With 12 days to go before Bulgaria’s November 6 presidential elections, the country’s Parliament approved on October 26 the second reading of amendments to the Electoral Code on the number of polling stations abroad and on how to count votes for “I don’t support anyone”.
The amendments remove the previous limit on the number of polling stations that may be opened in another European Union member state, but keep the limit in place for non-EU countries, of no more than 35 in such a country.
This means that in Turkey and the United States, there will be 35 polling stations each.
The opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the third-largest party in Bulgaria’s National Assembly, wants to gather signatures from MPs to petition the Constitutional Court to reject the differentiation between EU and non-EU countries as effective discrimination between Bulgarian citizens meant to have equal rights.
The amendments were rejected by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and by minority socialist breakaway ABC.
Philip Popov of the BSP said that the amendments “speak of a government drive to create chaos in the coming elections and naturally, manipulation of the result, we can in no way support these proposals”.
ABC MP Mariana Todorova said that dividing foreign countries into EU and non-EU was unconstitutional. Her party was convinced that the Constitutional Court would reject the amendment.
Radan Kanev of the centre-right coalition Reformist Bloc said that setting different rules for polling stations within the EU and outside the EU was constitutionally permissible: “But I think that it is politically extremely reasonable”.
He noted that the Electoral Code was being amended after the deadlines related to opening polling stations in foreign countries had already passed.
On the “I don’t support anyone” option on the ballot paper, Parliament voted that this would count towards results in majoritarian elections such as those for President and mayors, but would not count in elections for the National Assembly, European Parliament and municipal councils.