Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections: NGO lists violations

Written by on April 6, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections: NGO lists violations

The non-governmental organisation The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) has listed what it called violations during the parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, on March 26, 2017. The accusations released in a statement mainly have to do with the Turkish minority vote.

After the Central Election Commission (CEC) announced the total turnout at polling stations for Bulgarians in Turkey, which added up to 33,005 voters, the BHC said, this had been a big decline, compared to the elections in October of 2014, when more than 62,000 Bulgarians in Turkey had exercised their right to vote. The decrease was directly connected to the drastic reduction of polling stations in Turkey. This time around, 35 polling stations were opened in the neighbouring country, while in 2014, there were 136.

In Sofia, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee complained that the low number of polling stations in the Turkish town of Bursa, where eight of them were opened only, compared to 37 last time around, caused chaos, long queues and tension among voters. According to the NGO, many people gave up their voting rights as a result.

There is another violation, in the opintion of the BHC: Three days before the election, the CEC introduced an additional restriction on the electoral rights of Bulgarians abroad. All of a sudden, declarations had to be filled out inside the polling stations. The BHC says, that restriction contradicted the electoral code of Bulgaria.

An appeal against sudden new guidelines, handed over to the CEC on March 24, did not reach the Supreme Administrative Court until a day after the election. From the perspective of the BHC, this in itself is a violation.

“The additional requirements introduced by the CEC hampered, to a very wide extent, the voting process in the Republic of Turkey”, the organisation said, “by establishing unacceptable barriers for the voters to be able to exercise their voting rights. Besides slowing down the voting process, the requirement established by the CEC introduced a discriminatory requirement for a literacy qualification, which is not required from any of the Bulgarian citizens who exercise their voting rights on the territory of the country.”

The situation before and during the recent parliamentary elections might be the object of court battles in the months and possibly years to come.

The full BHC statement can be found here.

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Imanuel Marcus, the founder of foreignersandfriends.com, is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe.