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Italy's Referendum Results Have Much Wider Implications Than Renzi's Future

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Renzi has left Palazzo Chigi. That's the first tangible effect of the massive wave of popular votes against his constitutional reforms. We'll be talking a great deal about his decisions in the near future, including the role the ex-Premier will or will not play inside or outside the Democratic Party, with or without the Democratic Party. And yet, despite how relevant it has been and will continue to be, Matteo Renzi's destiny does not lie at the core of what happened. This referendum has driven an entire country to turn the page. It's a warning launched at Italy's entire political class, and it will continue to resonate well beyond Renzi's presence in Palazzo Chigi.

The numbers spell it all out. Nearly 70 percent of the Italian electorate went to vote, a percentage that takes us back to the political elections of 2013, when 75 percent of the population voted. In truth, political passion like that of 2013 is precisely what drove the turnout -- lots of voters, too many voters -- to reject the reforms. Of course, this massive rejection has smashed the glorious war machine built in Palazzo Chigi. The marvelous narrative of an effective, working government has been strongly contested by the voices of the disenchanted.

  Unhappiness, discontent, bitterness, and a desire to overturn the status quo are prevalent across every region in Italy.

Matteo Renzi is paying for what many had repeatedly pointed out as the Achilles' heel of his government: the lack of a real relationship with the country and the masses. A disconnect with real life.

But this lack of a relationship between government and the body politic remains, even as Renzi leaves Palazzo Chigi. The result of this referendum -- the first with true national and political character since 2013, as noted earlier -- apply powerful pressure on the entire political class.

If all the No votes (60 percent) were merely the sum of all the parties and organizations that coalesced around Italy's anti-reform movement, the results in local territories would have demonstrated internal variations, different colors here and there where different party lines intersect. But this rejection spans from the north to the south, the east to the west of this country, spanning different social classes. This homogeneity makes it clear that sentiments such as unhappiness, discontent, bitterness, and a desire to overturn the status quo are prevalent across every region in Italy.

In this sense, the Italian referendum looks almost exactly like the revolution enacted by social classes that felt left behind when they voted for Brexit, or against Clinton. The same lack of faith in the political elite is driving all these movements; the same detachment can be felt in all Western democracies.

  In this era of rejection, it's time to rebuild politics.

Matteo Renzi knew it. He fully understood the existence of this malaise. It's what inspired his campaign against the castes, against the past, against the old guard and against a political class that never changes. But not even Renzi was able to intercept this silent revolt, and he wound up rejected, just like other leaders in other countries.

Nevertheless, the conclusion (at least for the moment) of his journey doesn't put an end to the malaise. And if Italy's political parties, the Democratic Party included, fool themselves into thinking that the fall of the Premier means going back to doing things the way they were done before the mayor of Florence arrived, they're destined for a worse and much more accelerated end.

This No vote expresses a widespread demand for politicians to come back down to earth. To roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. To go back to listening to the people, paying attention, and to putting the management of the public, not their imaginary representations, back at the center of things. It's an invitation equally valid for the Cinque Stelle movement, who in their programs call for a revolution in the relationships between politics and citizens, but who have yet to come up with anything concrete. In this era of rejection, it's time to rebuild politics. It's an enormous task that, paradoxically, only politics can accomplish. As long at it understands, accepts and moves beyond its own rejection.

This post originally appeared on HuffPost Italy and has been translated into English.

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