- Title: Italy prepares to vote in referendum with PM Renzi's political future at stake
- Date: 28th November 2016
- Summary: ROME, ITALY (FILE - OCTOBER 29, 2016) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER MATTEO RENZI SAYING: "Long live the Democratic Party, long live Italy and long live Italy that says "Yes" and doesn't give into fear. Thank you all." RENZI AT RALLY
- Embargoed: 13th December 2016 08:43
- Keywords: Italy referendum Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi vote 5-Star Movement
- Location: ROME AND FLORENCE, ITALY
- City: ROME AND FLORENCE, ITALY
- Country: Italy
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA0085ACYP8N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Italy holds a constitutional referendum on December 4 that could end the political career of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and move the eurosceptic 5-Star Movement closer to government.
The constitutional reform proposes drastically curbing the role of the upper house Senate, a move that Renzi says will simplify decision-making and ensure stable government.
Opponents say it will make the legislative process more complicated and reduce checks and balances.
Renzi has said he will resign if he loses the ballot and faces fierce headwinds, with all opposition parties pitted against him and almost every opinion poll over the past two months showing the 'No' camp ahead.
Donald Trump's unexpected victory in the U.S. presidential election is likely to make it even harder for Renzi to win.
Renzi was one of the few world leaders to publicly endorse Hillary Clinton and Trump's triumph has not only put the Italian premier in a difficult diplomatic position, it has also underlined the rise of anti-elite sentiment around the world.
"Yes, I think that Renzi tended to exaggerate the meaning of the referendum, connecting his destiny to the outcome of the referendum. But I think now he's understanding that this is very misleading and it's quite dangerous to Italy because it would mean that Italy is in danger while I think Italy is not at all in danger due to the referendum. The problems are different," author and political columnist for the Corriere Della Sera newspaper, Massimo Franco said.
However, a large number of Italians remain undecided, helping to fuel government confidence that the 'Yes' vote will eventually win and stave off a renewed bout of political uncertainty that is feared by the financial markets.
While not entirely convinced by Renzi's proposal, some locals say they would welcome any change to speed up Italy's slow bureaucracy and decision-making processes.
"I will probably vote "Yes". Probably. I'm not completely sure the reform will be beneficial in the end," said Cesare Carapelli, out for a walk in Rome.
But many Italians feel that Renzi, who came to power in 2014 vowing to "demolish" old political structures and breathe life into a moribund economy, has not delivered on his promises.
Some of those promises were to reform public administration, the justice system and taxation but they have not yet brought tangible benefits to people's pockets, and youth unemployment has stayed close to 40 percent despite a 2014 labour market reform.
"We think that the "No" that we are going to say to an old power, such as the one from Renzi is at the same time a "Yes" to a radical change in our lives and a radical democratisation of our lives and our society," said Rome resident Marco Neitzert, attending a recent "No" vote rally at the Colosseum.
Anti-establishment 5-Star Movement currently heads the opinion polls and has campaigned extensively against the referendum.
In the lead up to the vote, Luigi Di Maio, a 30-year-old parliamentarian widely expected to be 5-Star's candidate for prime minister at the next election due in 2018, toured Europe to make sure Renzi would not be saved by the votes of Italians abroad.
"Renzi, when he started his campaign for the referendum, said that should the "No" vote prevail, he would resign. We are asking him to keep his promise, the Italians will ask him to keep his promise. The "No" vote is above all a rejection of a way of doing politics. In the last four years we have had three technocrat government which have done nothing else but carry out reforms that were supposed to relaunch the country but in reality they were carried out to save some banks, to massacre pensioners and teachers and to make the labour market even more precarious," said Di Maio, who is viewed as the moderate face of the movement created by firebrand comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009.
With the majority of polls pointing to the probable outcome that Renzi will lose the referendum, attention has focused on what may happen after the ballot.
Many observers expect a temporary government to be formed, charged with drafting a new electoral system, or a so-called "technical" government of experts without party affiliation.
Renzi has said he would not take part in forming a temporary or technocratic government if he loses the referendum.
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