Italy’s Berlusconi Accepts Referendum Defeat

Posted June 13th, 2011 at 2:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has acknowledged defeat in opposition-backed referendums aimed at blocking the revival of nuclear energy and abolishing a law exempting government ministers from attending trials against them.

Mr. Berlusconi said Monday the government will accept the clear result of the vote on the four referendums. The other two involved plans to privatize Italy's water utilities.

The prime minister made the statement after partial results showed 57 percent voter turnout — safely above the 50 percent needed to validate the vote.

Final results are due later Monday.

Even before the polls closed, Mr. Berlusconi conceded that Italy “probably” will have to give up plans to return to nuclear energy and commit itself to renewable energy.

Mr. Berlusconi's government proposed last year to restart nuclear power plants, but then put the plan on hold following the nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant in March. Italy's nuclear plants were shut down in 1987 after a similar referendum.

The prime minister's government already is reeling from heavy losses in local elections last month. The Italian leader also is a defendant in several ongoing trials for fraud as well as for allegedly having sex with a 17-year-old prostitute.