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Italian Premier Matteo Renzi casts his ballot at a polling station in Pontassieve, Italy, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Italians are voting in a referendum on constitutional reforms that is being closely watched abroad to see if Italy is the next country to reject the political status quo. Premier Matteo Renzi has said he would resign if the reforms are rejected in Sunday’s vote, and opposition politicians have vowed to press for a new government if voters reject the proposed constitutional changes. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he's resigning after a clear referendum defeat


Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Sunday he's resigning after voters rejected his plan to reform the country's constitution.

Renzi, who has served 2 1/2 years in office, conceded defeat after exit polls showed him losing by a margin of about 60 percent to 40 percent. 

"The experience of my government ends here," Renzi said while addressing the nation after hearing  the early results. 

Renzi said the proposed reforms would have streamlined parliament, cutting Italy's bureaucracy and making the country more competitive.

His referendum was considered a barometer of the anti-establishment sentiments across Europe, according to the BBC. A "no" vote is considered a rejection of establishment politics in favor of populist and anti-immigration forces. 

Renzi's center-left Democratic Party will remain in control of the parliament, despite his coming resignation, according to the Washington Post

Right-wing leaders in Europe quickly reacted to the news. 

Marine Le Pen, the leader of Front Nationale in France, tweeted her congratulations to Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant Northern League.

"The Italians have disavowed the EU and Renzi. We must listen to this thirst for freedom of nations," she tweeted. 

Salvini called the vote a "victory of the people against the strong powers of three-quarters of the world." 

Renzi is expected to deliver his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella after making his official announcement at a Cabinet meeting Monday afternoon.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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