Elections: Italy and Austria

After suffering a defeat in a referendum on constitutional reform, Italian PM Matteo Renzi announced his resignation yesterday (4 December), following a promise he made to quit his position in case No would prevail. Around 60% of Italians rejected the changes to Italy’s constitution and parliamentary system, in a vote marked by a high turnout of nearly 69%. Renzi said the reforms would have cut Italy’s bureaucracy and made the country more competitive, but many feared the system would remove parliamentary checks on the executive and bring no real positive impact either on the functioning of Italian public administration or on its economy. The resignation of the centre-left leader, ushering a major victory for the populist Five Star Movement which led opposition to the reform, and the xenophobic Northern League, has left the country in political turmoil and the EU in further uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the first polls in Austria’s rerun presidential election led to a more pro-European result. Austrian voters resoundingly rejected anti-immigration and eurosceptic Norbert Hofer’s bid to become the European Union’s first far-right president. Instead, Green Party-aligned candidate Alexander Van der Bellen took the lead with 53.3% of yesterday’s vote. The result was greeted with relief from centrist politicians across the continent. Nevertheless, Hofer’s Freedom Party (FPO) managed to win 46,7% of the vote, which is the party’s best showing in a presidential election so far. For next year’s general elections in Austria the FPO is currently leading the opinion polls.