Matteo Renzi Expected To Resign Wednesday Evening As Italian Prime Minister

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is expected to formally tender his resignation this evening in the wake of an unsuccessful referendum vote on Sunday. Mr. Renzi had vowed to step down if the referendum was defeated, but agreed to wait until a budget had been passed for 2017. The Italian prime minister announced his intention to resign at 7 p.m. this evening via a Twitter message.

According to The Guardian, Matteo Renzi will hand his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, after which he will publicly address the Italian people in a televised address from the headquarters of the Italian Democratic party, of which both he and Mattarella are leading members. The address is expected to outline Renzi’s vision for the future of the party and the steps that it should take to recover from Sunday’s defeat. After the resignation and address, Mattarella, who is retaining his position as president, will begin the process of working with Italy’s other parties to determine what will follow this week’s political upheaval.

Italian president Sergio Mattarella, who will play a critical role in brokering agreements regarding what steps are to be taken in the aftermath of Matteo Renzi's resignation. [Image by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images]

The referendum vote on which Matteo Renzi had staked his future as prime minister of Italy was concerned with constitutional changes to the Italian parliament. Mr. Renzi, however, had caused the vote to double as a vote regarding his own administration as prime minister by announcing ahead of Sunday’s referendum that he would step down if the proposed changes were not passed by the Italian people. The referendum was roundly rejected in national voting, with close to 60 percent of voters weighing in against the changes.

Although Renzi will step down as prime minister as of this evening, what follows for the Italian government is unclear, according to a BBC report. Owing to a controversial change in the organization of the lower house of the parliament last year that has yet to be ruled on by national courts, the electoral methods for the two houses of the bicameral legislature have yet to be synchronized, making early elections logistically difficult. Despite the challenges involved, Matteo Renzi is generally believed to favor the calling of early elections. President Mattarella, on the other hand, is more reserved about such early elections. In order for the Italian government to move forward, an agreement will have to be made between the ruling Democratic party and the other major parties within the parliament.

Particularly emboldened by the defeat of the referendum vote and Renzi’s impending resignation were two of Italy’s right-wing parties, the Northern League and the Five Star Movement. Both parties are generally against the European Union and take a more nationalistic stance on Italian sovereignty than the Democrats. With Matteo Renzi voluntarily removing himself from power, both parties are reported to be in favor of organizing early elections that would allow them to capitalize on current support within the electorate for their policies.

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Representatives convene in the Italian parliament. The country's legislative branch is currently split on the question of whether to hold early elections. [Image by Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images]

The defeat of the referendum vote and the subsequent political tensions within Italy have also resulted in a high degree of market volatility in the country’s financial institutions. The Italian banking industry is known to carry a large share of bad debt in recent years. A pending plan on the part of the government to borrow some €15 billion in order to relieve some of the pressure caused by this bad debt, however, has stabilized the country’s financial market against some of the volatility introduced by the referendum upset.

The current prime minister’s resignation is widely viewed as the first stage of what may be a broader shift within the Italian government. The previously popular leader, the youngest prime minister in Italian history, assumed his office three years ago as a replacement for Enrico Letta. Matteo Renzi, though no longer retaining that post, is expected to remain a prominent leader within his country’s political scene.

[Featured Image by Franco Origlia/Getty Images]