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3Novices:Italy prime minister Matteo Renzi resigns after overwhelming referendum defeat

DUBLIN // Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi resigned late on Sunday night, after a referendum on his proposed constitutional reforms suffered an overwhelming defeat at the ballot box.

With turnout touching almost 70 per cent, the referendum found disfavour with 59.5 per cent of those who voted, according to projections released by Italy's interior ministry.

"My experience of government finishes here," Mr Renzi told reporters at his official residence, soon after midnight, after voting trends pointed to a conclusive result. "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."

Mr Renzi had long pegged his political fortunes on the result of the referendum, which seeks to make Italy easier to govern. Among other measures, the referendum called for strengthening the federal government at the expense of regional governments, and for shrinking parliament's upper house to ease legislative gridlock.

The prime minister's resignation pitches Italy into a phase of political turmoil.

The country will now receive a caretaker government - its 64th government in 70 years - dominated by Mr Renzi's Democratic Party. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in early 2018.

Opinion polls had predicted the defeat of Mr Renzi's referendum, although not by this crushing a margin. The result has raised worries that Italy is passing through an anti-establishment phase similar to that in the UK during the Brexit referendum and in the US during the presidential election.

In such a mood, analysts worry, right-wing parties such as the Five Star Movement, led by Beppe Grillo, might go on to win the election. Mr Grillo has promised to pull Italy out of the European Union. Mr Grillo had campaigned hard for Italy to vote No in Sunday's referendum.

"Our movement has some similarities," he told reporters soon after Mr Trump's election as president. "We became the first political movement in Italy, and the media didn't even realise it."
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