Italy plunged into political and economic uncertainty early Monday as Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he would resign after voters decisively rejected constitutional changes.
On its face, the vote was about arcane changes to Italy’s Constitution that would have streamlined government.
But opposition to the proposals came from the same anti-establishment sentiment — spiked with skepticism of globalization, open borders and the feasibility of an ever-closer European Union — that's transformed the politics of a growing list of European countries.
The primary beneficiary of Renzi’s defeat is Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, a party that advocates a referendum to determine whether Italy should give up the euro.
The leader of the Five Star Movement is Beppe Grillo, a former stand-up comedian. Here is a BBC News profile of Grillo, from 2013.
Renzi’s defeat came hours after voters in Austria, facing a stark ideological choice for the largely ceremonial position of head of state, chose Alexander Van der Bellen, the former leader of the small Green Party, over Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party.
The Freedom Party was founded in the 1950s by former Nazis, says The New York Times.
Austria seems to disprove the idea that Donald Trump’s victory accelerated a broader public acceptance of populist, anti-establishment forces. In recent days, many people in Austria had seemed resigned to the likelihood of a Trump bounce for the far right. Hofer himself said in an interview last month that the U.S. election had bolstered support for his Freedom Party.