Italy’s youngest ever pre­mier felled by dis­con­tented youth

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ROME:

Twenty-year-old Francesco In­cor­vaia, a so­ci­ol­ogy stu­dent from Rome, was just the kind of voter Mat­teo Renzi had spent years try­ing to win over. Italy’s youngest ever prime min­is­ter had changed la­bor laws in a bid to re­duce one of Europe’s high­est youth un­em­ploy­ment rates, handed cash to low earn­ers and pro­posed con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments to stream­line law­mak­ing and boost an ail­ing econ­omy. But In­cor­vaia and mil­lions of other young Ital­ians walked into vot­ing booths at a ref­er­en­dum on Sunday and ef­fec­tively threw him out of of­fice, hand­ing him a sting­ing de­feat that left him no choice but to re­sign.

“At least this way there is an idea that the peo­ple can still have some say, with­out leav­ing too much power in the hands of peo­ple who don’t care about us,” In­cor­vaia said, stand­ing out­side his univer­sity depart­ment in Rome. Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by re­search firm Quo­rum for SKyTG24, about 80 per­cent of vot­ers aged between 18 and 34 op­posed Renzi’s pro­posal to shrink the up­per house Se­nate and claw back power from re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tions-a tsunami of op­po­si­tion from a gen­er­a­tion that is rewrit­ing the po­lit­i­cal map in Italy.

De­spite his youth­ful vim, Renzi, who was 39 when he took the premier­ship al­most three years ago, came to be seen as part of the creak­ing old es­tab­lish­ment he pledged to re­vamp. With Renzi pledg­ing to step down, the younger gen­er­a­tion’s pre­ferred anti-es­tab­lish­ment 5-Star Move­ment has called for early elec­tions and said it is ready to gov­ern. M5S cam­paigned hard against Renzi’s con­sti­tu­tional re­form pro­posal, on the grounds it would re­move demo­cratic checks and bal­ances, and it was clear many young peo­ple were also ex­press­ing their sup­port for 5-Star in vot­ing it down.

“Lots of peo­ple in the 5-Star Move­ment are young, so they seem like a new start com­pared to the 80-year-olds in the other par­ties,” said Veron­ica Ba­gaglini, 20, a stu­dent from near Rome. Ris­ing sup­port for 5Star has sent shivers through fi­nan­cial mar­kets be­cause the move­ment has promised to call a ref­er­en­dum on Italy’s mem­ber­ship of the euro. It ri­vals Renzi’s Demo­cratic Party as the most pop­u­lar party in opin­ion polls and would be fa­vorite to win elec­tions un­der the cur­rent sys­tem, which may be changed as main­stream par­ties seek to keep them out of power.

Young vot­ers helped pro­pel 5-Star into power in the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Rome and Turin this year. Over­all, vot­ers un­der 35 years of age rep­re­sent about a fifth of the elec­torate. “For me the vic­tory of the ‘No’ vote is above all an im­por­tant sig­nal, it sig­nals that the peo­ple are tired of en­dur­ing the poli­cies of aus­ter­ity (and) ne­olib­eral pol­i­tics of Renzi’s gov­ern­ment and the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments,” said “Stu­dents for No” cam­paign rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fed­er­ica Ciar­lar­iello. — Reuters

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