Trump victory alarming for Italian referendum

Time bomb

With last week’s US election result shocking many, the rise of populism in the European Union may have been dangerously underrated ahead of Italy’s crucial December referendum.

Asset manager Standard Life Investments says the surprise Trump presidential victory in the US may undermine the polling figures for rising European populist parties.

“We consider the election of an anti-establishment populist candidate in the US to be symptomatic of a wider undercurrent of dissatisfaction in developed markets towards traditional political parties, politicians and globalisation in the post crisis era,” Standard Life political economist Stephanie Kelly said.

“The US election probably does not in itself increase the likelihood of a political shock in Europe, but suggests that the strength of the populist undercurrent may not be being captured in traditional polling in a number of countries, heightening nerves around upcoming political events.”

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised he would step down if the national referendum on constitutional reform on 4 December returned a ‘no’ vote, an exit that would open the door for local populist parties to gain traction.

All major polls taken in the last three weeks puts the ‘no’ vote ahead, meaning a potentially crushing loss for the current government, one that would support the eurosceptic Five Star Movement, and would likely have serious consequences for markets and European unity.

“The European Commission stressed in its winter forecast that the main risks facing Europe are political,” Ms Kelly said.

“It’s something worth watching very carefully. It could have quite large ramifications for Italy and Europe as a whole,” HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said.

“Obviously, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has put a lot of his political capital into it. It’s the next big event for market.”

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