In a move that surprised many on both sides of politics, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced his resignation after Italy’s citizens rejected proposed constitutional changes had been the main aim of the thousand days of his government. In a strangely upbeat and unusual speech by an Italian political Leader, he recognized that he had lost the battle and would take the appropriate steps required by the rejection. The referendum Referendum and the need for reform had been called after Parliament had passed a number of amendments to Italy’s Constitution which were opposed as much as a protest against Renzi’s style of governing as against the changes themselves.

Renzi made his speech at about midnight Italian time in a nationwide telecast, after the leaders of the centre-right opposition parties had called for him to keep his word at the beginning of the campaign to resign in the case of defeat.

Splits and Referendum

The referendum campaign had caused splits within Renzi’s Partito Democratico which is the majority party in Parliament and of the governing coalition. The Centre Left Party had been formed in 2008 after a merger of the heirs of the former Italian Communist Party and former Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s Margherita Coalition. These splits were caused by a vocal minority faction within the party from the defunct Italian Communist Party that considered that Renzi had been taking the Party away from its traditional Left-wing policies.

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Despite his resignation and the probability of new national elections in the near future the Italian political party best organized to fight such an election is still the Partito Democratico, even with the presence of the vocal minority.

In fact, despite their calls for his resignation, Renzi’s decision almost certainly wrong-footed the center-right parties that have opposed him over the last three years. These parties are not only internally divided, but currently, there is no clear leader amongst them capable of uniting them into a coherent force for an election.

Divided Opposition

While still the erstwhile Leader of his own Forza Italia Party, not only is former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi controversial Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi legally banned from becoming a candidate for election due to recent convictions, but because of his age and other scandals of the past there are many on the right wing of Italian politics unwilling to risk his leading another attempt at taking government.

Worse still, the business magnate has effectively torpedoed every politician within his Party’s ranks who showed any ambition to take over his leadership. Matteo Salvini of the secessionist Lega Nord which held power in coalition with Forza Italia for many years is too controversial and be divisive to take such a role.

The other major political force, the Movimento 5 Stelle led by former comedian Beppe Grillo, has ambitions to lead the country, but it refuses to cooperate with other parties and will probably end up being the Joker of the pack that will cause the most confusion in any election campaign.

As per the Italian Constitution, the next steps are now up to Italian President Sergio Mattarella. On accepting Renzi’s resignation, he is obliged to consult with the Presidents of both Houses of Italian Parliament and the political parties to determine whether or not there is the possibility of forming another ruling coalition. Since Italy's current electoral law dissatisfies all the Parties, and the previous electoral law was cancelled by the Italian Constitutional Court, in all probability Mattarella will call for a short-term government whose main aim will be to approve a new electoral law as soon as possible to allow the country to vote a new parliament which will then decide on the new Prime Minister.

Italian politics now finds itself once again in a minefield of its own making with a population that has lost faith in its politicians.