2016 has undoubtedly been a crazy year when it comes to politics, which can be seen across the world. Most recently, a sense of unrest has become apparent in Italy, where citizens will be voting on a new constitutional referendum on Sunday. What makes this such a bog deal is that it would change 47 of the Constitution’s 139 articles. One of the biggest issues this referendum addresses is the composition of the Senate which currently has 315 members, but would be reduced to 95 members. Additionally, the role of the Senate would be primarily consultative and most bills would only need to be approved by the lower house. Many see this as a way to “streamline Italy’s sclerotic legislative process, where laws can take months, if not years, to get passed” (). In this way, Italian citizens are feeling the same frustrations that many Americans were feeling when they elected Trump– a frustration over lack of change.
Another huge change that would be made with a yes vote is the abolition of provinces, which currently have power over their own “civil protection, strategic infrastructure and energy, and major transportation” (Povoledo, NY Times). This power would instead be given to the central government in Rome. Many worry that this puts too much power in the hands of the government, which is something the writers of the Constitution were trying to prevent after the downfall of Mussolini’s government.
So what would a yes vote do? It would keep prime minister Matteo Renzi in power and elections would be held in 2018, as scheduled. And a no vote? Renzi has announced that, with a no vote, he would most likely resign. Consequently, President Sergio Mattarella could decide to form a caretaker government or hold early elections.
There are no doubts that a no vote would cause some political instability, which would be felt throughout Europe. Across the continent, fears are rising, as this is beginning to look like an Italian “Brexit” moment. Opponents to Renzi have said that they would take Italy out of the euro currency zone, which would upset Italy’s shaky economic system even further, as its banks system has been in crisis for a decade. The disillusionment of young voters has been cited as one of the main factors of this fear, as it seems to mirror what voters in Spain and Greece felt when they voted for upstart parties, what the British felt when they voted to leave the EU, and what Americans felt when they elected Donald Trump as president (Horowitz, NY Times). As the New York Times states, this populist anger could be enough to make Italy “the next domino to fall.”