The prolonged political farce over Bulgaria’s election law continued on May 18 with the ruling majority, having just overturned a presidential veto of amendments on voting abroad, announcing that it would rewrite the amendments anyway.
The saga over changes to Bulgarian election law has been going on for several weeks, involving special sittings, lengthened days and several rounds of negotiations within the parties of the ruling coalition.
One side-effect of these negotiations has been minority party ABC using the drama as a pretext to withdraw its support for the government, citing discontent about being left out of talks on a response to President Plevneliev’s veto of new rules on voting abroad.
Plevneliev cited concerns about the constitutionality of these rules when he announced his veto. The rules, effectively cutting back the number of places polling stations could be opened outside the country, caused widespread indignation on social networks among expatriate Bulgarians.
The nationalist Patriotic Front, a supporter of the Borissov Cabinet in Parliament, had threatened to withdraw its support unless the presidential veto was overturned. It was the Patriotic Front that had tabled the controversial amendments, in a move targeted against the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which has a track record of electoral support in Turkey. The amendments would effectively restrict the number of polling stations that could be opened in that country, as in other non-EU countries.
To meet the demand of the Patriotic Front, on May 18 the ruling parties voted to overrule the veto.
But having done so, it was announced that they would table new changes to the Electoral Code to enable the opening of more polling stations outside Bulgaria.
Tsvetan Tsvetanov, leader of the parliamentary group of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party, told reporters that the new amendments would enable the opening of up to 35 polling stations in each country abroad, whether or not it is in the EU. The minimum number of people required to lodge an application for the opening of a polling station would be reduced from 100 to 60, Tsvetanov said.
“Led by the public interest, we came to this consensus,” Tsvetanov said, speaking after a meeting of the ruling parties held after the vote to reject Plevneliev’s veto.
He said that issue of creating a constituency called “abroad” had not been discussed in the several days of meetings among the parties in power.
Asked whether the rejection of the veto was an act against the President, Tsvetanov replied: “Do not forget that Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic”.