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THE LITHUANIAN REFERENDUM ON EXTENDING THE WORKING OF THE IGNALINA NUCLEAR POWER STATION: THE RATIONALITY OF ACTORS WITHIN (UN-)CHANGING STRUCTURES

Liudas Mažylis, Aušrinė Jurgelionytė,
Keywords: Referendum, Lithuania, Ignalina nuclear power station, institutions, campaign, political actors ,

Abstract

This article explores the structural factors and the arguments of the political actors in the Lithuanian referendum of 2008 on extending the working of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Station. By applying a new institutionalism theoretical perspective, this article studies campaign development, its structural framework and the actors‘ arguments. The presupposition has been confirmed that the value normative environment of the referendum was long-term and sustained, without any „paradigmatic shifts” during the referendum debates themselves. With that said, the equilibrium of competing normative attitudes was shifted towards agreeing with an extension of the work as a „minor evil”. Within this structural environment, a range of „second order” features was typical for the referendum
campaign model, additionally reinforced by another parallel (chronologically coinciding) the campaign, that of the elections to the Seimas. Minor shifts in the otherwise overwhelming YES vote could be evoked by formal mechanical nuances, if nothing else. The diverse positions of the political actors involved in the campaign – whether active, critical, reluctant, or floating ones – were supposed to shift their opinion(s) within a stable structural value normative environment, not seeking any reconsideration. This model of referendum campaign development is typical for the Lithuanian direct democracy tradition. Frequently, a referendum serves as a supplementary formal institutional instrument allowing an expansion of the field of political debates and/or the possibility for political actors to place themselves within a stable value normative structure where they may strive for additional mobilization of behalf of their electorate