Renzi’s failed reform gambit
The resignation of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi following the rejection of his Cabinet-backed constitutional reform package by a large majority of voters in a referendum on Monday has sent another shockwave through the European Union. Since taking office in February 2014, Renzi has sought to raise administrative efficiency through reducing the seats for senators and retaking more power from local governments.
Different from former British prime minister David Cameron who initiated a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave the EU to appease the euro skeptics in his party, which was a personal political gamble that failed, Renzi’s referendum push to a large extent reflects his political aspiration to change Italy’s status quo.
During his election campaign, Renzi lashed out at the incumbent administration’s postponement of reforms, slow decision-making, and its lack of political courage to tackle key issues at home.
However, despite some reforms over the past two years, Renzi’s government has failed to fundamentally reverse a lingering economic slump and resolve complicated social contradictions.
Accompanying Renzi’s resignation is not only the dissolution of the Italian government led by its youngest prime minister, but also the evaporation of hopes for accelerated reforms.
The heavy blow suffered by Italy’s reform-minded political faction will likely affect the country’s long-term political trend. The failed constitutional reform package means Italy will have to slow its reform steps, which will further worsen its woeful economic situation, shake its financial system and cause its already high unemployment to rise. Such scenarios will further fuel the rise of radical political forces in Italy.
Thus the failed referendum in Italy may open Pandora’s box wider on the continent by emboldening those forces in European countries that advocate a divorce from the EU.