Bulgarian PM Change of Mind Stirs Havoc in Referendum Campaigning
The site of Bulgaria's frozen second NPP at Belene. Photo by BGNES
The Members of the Parliament from the ruling GERB party are initiators of the informational campaign for the referendum on the future of nuclear energy in Bulgaria and cannot be eliminated from this campaign.
This is the official opinion of the country's Central Electoral Commission, CEK, sent after the initiative committee of the left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, requested for MPs from GERB to be eliminated and sanctioned over changing their position from "yes" to "no" in the last minute.
CEK has debated the request at a sitting late Friday evening and has decided that the 76 MPs have the right to stay because of their initiators statute.
Legal experts of BSP, however, counter that CEK has registered the GERB MPs as an initiative committee backing the "yes" position and now must take them out since currently they are proponents of the "no" one.
Participants in the referendum information campaign matter for the State-owned Bulgarian National Television and Radio, BNT and BNR, and time shares in the debates.
The ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, representatives, however, missed the first such debate and declared they would not take part in any paid campaigning for the referendum.
On January 27, 2013, Bulgarians will have to answer in the referendum the following question: "Should nuclear energy be developed in Bulgaria through the construction of new nuclear power units?"
Initially, senior GERB officials said the party position would be a "yes" answer, but last weekend, Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, declared that GERB party supporters will be instructed to vote "no."
In what seems to be a U-turn, on Wednesday, during the first session of the Parliament, the Chairman of the GERB parliamentary group, Krasimir Velchev, stressed his party is working for preserving the units at the existing "Kozloduy" NPP and for installing a new 7th reactor there.
Despite the official declarations, MPs and GERB officials are said to be in dismay after Borisov's latest change of mind precisely because the 76 MPs are indeed registered as initiators of a position "yes" for the referendum.
The specific cause for the convocation of a referendum was the unclear fate of frozen Belene NPP project.
The referendum was sponsored by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which gathered a petition of more than the 0.5 million legally needed signatures.
In his latest statement, Borisov made it clear that GERB supports nuclear energy in principle, but opposes the Belene NPP. The Bulgarian PM added that the government and GERB are also in favor of the extension of the exploitation lives of currently functioning units 5 and 6 of Kozloduy NPP.
Initially, two entities were to attempt to convince voters to back the development of nuclear energy through building new nuclear units. One of them is an initiative committee formed by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, while the other consisted of the 76 lawmakers from the ruling centrist-right GERB.
Two initiative committees formed by two right-wing formations – the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria and the United People's Party – will try to persuade people to vote against.
Originally, Belene NPP had to be built by Russian state company Atomstroyexport, but the Bulgarian cabinet froze the project in the early spring of 2012 due to perceived lack of economic effectiveness.
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