Everything you need to know about what's going on in Italy

Updated: 
ITALY-REFERENDUM/

It's easy to get lost in the flurry of headlines over Italy's referendum.

Thankfully, we've answered some key questions which will keep you up to speed with what's actually going on.

Here's everything you need to know.

Why has Italy's prime minister resigned?

A dejected Matteo Renzi (Gregorio Borgia/AP)
A dejected Matteo Renzi (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Matteo Renzi called a referendum on reforms to Italy's constitution, to strengthen the government and reduce the power of the upper house of parliament.

Ironically, the changes were designed to increase stability and end the political merry-go-round which has seen more than 60 governments hold office in the past 70 years.

Fatally for him, Renzi said he would resign if the Si camp lost, turning the vote into a verdict on his leadership.

Why did voters want to get rid of Renzi?

Renzi casts his vote ( Antonio Calanni/AP)
Renzi casts his vote ( Antonio Calanni/AP)

The centre-left Democrats leader was pretty popular when he came to power as Italy's youngest prime minister aged just 39 in 2014.

But his labour reforms sparked massive protests, while economic growth remained sluggish, unemployment high, and illegal immigration impossible to control.

Crucially, the vote was not only anger against Renzi but also at the "establishment", the EU and the Euro.

Who led the No camp?

Northern League leader Matteo Salvini (Antonio Calanni/AP)
Northern League leader Matteo Salvini (Antonio Calanni/AP)

While Si was backed by traditional mainstream parties, No attracted an array of insurgent groups from all parts of the political spectrum.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo was joined by the far-right Northern League, the socialist Italian Left and the nationalist Brothers of Italy.

Media tycoon and former PM Silvio Berlusconi threw his Forza Italia party into the battle for a No vote.

So what happens next?

Former PM Berlusconi casts his vote (Gregorio Borgia/AP)
Former PM Berlusconi casts his vote (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Renzi remains in office until a successor is appointed and opposition groups, including the Five Star Movement, are pushing for an early election.

It's likely that a senior Democrat will lead a caretaker administration until scheduled polls in spring 2018 with finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan favourite to take over.

What does this mean for the EU?

(Andrew Medichini/AP)
Renzi's departure could lead to Quitaly (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Renzi's fall comes at a moment of massive instability for the continent, which was already reeling from long-running crises over migration and the euro when it was delivered a body-blow by Brexit.

Anti-EU campaigners are agitating for Italexit - or Quitaly - but so far neither the Eurosceptic Five Star nor the Northern League have called for it.

So - in the short-term at least - it looks unlikely.

What about the euro?

Five Stars Movement party's Beppe Grillo speaks at a rally (Gregorio Borgia/AP)
Five Star Movement party's Beppe Grillo speaks at a rally (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

The euro tumbled to the equivalent of $1.05 in the wake of Renzi's resignation.

Many Italians blame their slow emergence from the 2008 economic crisis on the single currency and Five Star has been calling for a referendum on a return to the lira.

Many of Italy's banks are burdened by bad debt and could struggle a lot in this period of uncertainty.

Is it just Italy?

No - 2017 will see a string of elections across the EU in which populist movements are hoping to shake the established parties.

The far-right Marine le Pen will face off against the Thatcherite Francois Fillon in France.

Marine Le Pen said Italians had
Marine Le Pen said Italians had "disavowed the EU" (Christophe Ena/AP)

The right-wing populist Freedom Party of Geert Wilders is leading polls ahead of the Dutch parliamentary elections in March, and even Germany's Angela Merkel is facing an upsurge in support for the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany as she seeks re-election in the autumn.

And, with Donald Trump in the White House, the West will have undergone a virtually unprecedented shake-up in its highest political ranks.

Are there any exceptions from the tide of populism?

Austria's new president Alexander Van der Bellen speaks ( Matthias Schrader/AP)
Austria's new president Alexander Van der Bellen speaks (Matthias Schrader/AP)

As Italy was voting No, neighbouring Austria rejected the right-wing Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer, in re-run presidential elections.

But the EU-backing new president Alexander Van der Bellen is hardly any more of an "establishment" figure, as Europe's first nationally-elected head of state from a Green Party.