When a handful of European leaders met Barack Obama in Berlin this month to say their goodbyes, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi informed the group that he may well lose power before the U.S. president.
While Obama leaves office on Jan. 20, Renzi has promised to resign if he does not win a Dec. 4 referendum on constitutional reform, opening the way for renewed political instability in the eurozone's third largest economy.
"I have no desire to hang around if I lose," Renzi told the gathering, according to a diplomatic source who was at the low-key Nov. 18 meeting.
Opinion polls now predict Renzi's defeat, in what would be the third big anti-establishment revolt by voters this year in a major Western country, following Britain's unexpected vote to leave the European Union and the U.S. election of Donald Trump.
Pressure is mounting on Renzi to drop his threat and instead agree to remain in power to deal with the fallout from a 'no' vote, including the risk of a full-blown banking crisis.
Obama himself said in October that Renzi should "hang around for a while no matter what" and a number of businessmen and senior government officials contacted by Reuters said they feared the worst if the prime minister abandoned his post.