(CNN)Italian center-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he will resign on Monday, after conceding an “extraordinary clear” defeat in an Italian constitutional referendum.
“Tomorrow the President of the Republic will have a meeting with me and I will hand in my resignation,” Renzi said. “I take on full responsibilities for defeat and so I say I lost, not you,” he told supporters.
The defeat of the referendum was resounding, with nearly 60% of voters saying “no” with a high turnout of nearly 70%.
The euro fell to a 20 month low against the dollar at the prospect of instability in the eurozone’s third biggest economy.
The result is considered a win for eurosceptic populist and nationalist parties in Italy which campaigned heavily against Renzi and his promise to stimulate Italy’s sluggish economy.
The ‘No’ campaign was spearheaded by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement party, led by Beppe Grillo, which is expected to make substantial gains if a general election is called.
“When you lose you cannot pretend that nothing has happened and go to bed and sleep. My government ends here today,” Renzi said.
Formally, the vote was a referendum on whether or not the country should amend its 1948 constitution.
Renzi’s intention was to reduce the power of the upper house of the Italian Parliament, the Senato, by cutting its numbers from 315 to 100 — making it more of a consultative assembly.
Proponents of the referendum said that the goal was to make the job of governing Italy less complicated and reforms would help revive the nation’s lethargic economy.
However, critics claimed the reforms would impact the constitution’s checks and balances.
Elly Schlein, an Italian member of the European Parliament, said the proposed reforms would have transferred too much power into the hands of the ruling party.
“It was shifting power from the regions to the center in a really unbalanced way,” she said. “It was a dangerous reform for the roots of our democratic system.”
However, the referendum was widely thought to act as a litmus test for the rising wave of populism spreading in Europe, and the chance to register discontent with the current government.
This, according to Schlein, was Renzi’s “completely unnecessary” mistake. She said that personalizing and dramatizing the vote meant that many of the people who voted ‘No’ — particularly the younger voters — did so for political reasons beyond the text of the reform and its consequences.
“The vote was transformed into a vote on himself and his government,” she said.