EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Italians have rejected nuclear energy in a nationwide referendum, dealing a further blow to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi just two weeks after his coalition suffered heavy losses in local elections.
Government-backed provisions on ministerial immunity from court cases and plans for water privatisation were also shunned by Italian citizens, whose 57 percent turnout on Sunday and Monday (12, 13 June) marks the first time the country's 50 percent referendum quorum has been reached since 1995.
With most ballot papers counted, it appeared that almost 96 percent of voters had opted not to follow the government's position. "The will of Italians is clear on all the subjects of this consultation," Berlusconi said conceding defeat. "The government and parliament must now respond fully."
The outcome is seen as a significant success for the anti-nuclear movement in the world's first nationwide vote on the issue following the recent Fukushima accident in Japan.
Italians first rejected nuclear energy in a referendum soon after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, but the moratorium lasted only five years and Berlusconi's centre-right coalition had called for a relaunching of the industry.
A quarter of the Italy's energy was to come from nuclear power by 2020 under a proposed target, but instead, the country now joins Germany and Switzerland in broadly rejecting the controversial energy source following Fukushima disaster.
This tidbit is interesting, too:
The above 50-percent turnout came despite government efforts to limit participation, with Italian television largely ignoring the upcoming vote until the final days.
Rejection of water privatisation plans may make it harder for finance minister Giulio Tremonti to rein in Italy's national debt, currently running at 120 percent of GDP.