Obama loses an­other ally as Ital­ian P.M. re­signs

Vot­ers re­jected Renzi’s try at po­lit­i­cal re­forms

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY DAVE BOYER

Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi, one of Pres­i­dent Obama’s clos­est part­ners in Europe, an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion Sun­day af­ter vot­ers re­jected pro­posed po­lit­i­cal re­forms in a ref­er­en­dum in­flu­enced by anti­estab­lish­ment move­ments, sim­i­lar to the wave that lifted Don­ald Trump to the U.S. pres­i­dency, also on the rise in other coun­tries.

The vote was in­tended by Mr. Renzi to re­vise Italy’s Con­sti­tu­tion and re­duce the size of its Se­nate to stream­line the gov­ern­ment and con­sol­i­date the prime min­is­ter’s power. But the bal­lot­ing in­stead be­came a ref­er­en­dum on Mr. Renzi him­self, with vot­ers ex­press­ing some of the same anti-estab­lish­ment dis­sat­is­fac­tion that has sur­faced from the United King­dom to the U.S. this year.

Exit polls in Italy showed the ref­er­en­dum los­ing by roughly 55 per­cent against to 41 per­cent in fa­vor. The euro hit a 20-month low on the re­sults.

“I have lost and I say it out loud,” Mr. Renzi told a news con­fer­ence, ad­ding that he would sub­mit his res­ig­na­tion on Mon­day.

The po­lit­i­cal up­heaval in Italy is an­other for­eign­pol­icy blow to Mr. Obama, who hosted Mr. Renzi for his fi­nal State Dinner at the White House in Oc­to­ber and pub­licly en­dorsed Italy’s pro­posed re­forms. The pres­i­dent praised Mr. Renzi’s co­op­er­a­tion with the U.S. on the refugee cri­sis in Europe, on strength­en­ing NATO and stand­ing up to Rus­sia’s ag­gres­sion in Ukraine.

At a White House news con­fer­ence with Mr. Renzi, Mr. Obama said the U.S. was sup­port­ing the ref­er­en­dum “be­cause we be­lieve that it will help ac­cel­er­ate Italy’s path to­wards a more vi­brant, dy­namic econ­omy, as well as a more re­spon­sive po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.”

Mr. Obama called Mr. Renzi “one of my clos­est part­ners and friends on the world stage.”

“By virtue of his pro­gres­sive vi­sion, his en­ergy, the re­forms that he’s pur­su­ing — which are sweep­ing — the bold vi­sion that he has for Italy and the world, I think Mat­teo em­bod­ies a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­er­ship, not just for Italy, but also for Europe,” the pres­i­dent said at the time.

In­stead, the re­sult of the bal­lot­ing in Italy was rem­i­nis­cent of Mr. Obama urg­ing Bri­tish vot­ers last spring not to leave the Euro­pean Union, a move that some in the U.K. con­sid­ered heavy-handed med­dling. Bri­tain de­cided to leave the EU, and Mr. Obama’s close ally, Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron, re­signed.

There is growing con­cern among the po­lit­i­cal estab­lish­ment in Europe that sim­i­lar move­ments fu­eled by wor­ries over glob­al­iza­tion and unchecked mi­gra­tion could im­pact Ger­many and France.

As the ref­er­en­dum in Italy was go­ing down to de­feat, Mr. Obama was host­ing a glit­ter­ing cer­e­mony in the White House for the lat­est Kennedy Cen­ter hon­orees, in­clud­ing ac­tor Al Pa­cino, singer James Tay­lor and the Ea­gles rock band.

Mr. Obama said the an­nual cer­e­mony is “one of the parts of the job that I will miss.”

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