The winners and losers of Italy’s referendum

Matteo Renzi's downfall following the resounding 'No' to his constitutional reform has left a hole in the Italian political landscape and a host of figures jockeying to seize the vacated throne of power.

The winners and losers of Italy's referendum
Ballots being counted in the crunch vote. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

The loser

Renzi, 41, snatched power in February 2014 and pledged reforms across the board, from the education system to justice and employment.

Vocal in the media and on social networks, he failed however to win the trust of the electorate and admitted on Sunday to feeling “anger, disappointment, bitterness and sadness” after his crushing referendum defeat.

Italian press reports from “behind closed doors” in the PM's office painted a Renzi in tears who said he wanted nothing but to jet off to sunny climes for peace and quiet. For the time being he is still the head of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), and has in his pocket the votes of 13.4 million Italians who trusted him by voting 'Yes' to his reform.

Before the referendum, 31 percent of voters backed the PD according to polls.

The impatient

Beppe Grillo, 68, comic and founder of the anti-establishment Five Star movement (M5S), is dining out on a win many analysts see as a rejection of traditional parties and politics. The Five Stars snapped up a quarter of votes in the 2013 elections and have scored important victories since – mayoral races in Rome and Turin in particular.

With up to 30 percent of voters supporting the anti-euro party, Grillo is calling for early elections. But the movement has refused to ally with other political parties from the start, and M5S would find it impossible to snap up the majority it needs to govern alone.

Matteo Salvini, 43, heads up the anti-immigrant Northern League party and has tried – but largely failed – to extend its reach beyond the rich north into the poorer southern heartlands by playing the anti-euro card and railing against migrants.

Though it can only boast up to 14 percent of voter support, the League also wants early elections, preceded by a primary in January to unite forces across the right and create a block to challenge the Five Stars and the left.


Silvio Berlusconi, 80, is a three-time former prime minister and head of the centre-right Forza Italy party. Largely absent from politics – though not from the gossip pages – following his ousting in 2011, he retired further from the spotlight after heart surgery in June. Jumping on the 'No' bandwagon at thelast minute, he has now taken a place at the victors' table.

He wants early elections, has ruled out Salvini's plan for primaries, and demanded changes to the electoral law which would free him from having to form a coalition with the Northern League.

Pierluigi Bersani, 65, is head of old guard at the PD. Party leader before Renzi snatched his job, he fought against the reforms, saying they would give one man (Renzi) too much power. He wants a party congress, but not necessarily early elections.

Dario Franceschini, 58, is minister of culture, a former PD party secretary and a touch stone for influential left-wing Catholics. He has been named a possible candidate to take over now from Renzi, though analysts say a non-politician is more likely for the job.

Mario Monti, 73, is a former European Commissioner who was appointed in 2011 to head up a “technical” government after Berlusconi's ouster. He urged voters to say 'No' to Renzi's reforms but did not want him to resign.

He has accused foreign analysts of hyping up coverage of the referendum and wrongly describing Renzi's downfall a victory of populism or anti-Europe sentiment. He wants a government based on the outgoing majority, which remains intact in parliament.

By Fanny Carrier

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Italy’s government proposes bill to make surrogacy a ‘universal crime’

Italy’s parliament is set to debate a bill that would expand criminal penalties for the use of surrogacy, in what opponents say is part of a broader attack on gay rights by the country’s hard-right government.

Italy's government proposes bill to make surrogacy a 'universal crime'

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is lead signatory on the new bill, which would make surrogacy – already a crime in Italy – a criminal act for Italians who make use of the practice anywhere in the world.

The motion combines previous draft laws from the ruling Brothers of Italy, Forza Italia and League parties, and will be debated in the lower house from Wednesday, according to news agency Ansa.

The move comes days after the government ordered the city of Milan to stop issuing birth certificates to the children of same-sex couples on the grounds that the practice violates Italian law.

READ ALSO: Milan stops recognising children born to same-sex couples

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has long been outspoken against surrogacy, which she has described as “a commodification of women’s bodies and of human life.”

In a heated parliamentary debate on the rights of same sex couples on Monday, her Brothers of Italy colleague Federico Mollicone, chair of the lower house’s Culture Committee, said surrogacy was “more serious than paedophilia.”

Similar comments were made in 2017 by a minister of the now-defunct New Centre Right party, who likened entering into a surrogacy arrangement to committing a sex crime.

READ ALSO: ‘Surrogacy is like a sex crime’: Italy minister

In early 2022, as leader of the Brothers of Italy party in opposition to Mario Draghi’s coalition government, Meloni put forward the same motion to make surrogacy a “universal crime”.

The text was adopted by the Justice Committee of the former legislature – a preliminary step before it can be debated in the lower house – last April, but did not go further at the time.

The crime of surrogacy in Italy is currently punishable with a prison sentence of over three years or a fine of between 600,000 and one million euros; penalties that the government is proposing to extend to all Italian citizens who engage in the practice, regardless of where it occurs.

Whether such a law would even be possible to pass or enforce is unclear, and legal experts have dismissed it as impractical. 

“There are no conditions that would justify an expansion of penal intervention of this type,” Marco Pelissero, a professor of criminal law at the University of Turin, told L’Espresso newspaper.

The idea of a universal crime “does not even exist in the legal language,” he said.

But the proposal has aroused fears that, if passed, the law could result in large numbers of same-sex parents whose children were born via surrogates being sent to prison.

“With this law we would be exposing families with young children to criminal law, quite simply criminalising procreative choices made abroad in countries where these practices are regulated,” Angelo Schillaci, a professor of Comparative Public Law at La Sapienza University, told the news site Fanpage.

‘We are aware of how hard this government is working to strip even the most basic rights from same-sex-parent families,” Alessia Crocini, head of the Rainbow Families organisation, said last week when it was first announced that Milan had been banned from registering the children of gay couples.

The move resulted in large-scale protests across the city on Saturday, and Milan Mayor Beppe Sala has pledged to fight the change.

“It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view,” he said in a recent podcast interview.

On Tuesday, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders commented that European Union member states are required by EU law to recognise the children of same-sex couples.

“In line with the LGBTIQ equality strategy for 2020-2025, the Commission is in continuous dialogue with Member States regarding the implementation of the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union.”

“This also includes the obligation for Member States to recognise” children “of same-sex parents, for the purpose of exercising the rights conferred by the EU”, Reynders reportedly said in response to question about the developments in Milan.