TURIN — With massive voter turnout and runaway victory of the "No" camp, Sunday's referendum has revealed the existence in Italy of a kind of popular rebellion that has rejected Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, his proposed constitutional reforms, and the establishment government. The referendum proposal became a touchstone for this protest movement, which had first appeared during last spring's municipal elections that, among other results, saw political outsiders win the mayor offices of Rome and Turin.
Still, any attempt to reduce the expression of this collective discontent — which was registered in every geographic region — as a sign of support for this or that political force would be a serious error.
The "No" votes came from struggling middle-class families, victims of the economic crisis, without hopes of prosperity and well-being for their children and grandchildren. They were the young people unable to find jobs, the working-class who feel threatened by migrants and employees whose salaries simply no longer suffice.
Renzi announcing his resignation in Rome on Dec. 4 — Photo: Jin Yu/XinhuaZUMA
Such a popular uprising is the expression of the same discomfort that produced the Brexit vote in Britain and sent Donald Trump toward the White House. Now it has raised its voice for the first time on the continent, and in a founding country of the European Union.
The immediate resignation of Renzi makes it clear that his successors must come with definite answers to the crisis at the origin of the middle-class protest. Italy needs a new welfare for families facing hardships, a it needs a recipe to reignite economic growth and a formula for integrating migrants. The longer these questions are left unanswered, the wider the protest movement will grow, which could trigger a domino effect of unpredictable consequences. To relaunch Italy, a new government is simply not enough: The popular rebellion must be respected, and its demands must be met.
*Maurizio Molinari is La Stampa's editor-in-chief
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