Italy: Berlusconi loses court challenge to nuclear power referendum
last update: June 07, 16:16
Rome, 7 June (AKI) - A top Italian court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by the government against the 12-13 June referendum to which will allow voters to veto the building of nuclear power plants.
The constitutional court, known as the Consulta, unanimously voted to let the referendum go ahead, in a decision welcomed by environmental groups.
Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's government has pledged to reintroduce nuclear power production in Italy after voters in a 1987 referendum chose to close down existing atomic power plants in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster.
But following this year's accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Berlusconi shelved his initiative for new plants, saying the current environment was too emotional and pledging to return to the issue in the future. The government contends the referendum is unnecessary since its plan for new plants has been put to the side - albeit temporarily.
Critics say the government is trying to avert a possible fresh defeat following the centre-right candidates' surprise trouncing in May's local elections in Milan and Naples, Italy's second and third largest cities. Some Berlusconi opponents say the prime minister wants to keep voters away from the polls for fear that they may also vote in favour of overturning a law that allows ministers to stay away from court rooms because of scheduling conflicts.
Berlusconi is involved in four trials, including one for suspicion paying a minor for sex. He denies wrongdoing in all cases.
Italian referendums need turnout of at least 50 percent plus one vote to be declared valid.
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