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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.
“So ends the era of shortcuts and tweets.” Sunday’s votes in Austria and Italy captured the extent to which Europeans are as politically polarized as Americans, split on issues including immigration and free trade.
In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer conceded the election on his Facebook page less than 30 minutes after polls closed; projections showed a surprisingly strong lead for independent Alexander Van der Bellen.
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.
There may also be economic consequences, with Italy’s shaky banks teetering amid the uncertainty.
The euro dropped 1 percent against the dollar in early Asian trading following Renzi’s resignation, but many financial analysts cautioned against panic.
But a center-left presidential candidate in Austria handily defeated his far-right challenger.Van der Bellen credited his victory to a “broad movement” backing “freedom, equality and solidarity.” His campaign manager, Lothar Lockl, saw the margin as evidence of a push against the nationalist tide by moderates.“A movement could be evolving here, which is not only for Austria, but can also bring about a change of attitude in the whole of Europe,” he said.It also seemed to rob the momentum from far-right leaders in France and the Netherlands who have called Trump’s victory part of a new “world order” they hope to join in elections next year.Following Hofer’s concession, he and Van der Bellen exchanged a long handshake for photographers in the Vienna studios of Austrian state broadcaster ORF.
“My government ends today.” With 90 percent of ballots counted, 60 percent of voters rejected the reform, a drubbing that far outpaced opinion polls ahead of the referendum.