Binding referendum on immunity for politicians, nuclear power, water supplies: Italy

mm at mm at
Sat Jun 11 13:26:27 BST 2011

This week-end Italian citizens will be able to vote in binding 
referendum ballots on four issues:
public services;
preventing privatisation of water supplies;
banning nuclear power plants;
removing judicial immunity from politicians and officials.

Detail is at

These proposals were forced onto the ballot by citizens' initiatives and 

Within six months, half a million endorsements must be collected in 
order that the proposal goes to abrogative (cancelling existing law) 

The water proposal attracted over a million endorsements, the 
anti-nuclear proposal 700,000 plus.


Below is a background article
I&R ~ GB Citizens' Initiative and Referendum
Campaign for direct democracy in Britain

  Italians vote on nuclear, water policies


        Associated Press

Premier Silvio Berlusconi would rather Italians head to the beach and 
not to the polls this weekend.

Referendums on the ballot Sunday and Monday seek to block the Italian 
leader's plans to revive nuclear energy and privatize the water supply. 
Another would throw out a law that gives Berlusconi and other top 
officials some protection from prosecution.

In the face of the government's attempt to delegitimize the referendums, 
campaigners are going to lengths to boost turnout above the 51-percent 
majority needed to validate the vote, a quorum not reached in Italy 
since 1995 in more than 20 attempts.

Nuns and priests held a fast to protest against the privatization of 
water and anti-Berlusconi social networking campaigns have been 
spreading the word to vote.

If a quorum is to be reached, it will likely to be due to the fresh 
memories of the March 11 nuclear disaster in Japan, triggered by the 
powerful quake and resulting tsunami.

Italy, also a seismically active country, shut down its nuclear power 
program in a 1987 referendum following the Chernobyl disaster. Although 
the referendum was legally binding for only five years, its political 
staying power proved more durable.

Berlusconi pledged in 2009 to revive nuclear power to reduce dependence 
on expensive foreign oil and natural gas. Nuclear proponents claim 
third-generation plants envisioned for Italy are "intrinsically safe" 
and would have withstood a quake and tsunami of the same force - a point 
that environmentalists are not ready to concede.

The government fought to keep the hot-button nuclear issue off the 
ballot, abrogating its own law to allow time for reflection, which 
critics say was a move to render moot the referendum.

Courts held that the referendum, backed by 750,000 signatures, could go 
ahead while critics complained that the government was trying impose a 
silence until the emotional impact of the Japan disaster had muted.

Two referendums on water were spearheaded by civil society, which wants 
to undo a 2009 law that requires all city administrations to privatize 
the water system by the end of this year and the application of market 
rules to water pricing. Previously, local municipalities had the choice 
whether to run public services directly, or outsource.

Campaigners warn that the strict deadline will force down the prices of 
the public utilities, and that private owners are more likely to raise 
the prices of delivery of water to homes. They cite instances in Sicily 
where bottled water companies also control tap water - which they turn 
off for hours at a time.

"We need to have an institutional system that is not motivated by profit 
but by sustainability," said University of Turin law professor Ugo 
Mattei who drafted the referendum,

The final referendum is the closest to a direct swipe at Berlusconi, as 
the opposition seeks to strike down completely legislation that allows 
the Italian leader - and other top officials - to claim a legitimate 
impediment to facing trial. Italy's highest court this year weakened the 
law - allowing four cases against Berlusconi to proceed in Milan, but 
the referendum would remove the possibility for high officials to claim 
that official business prevents their appearance in court on a 
hearing-to-hearing basis.

Unlike local elections two weeks ago that dealt a blow to Berlusconi, 
the government is stopping short of calling the vote a referendum on its 
broader performance. That strategy backfired when Berlusconi's 
candidates were voted out in such key tests as Berlusconi's native Milan 
and trash-plagued Naples.

Still, Berlusconi and his ministers are emphasizing that the vote is a 
right, not a duty, and have announced plans to abstain.

"It will be another setback," if the referendums pass, said Roberto 
D'Alimonte, a political scientist at Rome's LUISS University. "But will 
this jeopardize the government? I think not."

Paolo Santalucia contributed from Rome.

          Posted on Fri, Jun. 10, 2011 05:44 AM


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