Bulgarians seen challenging govt in nuclear plant vote
LAST UPDATED: 01/27/2013 10:51
SOFIA - Bulgarians are expected to vote in favor of building a new nuclear power plant in their first referendum in the post-communist era on Sunday, challenging the government's decision to abandon the multi-billion-dollar project.
The plebiscite will be seen as a test of public support for the policies of rightist Prime Minister Boiko Borisov ahead of July elections, even though voting rules mean the result of the nuclear referendum is unlikely to be binding.
Borisov, already struggling to revive a lacklustre economy, cancelled the construction of the 2,000-megawatt plant at Belene in March saying the Balkan country could not afford to foot the bill, estimated at more than 10 billion euros ($13.5 billion).
Bulgaria's allies in Brussels and Washington also opposed the project, fearing it would deepen the country's economic and political dependence on Russia - Moscow had offered to finance the plant which would have been built by its Atomstroyexport.
But opinion polls suggest two thirds of people who say they are going to vote will choose to press on with the plant, many of them hoping it will rein in electricity prices, create jobs and help make the country an energy hub for southeast Europe.
"Bulgaria needs a new nuclear power plant. I do not want my kids to pay high electricity bills and that's what will happen if we give up the construction of the Belene plant," engineer Georgi Avramov, 49, told Reuters ahead of the vote.