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Nuclear plant U-turn hits support for Bulgaria's ruling party

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 15 Feb 2013 09:25 GMT
Author: Reuters
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SOFIA, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Support for Bulgaria's opposition Socialists rose further in February, narrowing the lead of the ruling GERB party following the government's U-turn on the Belene nuclear power project, a Gallup International poll showed on Friday. Backing for the centre-right GERB led by Prime Minister Boiko Borisov was 22.6 percent in February, down from 23.8 percent in January, while support for the Socialists, who led the previous government, jumped to 22.1 percent. Support for the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was 19.7 percent a month ago. Bulgaria will hold parliamentary elections on July 7. GERB suffered a major blow last month when 60.6 percent of the Bulgarians who voted in the country's first referendum since the fall of communism backed building the Belene plant on the Danube river, hoping it would create jobs and cut power bills. Last March, the government abandoned the multi-billion dollar project, saying the Balkan state could not afford the cost estimated to be more than 10 billion euros (${esc.dollar}13.34 billion)after failing to attract Western investors. Delayed reforms, low incomes and lack of decisive steps to uproot widespread cronyism and corruption have hurt GERB's popularity. Bulgaria's unemployment rate hit 11.4 percent its highest since last March. Gallup said its poll, conducted between Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, was completed before the start of recent protests against high electricity bills. On Friday, Bulgarians took to the streets in several cities for a seventh day in a row. Bulgaria's economic stability in recent years has come at the expense of low living standards in the country, where the average monthly pension is ${esc.dollar}176 and the average salary ${esc.dollar}460. Support for the ethnic Turkish MRF party rose fractionally to 7.3 percent in February from 7.0 percent a month earlier. PARTY GALLUP GALLUP NPOC NPOC When poll conducted Feb Jan Dec Nov GERB 22.6 23.8 24.5 24.5 Socialist party (BSP) 22.1 19.7 18.5 19.0 Movement for Rights and 7.3 7.0 6.3 6.4 Freedom (MRF) Bulgaria For The 4.8 4.9 5.8 6.2 Citizens Democrats for a Strong 1.3 1.0 n. a. n. a. Bulgaria (DSB) Union of Democratic 0.9 1.2 n. a. n. a. Forces (UDF) National Front for 0.9 1.2 n. a. n. a. Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) (NPOC is state-owned, Gallup is an independent polling agency) (${esc.dollar}1 = 0.7495 euros) (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov)

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