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Monday, December 5, 2016, 11:20

Renzi quits; Italian populists seek quick vote to win power

By Associated Press
Renzi quits; Italian populists seek quick vote to win power
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, left, leaves with his wife Agnese at the end of a press conference in Rome, Dec 5, 2016. (AP / Gregorio Borgia)

The 5-Stars' constituency is largely internet based, and bills itself as anti-establishment.

"The man alone at the command doesn't exist anymore, but the citizens who govern the institutions" do, Di Maio told a news conference minutes after Renzi conceded.

In Bologna, traditionally a left-leaning city, about 100 people rallied after the defeat to burn several Yes-vote flags and carried a banner saying "Renzi go home."

Mattarella, as head of state, would have to decide whether to accept Renzi's resignation.

Renzi is widely expected to be asked to stay on at least until a budget bill can be passed later this month. Then he or some other figure, perhaps from his Democrats, Parliament's largest party, could be asked to lead a government focused electoral reform.

The current electoral law would grant the biggest vote-getting a generous bonus of seats in Parliament.

Renzi's Democrats and the center-right opposition of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi want the law changed to avoid risking that the bonus would go to the 5-Stars should they lead the vote-getting.

Elections are due in spring 2018, but Renzi's resignation could prompt their being moved up a year.

Another opposition leader, Matteo Salvini, of the anti-immigrant Northern League, hailed the referendum as a "victory of the people against the strong powers of three-quarters of the world." He urged elections straightaway.

Many had read the referendum as an outlet for growing anti-establishment, populist sentiment in Europe.

When Renzi late last year promised to resign if the referendum was defeated, it was months before Britain's David Cameron had made his ill-fated bet that a referendum would cement the U.K.'s membership in the European Union. Cameron was forced to resign when Britons instead voted to leave the EU fold.

In Italy, the referendum was required because the reforms were approved by less than two-thirds of Parliament. The reforms included steam-lining the Senate and giving the central government more powers at the cost of the regions.

"We didn't exit from Europe, but we didn't 'exit,' from the Constitution either," said former Premier Massimo D'Alema.

A former Communist, D'Alema opposed fellow Democrat Renzi on the referendum issue, aggravating tensions within their bickering party.

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