The referendum of 4 December 2016 on Renzi’s proposed
constitutional reform was the most significant in Italy since the referendum
that rejected Berlusconi’s proposal in 2006. The 2016 outcome
was more dramatic than its predecessor as it resulted in the resignation
of the prime minister, who was succeeded in the office by Paolo Gentiloni.
The referendum campaign was less concerned with the merits of
the reform itself than with delivering an electoral verdict on the Renzi
government. This was caused partly by Renzi himself, who declared that he would resign if the referendum failed, and partly by the inevitable
partisanship of much of the voting and the influence of populist
parties, which tapped into the dissatisfaction that many Italian voters
felt. With two popular rejections of “great reform” proposals in the
space of a decade, the future of institutional reform on such a grand
scale is now in doubt.