SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Unofficial results show that more than 60 percent of Bulgarians voted Sunday in favor of building a new nuclear power plant, but the voter turnout was far below the threshold needed to make the referendum binding.
The issue, which has been seen as a barometer of the relationship between the European Union's poorest member and Russia, appears likely to head to parliament, where the center-right ruling party plans to block the project.
The pro-Western government last March canceled a deal with Russia's Atomstroyexport for a 2,000-megawatt nuclear plant at the northern town of Belene, arguing that estimated costs of up to €10 billion ($13 billion) were too high.
The vote was called by the opposition Socialist party in an effort to force the government to reverse its decision. It was Bulgaria's first referendum since the fall of communism in 1989.
An unofficial vote count by the Alfa Research Agency showed that 21.8 percent of the 6.9 million eligible voters cast a ballot in the referendum, and 61 percent supported having a new nuclear plant. Official results were expected later this week.