Renzi’s failed re­form gam­bit

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - – BEI­JING YOUTH DAILY

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.

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