Renzi resigns, Italian president to consult with parties

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gestures during a press conference at Chigi palace in Rome, 5 December 2016. [Reuters]

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned yesterday (7 December) after his bruising referendum loss at the weekend, with most parliamentary factions pushing for an early election in a few months’ time.

The 41-year-old’s decision to quit after less than three years in office dealt a new blow to Western governments still in shock from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of outsider Donald Trump as president of the United States.

Italy leaning towards early 2017 election

Consensus is growing among the leaders of Italy’s political parties that a general election should be held in early 2017 – but a reform of the country’s electoral law must be passed first.

Renzi tendered his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, who said he would consult with the political parties to decide the next steps. He asked Renzi to carry on in a caretaker capacity until a solution is found.

After the consultations, which will begin on Thursday at 1700 GMT and end on Saturday afternoon, Mattarella is widely expected to ask a member of Renzi’s cabinet, or a politician from his Democratic Party, to try to form a new government.

Elections are due in 2018 but many politicians are calling for them to be held earlier.

The political crisis sparked by the referendum coincides with a crisis in Italy’s debt-laden banks, especially at its third-biggest lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which looks likely to require government intervention to survive.

EU readies contingency plan for possible Monte Paschi wind down

European Union authorities are making contingency plans for the possible winding down of Banca Monte dei Paschi if the Italian lender has a poor reading in stress tests this week and no private or public support is available, an EU official said.

Two sources told Reuters on Tuesday that Renzi’s administration was preparing to take a €2-billion controlling stake in the bank by purchasing junior bonds.

On Wednesday, a Treasury spokesman denied Italy was poised to ask for a loan from the European Stability Mechanism to support its banking sector.

Renzi addressed his Democratic Party (PD) before meeting the president, saying the party would only participate in a government intended to last until 2018 if it was backed by all the main forces in parliament, a prospect which seems remote.

Otherwise early elections should be held as soon as possible, he said, after the Constitutional Court has ruled early next year on the legitimacy of the current electoral law.

“The PD is not afraid of going to early elections,” he said.

Most opposition parties, including the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the right-wing Northern League, are clamouring for a quick vote.

Northern League leader Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday his party would “take to the streets” if a clear indication of the timing of the next election had not been given within a week.

Infrastructure Minister Graziano Delrio, a close ally of Renzi, said an interim government should change the electoral law quickly so an election could be held “in the spring”.

Alfano: New Italian election likely in February

Italy could have an election as early as February, a minister in Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s outgoing government said on Tuesday (6 December), speaking after talking to Renzi.

Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and a left-wing minority inside Renzi’s PD want a new administration to be formed with the backing of the current parliament, perhaps to last until 2018.

The PD has the largest number of parliamentarians, so it is unlikely any new government could be formed without Renzi’s backing.

Renzi resignation opens new era of uncertainty for Europe

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he will resign after losing a key referendum on constitutional reform, plunging the country into political turmoil and the EU in further uncertainty.