Low turnout blocks Bulgarian nuke plant

Low turnout blocks Bulgarian nuke plant

SOFIA - Reuters
Low turnout blocks Bulgarian nuke plant

More than 60 percent of Bulgarians voted in favor of building a new nuclear plant, but the turnout is below the required level to make the vote binding. AFP photo

Bulgarians backed the building of a nuclear power plant in a referendum on Jan. 27, a blow to Prime Minister Boiko Borisov who had abandoned the multi-billion-dollar project, but turnout was not enough to overturn the government’s decision.

Roughly 60 percent voted for a 2,000-megawatt plant at Belene on the Danube River, while 40 percent opposed it.

Exit polls put the turnout between 20.2 and 21.8 percent, well below the required 60 percent to make the vote binding. But under the voting rules, if more than 20 percent of eligible voters took part and more than half of them voted in favor, the issue will be sent to Parliament, where Borisov’s GERB party has a working majority, for a final decision.

Borisov said that if the turnout is enough for Belene to go before Parliament, GERB will reject the project again. Borisov, struggling to revive the economy, cancelled the construction of Belene in March saying the country could not afford estimated costs of more than 10 billion euros, and after failing to attract Western investors.

Speaking to reporters after casting a ballot, Borisov played down the link between support for the plant and the July elections, stressing that the low turnout showed Bulgarians were not interested in the issue.