Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev will on October 12 2012 begin holding talks with political parties on the wording of the question in the forthcoming national referendum on whether to build Belene nuclear power station.
Plevneliev’s first meeting will be with the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which presented a petition with more than 500 000 signatures calling for the referendum.
Plevneliev has said that he will name the date of the referendum as soon as possible after Parliament gives the go-ahead for the vote. The date will be no more than three months after Parliament approves a resolution on holding the referendum.
The referendum will be a test for democracy, Plevneliev said. The head of state, who took office in January 2012 after being elected on the ticket of the centre-right governing party, said that the shaping of the question will show the attitude of the political elite to direct democracy.
The possibility of allowing online voting in the referendum has been mooted – and supported in principle by Plevneliev – but there are doubts whether this will be technically possible.
Opinion polls suggest that a slim majority of Bulgarians are in favour of building Belene, although there has been a steady decline in support over the years for the project. Throughout Europe, most polls suggested a downturn in public enthusiasm for nuclear power afterJapan’sFukushimanuclear disaster.
Plevneliev has called for a serious debate ahead of the Belene nuclear power station referendum so that Bulgarian voters will be able to make an informed choice.
Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov, speaking at a Cabinet meeting on October 10, said that estimates were that the referendum would cost between 20 million and 30 million leva (about 10 million to 15 million euro). This sum is not included in next year’s Budget because ruling party GERB has said that the referendum should be funded out of the state subsidies paid to parties represented in Parliament.
An overarching question hanging over the referendum is whether voter turnout will be sufficient to render the poll valid. Some opinion surveys recently have suggested that turnout in the referendum will be insufficient for validity.