Immediate reaction to the Italian Referendum results and Matteo Renzi’s resignation, published on LSE Europp Blog, 5 December 2016
The result of the referendum cannot solely be interpreted as support for anti-establishment politics, represented by the M5S and Lega Nord, but there is a chance that one of the main implications will be that both parties are strengthened. Voters opposed the reforms for a number of reasons. Surveys indicated that a large number of voters were unsure of what the reform package actually entailed. The strange constellation of issues in the reform, as well as the odd elite alliances on both sides, made the whole campaign complex.
Adding insult to injury, the most frequently shared news during the campaign, suggesting voter fraud, turned out to be false. Another frequently shared false news article claimed that Matteo Renzi’s own wife, Agnese, had decided to vote no. This lack of clarity in the reforms and during the campaign, in addition to reasonable critiques of the design of the reforms, probably made more voters lean toward the status quo.
However, although the reasons for the No victory are numerous, the result may be that the M5S and Lega Nord, two of the most outspoken and widely covered actors in the No campaign, emerge strengthened, at least in the short run, by the surprisingly wide margin of the No victory. This ensures these two parties have a stake in calling snap elections. The Renzi government has already passed a change to Italy’s electoral law, the Italicum, providing an automatic majority of seats in parliament for the winner of the next election. Having designed the Italicum to work alongside the constitutional changes that were rejected with the referendum, the PD will now want to change the electoral law back to a proportional system. Yet if elections are held before that, the M5S could profit from a reform they vehemently opposed just over a year ago.