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Referendum in Bulgaria on the future of nuclear energy

Referendum in Bulgaria on the future of nuclear energy

28-01-2013

Low threshold necessary for effective and valid results - At yesterday’s referendum on the future of nuclear energy, 61 % of Bulgarian voters opted in favour of further developing nuclear energy in the country. However, only every fifth eligible Bulgarian participated in the referendum. With this voter turnout the citizen-initiated referendum is invalid as the required threshold of 60% was not reached – according to Bulgarian referendum law at least as many citizens have to participate in the referendum as in the previous national election.

“The high threshold really killed this referendum that was initiated on a substantial issue with more than 500 000 signatures. If you have such a high threshold it is always easy for one side of the campaigners to call for boycotting the referendum and this actually had happened. That is why the result of 61% pro nuclear energy is not representative. Clearly there needs to be a low threshold in Bulgaria to have representative and effective results”, demands Daniela Bozhinova, Deputy Chairwoman of Democracy International from Bulgaria. 

Dr. Volker Mittendorf, who forms part of Democracy International’s mission of international observers who monitored yesterday’s referendum, states: “Besides Lithuania, Hungary and Slovakia, Bulgaria is among the few EU countries in which citizens can petition a binding referendum on a theme they deem important. Many countries in the EU such as Germany and Austria do not have these binding, citizen-initiated referenda at national level. However, with yesterday’s invalid referendum the question on nuclear energy is still on the table, it has not led to a political decision. That is why the threshold should be much lower in Bulgaria indeed” concludes political scientist Dr. Volker Mittendorf, who directs the branch of direct democracy at the German university of Wuppertal.

Democracy International, the global coalition for direct democracy in Europe and the world, had deployed five observers to Bulgaria to monitor the referendum according to the Code of Good Practice by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. The mission had visited 25 polling stations in Bulgaria’s capital, nearby towns and villages. 

Overall, the observers did not find any substantial irregularities on the way the voting was conducted. Yet they raise concerns about the restrictive requirements concerning the minimal level of voter participation, the lack of clarity of the question and the manner in which the question was altered following collection of signatures. 

The observers can be reached directly in Bulgaria today for further statements and the evaluation of the referendum. 

Contact in Bulgaria: 
Daniela Bozhinova, Tel: +359 899 145 652 (GSM) (English speaking)
Dr. Volker Mittendorf, Tel. +49 175 416 97 18 (GSM) (German and English speaking)

Press contact: Cora Pfafferott, Tel: +49 2203 102 1475

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