Italians head to the polls to vote in their own referendum

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Italians go to the polls today to vote in a referendum on constitutional reforms.

It's a particularly important vote for the country's prime minister Matteo Renzi, who has tied his fate with the outcome. He has said he will resign if the reforms are rejected, and opposition politicians have vowed to press for a new government if voters do not back the proposed constitutional changes.

Renzi
Renzi campaigns to support the "yes" vote (Andrew Medichini/AP)

The risk of political instability has triggered market reaction before the vote, with bank stocks sinking and the borrowing costs on sovereign debt rising. The London market closed in the red on Friday as European stocks came under pressure ahead of the referendum.

The referendum aims to streamline Italy's cumbersome lawmaking process by reducing the powers of the Senate while also removing some key decision-making powers from regions.

Renzi wants to hand powers back to Italy's regions, making parliament's lower house - the chamber of deputies - more powerful than the senate.

Silvio Berlusconi
Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi casts his ballot, having previously said he would vote "no" (Gregoria Borgia/AP)

At the end of November there was a demonstration in Rome where people marched against the reform approved by Renzi's government.

Demonstrators against Renzi
Demonstrators held banners saying "Let's oust Renzi" (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Polls are open for 16 hours starting at 7am (6am GMT).