Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi announced his resignation in Rome shortly after midnight on Monday, after losing a critical referendum battle on which he staked his political career.
“Italy has chosen. Now it’s up to those who won to make proposals,” Renzi said during a press conference at Palazzo Chigi, the prime minster’s residence, in Rome. “I take all responsibility for the defeat.”
Italians voted Sunday on whether to significantly cut the number of senators in Italy’s government, a move Renzi argued would significantly cut bureaucracy in Italy — an obscure debate were not for Renzi’s declaration earlier this year that he would resign if “Yes” did not win.
“No” won by a large margin, with results showing 60%-40% in its favor as of this publication.
The result is seen as a rejection of Renzi and his leadership, and leaves an opening for Beppe Grillo and his increasingly powerful populist Five Star Movement to fill the void.
“I have lost,” Renzi said. “I believe in democracy. I am not looking the other way.”
“My government experience ends here,” he added.
Renzi is leaving after just two-and-a-half years in office. The 41-year-old former mayor of Florence was seen by his supporters as a breath of fresh air, and his vow to eradicate crippling bureaucracy earned him the nickname “Demolition Man’ from his critics.
Instead, Renzi’s reforms saw little impact, and the Five Star Movement began tapping into the wave of nationalist populism spreading through the West post-Brexit.
When it became clear around midnight in Italy that “No” won a decisive victory, the Euro began dropping sharply. TheCURRENCY was down by 0.9% at 1.0573 against the dollar as of 7:19 p.m. ET. It fell earlier as low as 1.0506 against the dollar, the lowest level since March 2015.
Business Insider Italia reporter Giuliano Balestreri weighed in after Renzi’s speech:
Renzi will meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella Monday morning to formally resign his title. Italian media are floating economic minister Pier Carlo Padoan and Senate chairman Pietro Grasso as leading candidates to replace Renzi.