Italian referendum exit polls show the 'No' vote is well ahead

Italian President Matteo Renzi. Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/ Getty Images.

The Italian referendum first exit polls reveal a “No” vote is ahead by clear margin.

Television station Rai News estimates 58-54% of Italians favoured No, while 46-42% supported Yes.

If the results hold, it will be a major defeat of Matteo Renzi, who has been the Prime Minister of Italy since 22 February 2014, and Italy’s centre-left Democratic party.

Italians are voting on whether to accept a package of constitutional reforms, designed to reduce the size and powers of the Senate which currently carries as much weight as the lower house, and gain back power from Italy’s 20 regional governments.

A “No” result would also see global markets brace for the worst.

But as David Scutt writes, the question that most will want answered is whether Renzi will step down as PM, which he promised to do should the proposed reforms be rejected.

“This is yet another layer of uncertainty on top of the referendum, and will likely dictate just how severely financial markets react,” Scutt writes.

Renzi stepping down could trigger early elections in Italy during the first half of 2017.

Renzi was due to make a statement at midnight local time (9am AEDT).

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