Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has announced his resignation after suffering a heavy defeat in a referendum over his plan to reform the constitution.
The PM said that he took full responsibility for the “extraordinarily clear defeat” of his package of constitutional reforms in Sunday’s referendum.
Renzi was roundly defeated in a referendum to change Italy’s constitution, marking a major victory for anti-establishment and rightwing parties and plunging the eurozone’s third largest economy into political chaos.
Addressing the nation at his residence – the Palazzo Chigi – on Sunday night, the prime minister conceded defeat in an emotional speech, adding that he would submit his resignation to Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, on Monday afternoon.
“My experience in government ends here … I did all I could to bring this to victory,” Renzi said. “If you fight for an idea, you cannot lose.”
“We tried, we gave Italians a chance to change but we didn’t make it,” he said. “We wanted to win not to take part in the competition.
“I lost. I can admit it and I am sorry. I was not able to lead you to the victory.
“Good luck to us all.”
Although, it was not an unexpected defeat, but it was nevertheless a humiliating one, with 59.1% of Italians voting against the proposed reforms, which would have made sweeping changes to Italy’s constitution and parliamentary system.
Pointing to the high voter turnout – 65% of eligible voters cast ballots in the referendum – Renzi said the vote represented a “feast of democracy”.
Early indications have the Yes vote at 39-43% and the No at 57-61%.
The referendum comes in the wake of the Brexit vote in the UK in June, and coincides with the rise of the anti-immigrant Front National in France and populist parties elsewhere.