BBC NEWS | Europe | Italian fertility vote collapses
I fear that this might be a little disjointed considering that I had a marathon debate session from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. first at HC then at SMU.
Anyway, it seems that the referendum could not hit the magic 50% of electoral turnout for the referendum to be deemed valid. Seems like it was due to a mixture of voter apathy and Church led boycott.
Real pity, especially since I've been reading a series of articles on stem-cell research and cloning (both reproductive and research) and I'm more so than ever persuaded that the benefits do outweigh the risks (including the moral and philosophical points on the dignity of life). If I were to be snide though, I can't help but be 'thankful' for all these nations that are so against this issue that it allows for a brain drain of their top scientist and researchers to our shores, thereby benefiting us.
The sad part about it is that, if and when concrete medical advances are made with regards to stem-cell theraputic cures, nations like the US (and various EU nations that have declared that no embryos are to be used for research purposes) will not be able to reap the benefit of those cures because of their opposition to them and in particular legislation that prohibit import of material that are the results of such use of embryos. While I don't think those self same legislatures will make criminals of their citizens for attempted to get those cures (though one never knows), it would again cause them to essentially export these people to neighbouring countries who would allow such advances to be used.
Science and the 'Culture of Life' aside, I think the unfortunate political aspect of this has been the manner in which apathy and a deliberate rejection of a citizen's duty of voting has jepodised the health and life of infertile couples, condemning them to methods that are only 55% as effective (since only three eggs can be extracted to be fertilised and all must be implement i.e. none can be stored in the event of failure) and forcing them into either running for help in another country or to face repeated invasive and painful extractions.
Referendums are good in so far as they can represent the direct wishes of the people. This is bacause, the alternative to this would be for a party to actually campaign on such an issue (and assuming that they keep that promise). The difficulty with this approach is that no election boils down to a single issue really and very often when one votes for a party, one is doing so on a package of issues, not all of which you might actually agree on, but an insufficient number of which you disagree on of insufficient importance such that you would not actually switch alliegance. An example would be that while I disagree with the ruling parties approach to politics and in particular the manner in which the electoral system is governed and manipulated, the fact that the opposition cannot form a viable government or even if it did could not be trusted with the goverance of the nation makes it less likely for me to vote for them and to vote PAP instead. And of course, the fact that I generally agree with all the other policies of the PAP. If I were a US citizen, I would still probably vote for Kerry despite his opposition to outsourcing (and free trade) on the basis that Bush was worse in other areas I care more about (and this would be despite my support for the Iraq war).
So anyway all that whole convulated example goes to show is that single issues are not likely to be electoral issues or at least sufficient to be a electoral issue that the election hinges on (unlike say Clinton's "It's the economy, Stupid" attack on Bush Sr). As a result, elections may not be valid indicators of the level of support for various measures that the winning candidate and party trumpets.
At the same time, I think it's safe to also say that referendums ought to be used judiciously. Switzerland's notion of participatory democracy and constant referendums have lead to a situation of fatique and 'rational ignorance' whereby people cannot be bothered to vote (apathy) or vote on gut instinct or lowest common demoninator (and not actively read up on the issue for example).
But on this particular referendum, I'm not entirely certain the question ought to have been asked so starkly. The question basically revolved asking whether Italy's laws on assisted pregnancies ought to be amended (implied more liberally of course). But it might be conceivable that someone who does feel so nevertheless feels that there might be limits that need to be placed such that embryos that are not used should not be used for research purposes (um...admittedly this scenario is far fetched because Italy has foresworn off embryo creation for research). So to be fair to all parties involved in this issue, the best method might be to remove the voter turnout requirement but to add another one or two options to the voting slip i.e. to demonstrate that they are undecided or that the bill should be sent back to either tighten or loosen the requirements of Italy's laws on assisted pregnancies. That way, it would more fully represent the views of the people and ensure a better decision rather than the stark options offered to them now of either Yes or No.