The Italian referendum would have removed checks on executive power, making it easier to enact economic reforms but also making it easier for an extremist government to take less savory actions. Mindful of a past that includes Benito Mussolini and Silvio Berlusconi, many Italian voters simply did not think it wise to concentrate power in the country’s executive.
Meanwhile, it’s premature to conclude that right-wing extremism has suffered a definitive defeat in Austria. Mr. Hofer received 46.7 percent of the vote against Mr. Van der Bellen’s 53.3 percent. Mr. Hofer says he will now turn his attention to Austria’s parliamentary elections in 2018, where his Freedom Party stands a good chance of winning more seats than its rivals. That prospect was not lost on France’s far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, who tweeted, “The next legislative elections will show their victory!”
The battle for Europe’s future will soon shift to national elections next year in France, Germany and the Netherlands, where right-wing populist parties are hoping to make historic gains. It would be perilous for Europe’s centrists to assume that these movements will retreat anytime soon.