INTERNATIONAL

Italy fertility referendum "invalid"

ROME: Efforts to loosen Italy's assisted-fertility laws in a referendum failed on Monday as low voter turnout invalidated the balloting — a result that marked a victory for the Vatican's boycott campaign. Turnout must be more than 50 per cent of the electorate for the vote in a referendum to be valid. In two days of balloting, only about 26 per cent of voters had cast ballots, according to nearly complete returns released by the Interior Ministry. ``Certainly the referendum was lost at a level that I would not have expected,'' said Emma Bonino, a former E.U. commissioner and one of the main proponents of the referendum. ``Today we have three victims: the secularism of the state, political authority and the institution of the referendum,'' she told reporters in Rome. The vote was seen as a test of the church's influence in a country that is overwhelmingly Catholic but has strayed from church doctrine, notably by approving divorce and abortion in referendums decades ago.

— AP

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