Matteo Renzi gives a speech after the results of the referendum on constitutional reforms at Palazzo Chigi in Rome, Italy. Franco Origlia / Getty Images
Matteo Renzi gives a speech after the results of the referendum on constitutional reforms at Palazzo Chigi in Rome, Italy. Franco Origlia / Getty Images

Uncertainty looms as Italy prime minister Matteo Renzi resigns after referendum defeat

DUBLIN // Italy faces up to a year of political uncertainty after prime minister Matteo Renzi’s resignation paved the way for a caretaker government to tide the country through to parliamentary elections in February 2018.

Mr Renzi, 41, announced his resignation late on Sunday as it became clear voters had rejected constitutional reforms he was seeking. “My experience of government ends here,” he declared, keeping his promise to step down if he lost the referendum.

Mr Renzi had said the constitutional changes would make Italy easier to govern by paring away powers of regional governments, strengthening the federal government and shrinking the size and power of parliament’s upper house to ease the gridlock that frequently plagues Italian legislation.

“We tried, we gave Italians a chance to change but we didn’t make it,” Mr Renzi said. “We wanted to win, not to take part in the competition.”

Nearly 68 per cent of Italian voters took part in the referendum on Sunday. Although opinion polls had predicted a defeat they did not anticipate the scale of the opposition to Mr Renzi’s proposals, with 60 per cent voting No.

Anger at Mr Renzi’s seemingly arrogant style of functioning and failure to reboot the flagging economy since taking office in 2014 is believed to have played a part in the result.

Ahead of the vote, analysts voiced fears that a victory for the No camp and Mr Renzi’s resignation could plunge Italy into political and economic turmoil. The prospect drew comparisons with the Brexit referendum in June and the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.

Although markets recovered swiftly on Monday from a post-referendum dip and the euro recouped initial losses against the dollar, the outlook for troubled Italian banks was severely affected by the exit of Mr Renzi.

Banking stocks opened sharply lower, and then recovered before plunging again. Concern focused on Italy’s third-biggest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS) which has lost 84 per cent of its market capitalisation this year.

Mr Renzi’s resignation halts his reform agenda, with his key measure to date the so-called Jobs Act to make it easier for businesses to hire and fire. For the near future, he had pledged tax cuts, more state investment, and steps to tackle corruption and make the state sector more efficient. But the referendum campaign had put much of his agenda on hold.

Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, praised Mr Renzi’s record of reforms but said the referendum result was no cause for alarm.

“I think we should see the situation in Italy with a certain calmness,” Mr Schauble said. “That is how democratic and constitutional processes work in the member states. The Italians have decided, that is to be respected. They will make the best of it.”

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, acknowledged that the turn of events was “not a positive message to Europe at a difficult time”.

But Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s right-wing Front National party, argued that the vote represented support for Italian opposition parties who want their country to leave the European Union.

“We must listen to this thirst for freedom of nations,” Ms Le Pen, who is running to be France’s next president herself, said on Twitter.

It will now fall to Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president, to put together a caretaker government in consultation with all parties. But a number of right-wing Italian parties are calling for elections to be brought forward, to capitalise upon what they see as a wave of anti-establishment fervour.

Beppe Grillo, a former comedian who leads the Five Star Movement (MS5), a nationalist party that seeks to extricate Italy from the EU, called for elections to be held “within a week”.

He was joined in this call by the Northern League, another party of the right. “Long live Trump, long live [Russian president Vladimir] Putin, long live Le Pen and long live the [Northern] League,” Matteo Salvini, head of the party, said on Twitter.

Much will now hinge on electoral mechanisms that determine how the houses of parliament are constituted, said Alberto Mingardi, the head of Istituto Bruno Leoni, a Milan-based think tank.

The referendum had proposed that the senate — parliament’s upper house — consist of members nominated by regional assemblies rather than elected by the public. With the referendum’s defeat, the senate will retain its system of being constituted according to proportional representation, with its seats divided according to the parties’ shares of votes cast in a separate senate election.

Under Mr Renzi, elections to the lower house, known as the chamber of deputies, were reformed last year. In the new method, all parties compete in a first electoral round, and the two most successful parties compete afresh in a second-round run-off. The MS5 has done well this year in local elections that have used this method, with its candidates being elected mayors of Rome and Turin.

Most parties, Mr Mingardi said, are fearful that MS5 will perform well in run-offs in parliamentary elections as well, and will subsequently form the government.

This is why mainstream parties are likely to push for “the purely proportional system extended to both houses,” he told The National.

“I think this would be a disaster,” he added. “As the likelihood of any party winning a clear majority of the votes is small, this would make Italy a country run by a permanent grand coalition between the right and the left, with the sole purpose of keeping the MS5 at bay.”

* With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse


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Diriyah project at a glance

- Diriyah’s 1.9km King Salman Boulevard, a Parisian Champs-Elysees-inspired avenue, is scheduled for completion in 2028
- The Royal Diriyah Opera House is expected to be completed in four years
- Diriyah’s first of 42 hotels, the Bab Samhan hotel, will open in the first quarter of 2024
- On completion in 2030, the Diriyah project is forecast to accommodate more than 100,000 people
- The $63.2 billion Diriyah project will contribute $7.2 billion to the kingdom’s GDP
- It will create more than 178,000 jobs and aims to attract more than 50 million visits a year
- About 2,000 people work for the Diriyah Company, with more than 86 per cent being Saudi citizens


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Pupils in Abu Dhabi are learning the importance of being active, eating well and leading a healthy lifestyle now and throughout adulthood, thanks to a newly launched programme 'Healthy Lifestyle'.

As part of the Healthy Lifestyle programme, specially trained coaches from City Football Schools, along with Healthpoint physicians have visited schools throughout Abu Dhabi to give fun and interactive lessons on working out regularly, making the right food choices, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated, just like their favourite footballers.

Organised by Manchester City FC and Healthpoint, Manchester City FC’s regional healthcare partner and part of Mubadala’s healthcare network, the ‘Healthy Lifestyle’ programme will visit 15 schools, meeting around 1,000 youngsters over the next five months.

Designed to give pupils all the information they need to improve their diet and fitness habits at home, at school and as they grow up, coaches from City Football Schools will work alongside teachers to lead the youngsters through a series of fun, creative and educational classes as well as activities, including playing football and other games.

Dr Mai Ahmed Al Jaber, head of public health at Healthpoint, said: “The programme has different aspects - diet, exercise, sleep and mental well-being. By having a focus on each of those and delivering information in a way that children can absorb easily it can help to address childhood obesity."

Common OCD symptoms and how they manifest

Checking: the obsession or thoughts focus on some harm coming from things not being as they should, which usually centre around the theme of safety. For example, the obsession is “the building will burn down”, therefore the compulsion is checking that the oven is switched off.

Contamination: the obsession is focused on the presence of germs, dirt or harmful bacteria and how this will impact the person and/or their loved ones. For example, the obsession is “the floor is dirty; me and my family will get sick and die”, the compulsion is repetitive cleaning.

Orderliness: the obsession is a fear of sitting with uncomfortable feelings, or to prevent harm coming to oneself or others. Objectively there appears to be no logical link between the obsession and compulsion. For example,” I won’t feel right if the jars aren’t lined up” or “harm will come to my family if I don’t line up all the jars”, so the compulsion is therefore lining up the jars.

Intrusive thoughts: the intrusive thought is usually highly distressing and repetitive. Common examples may include thoughts of perpetrating violence towards others, harming others, or questions over one’s character or deeds, usually in conflict with the person’s true values. An example would be: “I think I might hurt my family”, which in turn leads to the compulsion of avoiding social gatherings.

Hoarding: the intrusive thought is the overvaluing of objects or possessions, while the compulsion is stashing or hoarding these items and refusing to let them go. For example, “this newspaper may come in useful one day”, therefore, the compulsion is hoarding newspapers instead of discarding them the next day.

Source: Dr Robert Chandler, clinical psychologist at Lighthouse Arabia

Top New Zealand cop on policing the virtual world

New Zealand police began closer scrutiny of social media and online communities after the attacks on two mosques in March, the country's top officer said.

The killing of 51 people in Christchurch and wounding of more than 40 others shocked the world. Brenton Tarrant, a suspected white supremacist, was accused of the killings. His trial is ongoing and he denies the charges.

Mike Bush, commissioner of New Zealand Police, said officers looked closely at how they monitored social media in the wake of the tragedy to see if lessons could be learned.

“We decided that it was fit for purpose but we need to deepen it in terms of community relationships, extending them not only with the traditional community but the virtual one as well," he told The National.

"We want to get ahead of attacks like we suffered in New Zealand so we have to challenge ourselves to be better."


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Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
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The National selections:

6.30pm Underwriter

7.05pm Rayig

7.40pm Torno Subito

8.15pm Talento Puma

8.50pm Etisalat

9.25pm Gundogdu

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