Voter turnout in Bulgaria’s January 27 2013 referendum has scraped past the 20 per cent threshold for the question in the poll to be referred to Parliament for discussion, going by figures released by the Central Election Commission on January 29 which put turnout at 20.22 per cent.
The referendum, on whether to develop Bulgaria’s nuclear capacity by building a new nuclear power station – in effect, in all but name a vote on whether to proceed with the Belene project – saw voter turnout fall vastly short of the 60 per cent turnout required for the answer to be definitive, and since polls closed it has been unclear whether the 20 per cent threshold had been reached for the issue to be given the lease of life of being put to the National Assembly.
The Central Election Commission said on January 29 that 1 405 463 people had voted. This, according to the commission, was a 20.22 per cent turnout. (An unofficial calculation puts .22 per cent of a stated total theoretical voter turnout of 6 950 900 eligible voters at 15 291.98 people, meaning that if they, including that point-ninety-eighth of a voter had stayed at home, plus a few more to keep the percentage lower than 20, the referendum process might have gone no further).
According to the commission, 851 757 people (60.6 per cent) voted yes, meaning that 553 706 people (39.39 per cent) voted no.
The count of turnout took into accounting voting in Bulgaria and at those diplomatic missions abroad where polling stations were opened after formal requests meeting the required criteria were made.
After polls closed, one polling agency said that the 20 per cent threshold had been exceeded while another said that it had not, although the latter subsequently revised its figures to say that more than 20 per cent of the estimated 6.9 million eligible voters had voted.
Rival parties have sought to put their respective interpretations on the vote. The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, which campaigned for a yes vote – against the background of the party’s long-standing support for the Russian-linked Belene project – sought to portray it as failure for ruling party GERB and a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov. GERB and Borissov, in turn, have decried the referendum as a hugely costly exercise which failed to produce a victory for the socialists.
The fate of the referendum question will be decided in the National Assembly, whenever it is tabled.
In Parliament, ruling party GERB has 117 out of 240 seats. Also in the anti-Belene./no vote/boycott the whole thing camp is the Blue Coalition, with 14 votes. The yes-camp Bulgarian Socialist Party has 40 MPs, Ataka has 10 and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which has been somewhat incoherent on the topic but frequently sides with the socialists, has 35 MPs. There are 24 independents but this includes a handful of MPs from a minority party that boycotted and the rest are former Ataka MPs.