Despite a year of protest votes and howls against politics-as-usual worldwide, Italy’s leader is praying voters next month will stick with the establishment. On Dec. 4, a referendum will be put to voters on a constitutional reform proposal by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The plan itself is a dry, domestic issue, but the vote is seen by many as a proxy on Renzi’s mandate after more than two years of governing. Now emboldened by Donald Trump’s big upset in the U.S. presidential election, Italy’s anti-establishment parties are sharpening their knives in hopes that an opportunity to move in for the kill is nigh. “This is a general ‘Fuck off,’’’ Beppe Grillo, spokesman of Italy’s growing Five Star Movement, said after Trump won the election. Writing on his popular blog, the former comedian predicted his growing political party would be next to ride to power on a wave of popular discontent: “We are the barbarians! The real idiots, populists and demagogues are the journalists and the establishment intellectuals,” he crowed. “There are similarities between this American story and the Movement.”
If passed, Renzi’s reform would reduce the Senate’s power, streamlining decision making in a bid to avoid the constant gridlock and instability that plagues Italian politics. But critics — including some members of Renzi’s own Democratic Party — charge that the reform would weaken checks and balances, giving too much power to the executive.
Recent polls show that voters are likely to reject the reform simply as a protest. Fed up with Italy’s flatlining economy and high youth unemployment, they are likely less interested in the merits of the reform than Renzi’s earlier pledges to step down if he loses (a promise he’s recently walked back).