Caving into a threat from the nationalist Patriotic Front to withdraw its support from Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government unless President Plevneliev’s veto of election law amendments restricting opportunities for Bulgarians to vote abroad was rejected, the ruling majority overturned the veto in Parliament on May 18.
Plevneliev had vetoed the controversial provisions, tabled by the Patriotic Front, some days earlier, expressing doubt about their constitutionality.
The vote in the National Assembly followed days of negotiations among the three parties now remaining as part of the Borissov coalition government deal – his GERB party, the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front. Three hours of heated debate preceded the May 18 vote.
The vote to overturn the veto, in a Parliament that has 240 members, was 135 in favour, 27 against and there were three abstentions. A minimum of 121 votes were required to overturn the presidential veto.
The Patriotic Front amendments, creating differing rules for voting in Bulgarian elections by the country’s citizens in EU and non-EU countries, respectively, were directed against the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which has a track record of garnering substantial numbers of votes in Turkey.
The restrictions on opening polling stations abroad caused protests among Bulgarian expatriates in Western countries, who objected to the new rules creating practical difficulties in them exercising their franchise.
On the morning ahead of the vote, the Patriotic Front reiterated their position, in a document adopted unanimously by the nationalist coalition’s parliamentary group, that they would withdraw their support for the Borissov government unless the veto was rejected.
Borissov’s government lost a coalition partner on May 10 when the minority socialist breakaway party ABC quit the government over what it called a lack of dialogue among the governing coalition partners – the final straw being ABC not having been invited to talks on finding a solution to the impasse over the election law amendments.