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Lithuanians opt anti nuclear energy in non-binding referendum

Lithuanians opt anti nuclear energy in non-binding referendum

15-10-2012

On Sunday, 14 October Lithuanian voters rejected by referendum to build a new nuclear power plant, the Visaginas plant. With a (preliminary) voter turnout of 52 %, the referendum just reached the necessary threshold of 50% in order to be valid. The referendum was non-binding, which in legal terms gives the Lithuanian parliament one month time to discuss whether to accept the vote by the people.

The electorate was asked to decide about the statement: “I support the construction of a new nuclear power plant in the Republic of Lithuania." The referendum was held on the same day as the parliamentary elections to the Seimas, Lithuania’s parliament. 

Preliminary results show that 63% voted against, while 34% voted in favour of the construction of Visaginas. The new power plant was supposed to be built by a US-Japanese joint venture, at the site of the closed Ignalina plant in the East of Lithuania, bordering Belarus and Latvia. Ignalia was shut-down on 31 December 2009 in accordance with Lithuania's accession agreement to join the EU.

The vote on Visaginas was Lithuania’s 11th referendum since independence from Soviet rule in 1990.  Lithuania’s legislation foresees mandatory referenda – when constitutional amendments are concerned - and consultative, non-binding referenda. In the latter case citizens can initiate a referendum with 300,000 signatures that must be presented within three months to the Lithuanian Parliament. In the referendum a half of all registered voters need to participate, and a half of those participating must vote in favor for the resolution to be adopted. 

The Lithuanian Parliament – which will be newly constituted following yesterday's victory of the opposition parties – will have one month to deliberate the result and to decide whether to follow the will of the people. 

Following Lithuania’s vote, Bulgaria is the second EU Member State set to vote on the construction of a nuclear power plant in a short period of time. The referendum in Bulgaria is due to take place within the next three months. 

Further information: 
- on Lithuania’s provisions of direct democracy in the Navigator to Direct Democracy, direct-democracy-navigator.org/legal_designs/293
- The Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania http://www.vrk.lt/en 
- on the Visaginas nuclar power plant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visaginas_Nuclear_Power_Plant

Text by Cora Pfafferott

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