Säntjana, SA: In a dramatic week for the Karolian government, a preliminary bill approving the construction of a new nuclear power plant near Vasireii has been passed in the Riikskogu, sparking rumours of a crisis in the ruling coalition.
The controversial proposal passed with a very narrow margin: twelve votes in the Assembly of Members and just five votes in the Electors’ Assembly. Karolia has embarked on a program of moving towards energy self-sufficiency, but the ruling coalition has up to now proposed renewable sources of power and commenced the construction of offshore wind farms. The proposed new plant would generate enough power to fulfill the energy needs of the country’s second most populous state, around 1,5 million people, for 30 years.
The levels of rebellion in parliament have been widely viewed as damaging to the unity of the current administration under Labour Party Chancellor Taani Sapaarv, who hold only a narrow majority. The Karolian Green Party, part of the government coalition, were the main opposition to the proposal and managed to attract cross-party support to their position. A pledge to continue with construction of offshore wind and tidal plants and electrification of railway lines was not enough to sway their position. However, many in the centre-conservative opposition block did vote in favour of the plant, with the backing of the business community.
Critics say that the government has been influenced by the nuclear lobby and that the short-term benefits of nuclear power are outweighed by the problems of waste, safety and the lifespan of the plants. However, the government has pointed to arguments of those in favour, namely the impact of wind farms on the landscape, the level of power and efficiency of nuclear reactors and the 100% safety record of Karolian nuclear plants. They also predict that the plants will have cheaper construction costs than renewable options at a time of fiscal scrutiny in the country.
The passing of the bill does not make it certain that the new power station will be constructed as there are subsequent bills and legal proceeding that make take several years to clear. However, the immediate political impact will be worrying for the Sapaarv administration. The entire representation of two government parties and a significant proportion of the remainder voted against the Chancellor. The independent House of Electors approved the bill only after intense lobbying and concessions in the preceding weeks.
It remains to be seen if Sapaarv can restore unity to the coalition. If the Green Party were to pull out of the coalition the government would be unable to retain a majority and would almost certainly need to negotiate with the Liberal Party to have any hope of staying in power. Many commentators think the situation would inevitably result in a general election, with an unpredictable outcome, claiming that Opposition leader Jens Naeväst would find it equally difficult to secure a majority as things stand.
Karolians know they will go to the polls less than a year from today to choose the next government. However today’s events have fuelled speculation that the government is close to collapse and the election may be mere weeks away.