Why did Renzi's referendum fail?

Young voters and people in southern Italy in particular voted against Renzi's constitutional reforms. Some commentators say the Italians have missed a crucial opportunity. Others blame Renzi's excessive egotism for Italy's current predicament.

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Contributors (RO) /

European politicians need more intuition

Renzi's hubris is typical of a type of politician to be found all over Europe right now, Romanian political scientist Valentin Naumescu observes on Contributors:

“Intuition should be part of the talent, competence and values of any national or European political leader. Before taking action the how, why and whether to take this action at all must be clarified. You don't just press buttons randomly to see what happens. Both Renzi and [British ex-prime minister] Cameron have proved to be politicians who lack intuition. … Neither of them would have called the referendums had they known that they would lose them. The logical conclusion is that all those leaders who thought that they would be backed by their voters on this issue and then even praised reinforce the idea that the current generation of politicians in Europe is autistic.”

De Groene Amsterdammer (NL) /

Renzi lived in a bubble

The result of the referendum in Italy shows that Prime Minister Renzi completely misjudged the mood in his country, De Groene Amsterdammer concludes:

“During his three-year ego trip Matteo Renzi lost sight of his country and its population. He thought he was dealing with an Italy that doesn't exist. The non-elected prime minister constantly congratulated himself on achievements that no one experienced. Things did not improve for the people. The number of jobs didn't go up and taxes didn't go down. On the contrary. … So the enslaved people rose up against him. … Eighty-one percent of those aged between 18 and 34 who are unemployed in the south of the country - where various Mafia organisations offer the only work to be had - said No. … Renzi never even mentioned the word 'Mafia' even though half of the 2,000 kilometre-long boot is controlled by criminal organisations.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Simplification was Renzi's downfall

Italy's prime minister fell victim to his own strategy, La Repubblica concludes:

“The absolute simplification of politics was invented by Renzi as a new language after the end of ideology - of the differentiation between left and right. … In the very moment this simplification was taken to the extreme, by reducing the political discourse to a choice between yes and no, it led to Renzi's downfall. … Because it prompted the same kind of simplification process in the opposing camp, which however was far more radical and extreme. … The No camp presented the reform as an attempted coup d'état, as authoritarianism. … This depiction of Renzi as a monster turned him into an enemy of the people and of democracy, as Berlusconi's natural son even though it is clear that while Renzi may have all the shortcomings in the world, he has none of the anomalies of il Cavaliere, Berlusconi.”

El País (ES) /

PM stumbled over his own mistakes

Alhough Renzi made a few blunders his overall performance was very respectable, El País comments:

“Renzi made several grave mistakes. First of all, a constitutional reform cannot be a personal project, it must emerge from a broad consensus. … He made matters worse by framing the vote as a referendum on his own person at the start. Once he did that it was no good going back on it later. Finally you can't confuse a constitutional reform with a change of the electoral law, which is what Italy really needs. Yet even so, and despite all the opposition, Renzi obtained 40.89 percent of the votes, a percentage that would be enviable under different circumstances.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Italians block reforms

Prime Minister Renzi is a clever politician but he misjudged the situation with the referendum, Dnevnik comments:

“He acted like a politician who had renewed the Democratic Party's staff and replaced the ageing leadership with a team that's 30 years younger. He introduced neo-liberal changes to the labour laws that Berlusconi never dared to even suggest. He tackled radical reforms of the political system that would have replaced the fossilized system of parliamentary decision-making with a much more independent role for the government and a concentration of power in the hands of the prime minister. He wanted to be seen as a determined politician who introduces quick and radical changes. But Rome is still the seat of the Vatican. The Italians don't like fast, dramatic change. In the past 20 years changes have always resulted in a lower quality of life.”