Italy’s referendum: now what?

On Politico Europe, Jacopo Barigazzi argued that Italians confirmed to be a population resistant to big institutional changes. Italy has undergone 13 constitutional changes over the past 25 years, but all of them were rather small fixes to the institutional structure. At the same time, for Barigazzi the referendum showed that it can be very risky for a political leader to try to court the Eurosceptic electorate if the politician in question has a proven record of pro-European stances. Likewise, on The Guardian, John Lloyd wonders if, sooner or later, someone will able to truly govern the southern European State. Lloyd stresses the point that Italy has always been a sort of laboratory for new political movements and consequently finds the phenomenon of the Five Star Movement not too surprising.

Although many analysts tried to not link the result of the referendum with the wider destiny of the European Union, on Carnegie Europe, Judy Dempsey has a different take on the matter. According to Dempsey, “this crisis affects a core member state of the EU in a way that touches the fundament on which the Union stands”. Dempsey argues that if anti-EU parties win the next general elections, the EU will undergo a period of deep crisis. Moreover, Dempsey claims that the political uncertainty of the Italian case is higher than in other part of Europe, such as Greece and Great Britain for instance. Dempsey’s analysis is shared by Jonas Bergan Draege, who, on EUROPP, writes that the Five Star Movement and the Northern League are likely to gain the most in case of a snap election.

However, on The Independent James Newell argues that there is no clear winner from Sunday’s vote. Inviting to a fine-grained analysis of all the little political parties and movements that made up the “no” front, Newell claims that the vote “was an expression of a range of different types of ‘no’: a ‘no’ to the specific constitutional reforms […], a ‘no’ to the political elites in general, a ‘no’ to the current economic and social malaise, and eventually – probably most of all – a rejection of Renzi’s government”.

Alessio Colonnelli, on The Independent, makes a comparison between the Italian and the Austrian vote, claiming that whereas Austrian citizens went to the ballot boxes with “Europe in their minds”, Italians did not do likewise. Colonelli goes further in writing that “Italians’ ‘no’ is as a ‘no’ to Europe” and accuses the southern European country for being “incapable of picking up the challenge of becoming an EU pillar”. He then concludes on a pessimistic note, claiming that the referendum result must be interpreted as a sign of further crisis yet to come.

On EUROPP, political scientist Valentino Larcinese, writes that the Italian referendum was a triumph of hope over fear. Larcinese argues that, contrary to most interpretations, the election day was an important success for those who strive for more democratic participation in Europe. Moreover, he urges European intellectuals and media not to interpret the result as a decision on the EU or the euro. At the same time–quite ironically–Larcinese calls the “orthodox technocrats” of Europe to take the vote as an invitation to change the course of the EU institutions.

In an interview for Euronews, Italian sociologist Luca Ricolfi argued that Brexit, Trump and the Italian referendum cannot be compared as signs of rising populist forces. Ricolfi claims that Renzi himself has acted as a populist leader over the past few years, and the main mistake made by the Italian Prime Minister was that of conducting the referendum campaign “without listening to anyone: neither intellectuals, nor journalists”. Angelo Martelli, on EUROPP, adds yet another piece to the puzzle of Renzi’s defeat, claiming that the sluggish pace of the Italian economic recovery has played a key role.

Commenting on the post-vote situation in Italy, the German economic newspaper, Handelsblatt, compared the Italian political context with a “hen house” where a lot of “wing flapping” is currently taking place. On Monday, in the same outlet, Volker Wieland, a member of the German Council of Economic Experts, argued that Italy should enter a financial rescue programme to solve its debt problems. Silvia Merler, on EUROPP, argued that a period of political and economic uncertainty is to be expected. Merler claimed that economic uncertainty may cause negative spillover effects on the Italian banking sector.


This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci


Photo Credits CC European Parliament 


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