Europe’s embattled political establishment lost another round Sunday in its effort to thwart the anti-elite movement, as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned after voters rejected his constitutional reforms. But a center-left presidential candidate in Austria handily defeated his far-right challenger.
The thorough rejection of Renzi’s referendum to streamline lawmaking was a significant boost for the country’s surging populist forces just weeks after Donald Trump prevailed in the United States. Renzi’s loss also risks unleashing financial upheaval in Europe’s third-largest economy as Italy’s weak banks struggle to contain the fallout.
But the surprisingly strong presidential victory in Austria for an elder statesman formerly of the Green Party suggested there were still some limits to a wave of anti-elite anger that began in June with Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and continued with Trump’s victory last month.
A populist takeover of Italy is still an uncertain prospect, since Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party remains in control of Parliament and national elections do not have to be called until 2018. But much will depend on the makeup of the next government and how anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic parties capitalize on their success.