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Slovenian voters reject waters act in referendum

Ljubljana, 11 July - Slovenian voters have overwhelmingly rejected the new waters act in a referendum on Sunday. More than 86% voted against, show near-final unofficial results. The statutory requirement that at least 20% of all voters must be against for a law to be rejected has been satisfied as well.

Ljubljana
A number of NGOs that initiated the referendum on the new waters act under the umbrella Movement for Drinking Water await the final voting results, already celebrating an overwhelming victory.
Photo: Anže Malovrh / STA

Ljubljana
A number of NGOs that initiated the referendum on the new waters act under the umbrella Movement for Drinking Water await the final voting results with Nika Kovač of the Institute 8 March giving an early comment.
Photo: Anže Malovrh / STA

Ljubljana
A number of NGOs that initiated the referendum on the new waters act under the umbrella Movement for Drinking Water await the final voting results, already celebrating an overwhelming victory.
Photo: Bor Slana/STA

Maribor
Referendum on the new waters act.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

After 97% of the votes have been counted, the tally shows 86.5% voting against and 13.5% in favour of the law.

Turnout exceeded 45%, according to preliminary data by the National Electoral Commission, the highest in a referendum since 2007.

The law was overwhelmingly rejected in all 88 electoral districts, with the share of the no-vote ranging from 75% to more than 90%.

The referendum was initiated by a grassroots movement of mostly NGOs who oppose provisions that they say would lead to greater development of coastal, lakeside and riverside areas.

The no-vote is a sign that people have had it with obstruction of democratic rights and indicates their disagreement with current policies, Nika Kovač of the Institute 8 March said in an early comment.

"There are claims that the votes were emotional. And I say yes, they definitely were. But they were based on a clear opinion of experts and the work of environmental organisations that the authorities constantly ignored," she said.

The government claimed the opposite, arguing that the new provision would in fact protect these areas from over-development.

Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak said the referendum had been stolen and misused to achieve other goals, including political targets.

"People have reacted emotionally ... voters were encouraged by some pamphlets that have nothing to do with the legislation's purpose," Vizjak told public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.

Some pundits were quick to interpret the result as a painful defeat for the government and suggested it should step down, but Prime Minister Janez Janša dismissed such a view.

"Do you know any left government that resigned after a lost referendum? ... No drama. But you cannot sit at home and expect miracles at polling stations with these [mainstream] media. So thanks to everyone who voted. Whichever way. This is how it's done," he wrote on Twitter.

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© STA, 2021