Italy referendum on offshore drilling fails due to low turnout

A referendum in Italy on limiting offshore drilling rights for oil and gas failed Sunday as the necessary 50-per-cent turnout threshold for its validation was not reached, preliminary results showed.

The outcome was a political victory for the government, which urged voters to abstain, and a blow to referendum backers, including environmental association and nearly all opposition parties, from right and left.

Voting took place from 7 am to 11 pm (0500-2100 GMT), but according to partial data from more than 5,000 out 8,000 polling booths, turnout stood at just over 31.2 per cent, the Interior Ministry said on its website.

In Italy, referendums can be held to scrap pieces of legislation, but their outcome is valid only if more than 50 per cent of eligible voters take part.

The vote was on whether energy companies should be able to keep extracting oil and gas from more than 40 platforms within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of the coast until reserves run out, or stop once current licences expire over the 2018-34 period.

Backers of the referendum had argued that limiting fossil fuel extraction would have been a good idea because it poses an environmental hazard and covers only a tiny fraction of national energy needs.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had urged voters to boycott the poll and abstain, arguing that curbing drilling rights would threaten 11,000 energy industry jobs and increase Italy's dependency on energy imports from Arab countries and Russia.

Politically, the vote was seen as a trial run for another referendum due in mid-October, which will see Renzi square off against the same opposition parties over major constitutional reforms he has recently pushed through parliament.

Last update: Mon, 18/04/2016 - 00:22
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