLLING BOOTHS TO VOTE WOMAN CASTING BALLOT (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ROME RESIDENT, MARCO CLAUDIO RAMAZZOTTI, SAYING: "I voted 'Yes' because I don't want to see the return of D'Alema, Monti, Bersani, Berlusconi, you name the others, any of them." (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ROME RESIDENT, MICHELANGELO GUZZARDI, SAYING: "I will be very concerned if the 'No' vote wins because if that leads to the resignation of the government I don't think the 'No' people will be capable of governing the country. If Renzi is to resign, I'd really like to know who will govern us afterwards and how." (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ROME RESIDENT, PATRIZIA GAGLIARDI, SAYING: "I voted 'No'. The reason is because I want things to stay as they are and that the constitution is not changed by that charlatan. That's all." (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ROME RESIDENT, SOFIA SCRIPINITI, SAYING: "If the 'Yes' vote were to win I'd be very worried because I think the state would become more authoritarian." MAN CASTING VOTE PEOPLE COLLECTING DOCUMENTS BALLOT BEING PLACED IN BOX MAN CASTING BALLOT BALLOT PAPERS ON TABLE MAN COLLECTING BALLOT PAPERS
- Embargoed: 19th December 2016 18:55
- Keywords: Italy referendum constitution Prime Minister Matteo Renzi voting Rome
- Location: ROME, ITALY
- City: ROME, ITALY
- Country: Italy
- Reuters ID: LVA0015BGXZ5Z
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:More than half of the Italian voting population had already cast their ballots on Sunday (December 4) in a referendum on constitutional reform.
The vote will decide the political future of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has promised to resign if he loses.
Financial markets and Europe's politicians fear victory for the opposition 'No' camp could cause political instability and renewed turmoil for Italy's battered banks.
About 51 million Italians are eligible to vote on Renzi's plan to drastically reduce the role of the upper house Senate and claw back powers from regional authorities.
By 7 p.m. local time (1800 GMT), more than 57 percent of Italians had gone to their polling stations, the Interior Ministry said, above the 42 percent registered at the same time in the May 2014 European parliament election, when Renzi's Democratic Party drummed up high support.
With all the opposition parties lined up against the reform, a victory for Renzi would be a surprise and represent an enormous personal triumph for Italy's youngest prime minister who often appeared to be fighting the campaign single-handed.
All surveys published in the month before a blackout was imposed on November 18 put the 'No' camp ahead.
Private polls have continued to be conducted in the last two weeks and bookmakers say 'No' remains the clear favourite to win.
However, in the final days of frenetic campaigning Renzi insisted the public mood was changing, focusing his attention on the millions of Italians who said they were undecided.
"I voted 'Yes' because I don't want to see the return of D'Alema, Monti, Bersani, Berlusconi, you name the others, any of them," Rome resident Marco Claudio Ramazzotti said, referring to previous prime ministers.
With bookmakers' odds suggesting a roughly 75 percent chance of a win for 'No', speculation is rife about what Renzi will do in the event of defeat.
He is widely expected to resign and has said he will play no role in any unelected "technical" government President Sergio Mattarella may try to put in place. Some of his allies have urged him to stay in power regardless of the result.
Pollsters say lower participation could favour Renzi, as hostility to his reform is strongest among young voters and those in the poor south, more reluctant to vote.
A turnout above 60 percent could also make the result more unpredictable as it would suggest many voters who said they planned to abstain ended up going to the polls.
Exit polls will be released as soon as voting ends and the count begins at 11 p.m. (2200 GMT), when polls close. After around 30 minutes, the first projections of the result will be announced on the basis of actual votes counted.
If the result is not close, the winner could be clear after the second projection, some time between midnight and 1 a.m. In a very close race, the winner may not be known until the count is completed, probably between 2 and 3 a.m.
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