Italy referendum: PM Matteo Renzi suffers heavy defeat, exit polls suggest
4 December, 2016
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has suffered a heavy defeat in a referendum over his plan to reform the constitution, exit polls suggest.
An exit poll for state broadcaster RAI suggests 42-46% voted to back reform, compared with 54-58% voting No.
The first projection based on the vote count points to an even wider defeat: Yes at 39-43% and No at 57-61%.
Mr Renzi, who has said he would resign if he lost the vote, is due to make a statement at midnight (23:00 GMT).
The referendum was regarded as a barometer of anti-establishment sentiment in Europe.
The vote asked about plans to streamline parliament but it was widely seen as a chance to register discontent with the prime minister.
Populist parties supported a No vote.
The euro fell against the dollar immediately after the exit polls came out.
There have been growing concerns over financial stability in the eurozone's third largest economy, if Mr Renzi falls from power, as now seems likely.
Opposition leaders from the Northern League and Forza Italia have called for Mr Renzi's resignation.
The turnout was very high by Italian standards - about 60% of the electorate cast their vote.
Nearly two-thirds voted in prosperous northern Italy but the turnout was much lower in the south.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has announced his resignation and said he takes "full responsibility" for the "extraordinarily clear defeat" in the constitutional referendum.
Italy referendum exit polls suggest clear victory for 'No'
Early results showed the No vote on 59 per cent and on course to achieve the sizeable victory predicted by exit polls.
Mr Renzi had conflated his centrist leadership with a "Yes" vote and promised to step down if he lost.
Addressing the nation at a press conference from the Palazzo Chigi on Sunday night, Mr Renzi said "my experience of government finishes here".
"We tried, we gave Italians a chance to change but we didn't make it. We wanted to win not to take part in the competition.
"I lost. I can admit it and I am sorry. I was not able to lead you to the victory.
Good luck to us all," he concluded.
Mr Renzi said he would visit President Sergio Mattarella on Monday to formally hand in his resignation following a final meeting of his cabinet.
Mr Mattarella will then be tasked with brokering the appointment of a new government or, if he is unable do that, ordering early elections.
Most political analysts see the most likely scenario being that Renzi's administration will be replaced by a caretaker one dominated by his Democratic Party, which will carry on until an election due to take place by the spring of 2018.
Angelino Alfano, Italy's Interior minister and a Yes supporter, said on Twitter: "Together with million of Italians we played a good game but we lost it. It was good to play it and was the right thing for Italy.”
Former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi, who supported the No vote, said he wanted to set a meeting to change the electoral law as soon as possible. He is due to speak officially tomorrow.
Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer has lost Austria's presidential election.
On Facebook, he described himself as "infinitely sad" and congratulated Alexander Van der Bellen, former head of the Greens, on his victory.