Referendum on changes to water act to be held on 11 July

Ljubljana – Slovenians will head to the polls on 11 July to vote on amendments to the water act that have pitted environmentalists, who say the legislation paves the way for the build-up of coastal land, against the government, which says their claims are misguided.

The referendum was supposed to be held on 4 July, but it was pushed forward by a week after it was determined that recent electoral law changes had inadvertently left out a few settlements with roughly 800 inhabitants.

The delay, the coalition argued, is needed so that electoral law can be fixed in time. The opposition countered that this was merely a manoeuvre designed to push the date deeper into the summer season.

“If the [coalition] cannot ban the referendum, at least it will adjust the date so that turnout is minimised, because we know that a quorum is required to vote down a law,” LMŠ deputy Tina Heferle said.

The vote will be held after an alliance of green and leftist NGOs gathered well over the 40,000 signatures required to call a referendum.

The NGOs have focused on amendments concerning the development of coastal areas that they say would be a boon to private investors and could jeopardise not just surface waters but also groundwater in the long term.

The government has dismissed the allegations as fabricated, with Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak reiterating today that the legislation would achieve the exact opposite of what the environmentalists claim.

He said it brought more money for maintenance of waterways and narrowed the scope for construction in coastal areas.

Left MP Nataša Sukič wondered whether this means all environmentalists in the country were ignorant and unable to understand the legislative provision.

A law is rejected in a referendum if the majority vote against and the no votes represent at least a fifth of all eligible voters.

The last referendum, held in 2017 and concerning the construction of the Divača-Koper rail track, was unsuccessful.