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Slovenian rail project likely to go ahead after low referendum turnout

Sun 13th May, 2018 9:00pm
* Turnout below 15 percent
    * National election due in 3 weeks

    By Marja Novak
    LJUBLJANA, May 13 (Reuters) - One of Slovenia's biggest
investment projects, a rail line to the country's main port on
the Adriatic, will go ahead after low voter turnout in a
referendum on Sunday on the railway.
    The referendum on the 1-billion-euro ($1.20 billion) railway
line to the Adriatic port Luka Koper  LKPG.LJ  was requested by
a civil society group Taxpayers Don't Give Up, which claimed
that the line, as designed by the government, was too expensive.
    At least 20 percent of some 1.7 million eligible voters
would have to vote against the project in the referendum to
block it. Less than 15 percent of voters cast their votes, but
of those that voted 50.1 percent were against the project,
according to a preliminary result of the State Election
Commission.
    "The low turnout shows that the voters did not want this
referendum ... I expect this is the last step towards enforcing
the law (on the railway project)," Infrastructure Minister Peter
Gaspersic told the national TV channel TV Slovenia after
preliminary result was released.
    An earlier referendum in September had turnout of 20.6
percent with 53.5 percent of voters backing the project.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N1M5006
    But Slovenia's Supreme Court in March annulled the September
referendum result and ordered another vote.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N1QW5Z2
    The project has already secured 44.3 million euros of
European funding while neighbouring Hungary has said it was
ready to invest some 200 million euros in the line as it relies
on Koper for much of its seaborne freight.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL5N1HE38Y
    The Supreme Court's decision prompted Prime Minister Miro
Cerar to resign, leading to and early election that will be held
on June 3.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N1QW7T8
    Analysts said that turnout in Sunday's referendum was too
low to give an indication of how the vote in parliamentary
election could go.
    "I see no direct effect on the election results as the
turnout is very low. It is still impossible to predict who will
win the election," Peter Jancic, a political analyst and the
editor of a political website Spletni Casopis, told Reuters.
    Latest polls showed that the main opposition party, the
centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party, which has also
criticised the government's railway project as too expensive,
was ahead of the centre-left List of Marjan Sarec, which has not
run in parliamentary elections before.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N1SE1ZJ
     

($1 = 0.8367 euros)

 (Reporting By Marja Novak. Editing by Jane Merriman)
 ((Marja.Novak@thomsonreuters.com; +386-1-5058805, Reuters
Messaging: marja.novak.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))
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