Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has resigned after suffering a heavy defeat in a referendum over his plan to reform the constitution.
In a late-night news conference, he said he took responsibility for the outcome, and said the No camp must now make clear proposals.
With most ballots counted, the No vote leads with 60% against 40% for Yes.
The turnout was nearly 70%, in a vote that was seen as a chance to register discontent with the prime minister.
“Good luck to us all,” Mr Renzi told reporters. He said he would tell a Cabinet meeting on Monday afternoon that he was resigning, then tender his resignation to the Italian president. Italy wakes up on Monday to the threat of a banking crisis, political turmoil, and a group of anti-establishment populists banging on the doors of government. Eurozone beware and EU be warned. Italy is the euro currency’s third largest economy and it’s in for a bumpy ride. And there are more unpredictable votes to come in 2017: in France, Germany the Netherlands and perhaps here in Italy too. The No vote’s victory was even bigger than the last opinion poll in November had predicted.
The Five Star Movement says it is getting ready to govern Italy now that Mr Renzi is resigning. Its leader Beppe Grillo called for an election to be called “within a week”. Mr Renzi will hand in his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella later on Monday, following a final meeting with his cabinet.
The president may ask him to stay on at least until parliament has passed a budget bill due later this month.
In spite of the pressure from the opposition, early elections are thought to be unlikely.
Instead, the president may appoint a caretaker administration led by Mr Renzi’s Democratic Party, which would carry on until an election due in the spring of 2018.
Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan is the favourite to succeed Mr Renzi as prime minister.
So far, there has been little reaction from mainstream politicians.
The Governor of the Bank of France, Francois Villeroy, who is also policymaker for the European Central Bank, put a brave face on it.
“The referendum in Italy yesterday may be deemed as another source of uncertainty,” he said. “However, it cannot be compared to the British referendum: Italian people have been called to the polls to vote on an internal constitutional matter, and not on Italy’s long-standing EU membership.” But the leader of far-right Front National in France, Marine Le Pen, tweeted her congratulations to the Northern League.
“The Italians have disavowed the EU and Renzi. We must listen to this thirst for freedom of nations,” she said.