After a controversy-wracked election campaign and an eve-of-election drama about alleged printing of illegal ballots, Bulgarians at home and abroad headed to vote on May 12 2013 in the country’s national parliamentary elections.
Polling stations opened at 7am and were scheduled to close at 8pm, although the rules allow voting to continue to 9pm to deal with queues. Counting in voting in foreign countries, where polls open the same hours local times, Bulgaria’s parliamentary election will end when polling stations on the west coast of the United State close at 6am Bulgarian time on May 13.
The Foreign Ministry said on May 12 that voting in all foreign countries where balloting was being held was proceeding smoothly and in accordance with the law. The first Bulgarians to cast their ballots were those in the Australian capital city Canberra, where polls opened at midnight Bulgarian time.
By noon on May 12, a number of alleged cases of vote-buying in Bulgaria had been reported. There were 17 cases of pre-trial proceedings in connection with alleged election irregularities, prosecutors said mid-morning on election day.
Bulgarian media headlines were dominated on May 11 – legally, the “day of contemplation” on which no electoral activity is allowed – by an operation the previous night by the State Agency for National Security and prosecutors in which a printing house was raided.
The Multiprint firm’s building was found to contain 350 000 ballot papers. The firm said that it had been acting in terms of a contract with the Council of Ministers and the ballot papers had printing faults and so were being retained.
Armed police guarded the printing house and the Central Election Commission said that the ballot papers would not enter the election process and would have no effect on it.
In a May 11 statement, the Council of Ministers press office said that all contractual relations with the printer had been completed on May 8 and there was no legal requirement to maintain post-factum control over the printing house. Further comment would be withheld pending the completion of the elections, the statement said.
On May 12, Marin Raykov, Prime Minister in the caretaker cabinet – who has repeatedly issued assurances that the main goal of the caretaker administration is that elections be conducted freely and fairly – said that the government would not allow the vote to be discredited.
Initial reports on voter turnout on election said that it was strongest in the capital city Sofia and in the Black Sea coastal city of Varna. Voter turnout in Bulgaria was said to have reached 12.7 per cent by 10.30am. Abroad, voter turnout was notably strong in Bulgaria’s neighbour Turkey.