Matteo Renzi dramatically claimed that the Earth would stop turning if Italy voted “no” to the constitutional referendum, which happened last Sunday. The day after the vote, the Prime Minister sent in his resignation to the President. But the world keeps on turning, and the show must go on.
What is surprising, though, is the way in which all of this came to be. The numbers leave no room for doubt: 59.11% of Italians voted “no.” It’s an obvious rejection of a hasty reform based on the false idea that, rather than blaming the political elite, Italy’s problems are a result of the Constitution. It’s a little like losing a football match and, instead of trying to learn the rules of the game or change captain to improve, deciding to change the rules of the game itself.
68.48% of the Italian population went to the ballots and voted. This goes against all the rhetoric over the last few years that Italians are no longer interested in their country’s politics, or feel abandoned by this closed-off world made up of long hallways and a sound-proofed backstage. The best response to these rumours is the following: if the world of Italian politics opens itself up and gives people the means to express themselves, they will respond.
It is important to understand who is behind the 59.11% that voted “no.” The strongest “no” came from the south of the country, with a score of 70%. The latter confirms the analysis carried out by YouTrend: in the 100 communities where the unemployment rate is quite high, the “no” dominates, whereas in communities with low unemployment rates, “yes” was the dominant vote. In general, it was mostly young people who voted “no”. According to several inquiries, around 70% to 80% of under 35s would have voted “no”. The “yes” is much more popular among people aged 55 and over. In other words, the Premier rottamatore (an Italian nickname for Renzi, who wanted to “destroy” the status quo) was destroyed by the country’s future generations.
Italy’s youth and its unemployed made one thing very clear: this reform will not resolve the boot’s problems. They did, however, put an end to the accusations that those voting “no” did so to kick Renzi out of government, instead of expressing their views on the reform itself. In reality, 54% of those voting “no” were doing so directly as a response to the proposal. At the end of the day, this “no” represents discontent, deception and a will to change something, to reject a political class that has not been capable of responding to the daily needs of many in Italy.
It’s a vote that represents a responsible population, one who is capable of rejecting a deceptive constitutional reform and of ignoring Beppe Grillo and Matteo Salvini’s political agendas. This vote is the best response possible to those who accused the “no”-voters of voting without any knowledge of the larger issue at hand.
This is a victory for the Constitution, and for democracy; not for Berlusconi, or Salvini, or the Five Star Movement, nor for the Eurosceptics and anti-establishment individuals that keep appearing on cameras. It’s a victory for Italians. It’s a chance for the Left to show its real face, and to re-define itself in opposition to unstable ground and right-wing populist rhetoric. The Left can finally reach out to the heart of the country, and begin to address this demographic in its political agenda. It isn’t a victory against Europe but an invitation to improve our current situation.
But this opportunity for reform must be handled with care. It must not be something imposed on the Italian population, nor should it be integrated at all costs. The notion of a perfect EU shouldn’t be forced down the throats of the people; rather, it should be brought up in constructive debates. In other words, the “It’s Europe that is asking this of us” excuse is no longer relevant. In the future, we may understand that maybe it’s better to “decide with” Europe and not “decide for” it. That in itself already sounds much better.