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  1. ITV Report

Why Italy's constitutional reform referendum could rock the European Union

After the shock Brexit vote and Donald Trump's election as the next President of the United States, the result of Italy's referendum on constitutional reforms could rock the European Union.

Italy's prime minister has put forward a package of major reforms.
  • Why has the referendum been called?

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has put his political future on the line by giving Italians a vote on a package of major reforms which include transforming the Senate and reducing its powers.

Currently, the country's parliament is composed of the Senate of the Republic and Chamber of Deputies - Italy's equivalent of the House of Lords and Commons respectively.

Both chambers have an equal number of 315 members each, which can lead to political deadlocks.

It is hoped the reforms will make passing legislation easier, however opponents argue that it could give the governing party too much power.

  • Renzi has said he will resign if Italy votes no

Mr Renzi, who is leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, has promised to resign if he loses the referendum.

Mr Renzi has vowed to resign if the referendum does not go in his favour. Credit: PA
  • Could this 'Cameronesque' gamble put Italy in a risky situation?

The Italian prime minster's stance is eerily reminiscent of David Cameron's EU referendum gamble.

If Renzi fails to win backing for the reforms and falls on his sword it could trigger political turmoil and instability for Italy.

Renzi's term as Italy's prime minister could end prematurely like David Cameron's if he loses the referendum. Credit: PA

However, he insists the referendum is not the same as Brexit and told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera: "I don't believe it will be the same thing."

"The UK held a referendum on Europe, and in my opinion the EU was blamed for everything that failed to happen. "

"The Italian referendum is something else - we've been saying for 30 years constitutional reforms are needed because we have the largest and costliest parliament in the world, and I will do everything in my power to make sure (the constitutional reform law) is voted on its merits".

  • High stakes could benefit anti-establishment or far-right opposition
Beppe Grillo, the former comic who leads Italy's anti-establishment movement. Credit: PA

There are fears that the anti-government Five-Star Movement, who are opposed to the plans, and are at the forefront of the No campaign, could capitalise if Renzi's reforms are rejected.

The party is led by former stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo who has previously called for Italy to exit the euro, which could be worrying for Europe.

The right-wing Northern League, who are also campaigning against the reforms, have seen a rise in support in recent years, and could be further bolstered if Renzi's reforms are rejected.

After the Brexit referendum vote, the party’s leader, Matteo Salvini tweeted: "Thank you Great Britain, next it is our turn’."

Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy's Lega Nord (Northern League) party. Credit: PA
  • The rise of the far-right aiming for power in Europe

On December 4, Austria's long-awaited presidential election re-run is also set take to take place.

In May, the anti-immigration Freedom Party's Norbert Hofer narrowly lost Green Party's Alexander Van der Bellen by less than one percentage point.

If Mr Hofer wins the re-run, he will become the only far-right head of state in the European Union.

A victory for Norbert Hofer could change the political map of European Union. Credit: ITV News

Meanwhile in France, Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front as pledged to hold a so-called Frexit referendum if she win next year's elections.

Marine Le Pen's presidential campaign is gaining momentum. Credit: ITV News

Le Pen has become a front-runner in the presidential election and after Brexit and Donald Trump's victory in the US, many are now considering the possibility she could become the new leader of France.

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