Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
December 5, 2016.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has announced his resignation, saying he takes full responsibility for the "extraordinarily clear defeat" of his package of constitutional reforms in Sunday's referendum.

With more than 90 per cent of the results in, the "No" campaign led with almost 60 per cent of the vote to slightly over 40 per cent for "Yes", on course to achieve the upper estimate predicted by exit polls.

Mr Renzi had conflated his centrist leadership with a "Yes" vote and promised to step down if he lost, and called a news conference in Rome as the result became clear.

Addressing the nation at the Palazzo Chigi on Sunday night, Mr Renzi declared that his "experience of government finishes here".

"We tried, we gave Italians a chance to change but we didn't make it," he said. "We wanted to win not to take part in the competition.

"I lost. I can admit it and I am sorry. I was not able to lead you to the victory.

"Good luck to us all," he concluded.

Financial markets reacted immediately to the referendum result, as the euro fell sharply in value against the dollar. It continued to fall upon Mr Renzi's announcement, at one stage hitting $1.0507, its lowest level since March 2015. There are concerns the "No" vote could boost the prospects of opposition groups who are against keeping Italy in the eurozone.

Mr Renzi said he would visit President Sergio Mattarella on Monday to formally hand in his resignation following a final meeting of his cabinet.

Mr Mattarella will then be tasked with brokering the appointment of a new government or, if he is unable do that, ordering early elections.

Most political analysts see the most likely scenario being that Renzi's administration will be replaced by a caretaker one dominated by his Democratic Party, which will carry on until an election due to take place by the spring of 2018.

Angelino Alfano, Italy's Interior minister and a Yes supporter, said on Twitter: "Together with million of Italians we played a good game but we lost it. It was good to play it and was the right thing for Italy.”

Former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi, who supported the No vote, called for a meeting to change electoral laws and bring about new elections as soon as possible. He was due to speak officially and in more detail on Monday.

The reaction in Italy was one of shock - perhaps not at the result itself, but at the scale of Mr Renzi's defeat. The "No" victory was even greater than gloomy opinion polls had indicated up until 18 November, after which the media were banned from publishing survey results.



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