Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was due to tender his resignation after losing a crucial referendum on constitutional reforms that was seen by many as a plebiscite on his popularity.
The Interior Ministry said just over 59 per cent of Italians voted against Renzi’s proposed reforms and less than 41 percent in favour with all votes counted.
However, the turnout was relatively high at 65.5 per cent.
“The ‘no’ has won… the experience of my government ends here,’’ Renzi said at an overnight press conference at his official residence.
The outcome with potentially destabilising effects on Italy and the eurozone is set to be interpreted by Europe’s anti-establishment populists as a boon to their cause.It followed shortly after Britain’s Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s win in the US presidential elections.
Renzi said he would chair a final cabinet meeting and then resign before President Sergio Mattarella, whose role will be to pick a successor or, if no new government coalition is possible, call snap elections.
The main opposition party, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), called for elections as soon as possible.
Under current voting rules, the M5S would be favourite to win a majority in the lower chamber of parliament, but not in the upper one.
Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD) and the conservative opposition Forza Italia of former premier Silvio Berlusconi instead want electoral reforms before new polls, ostensibly to reduce the risk of conflicting results between the two chambers.
Report says Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan is one of the favourites to succeed Renzi if a government is formed.
He cancelled his attendance at a meeting with European Union peers in Brussels to attend the outgoing premier’s final cabinet meeting.