A committee including academics, actors and university students has been set up to organise a petition in support of Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev’s call for a referendum on electoral law issues.
Plevneliev has called for a referendum to be held, simultaneously with Bulgaria’s 2014 European Parliament elections that are expected to be held on May 25, on three questions – the introduction of majoritarian voting in the election of some members of Parliament, compulsory voting and electronic voting.
Among the four parties in the 42nd National Assembly, the Plevneliev proposal has been supported only by centre-right opposition party GERB. The Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and ultra-nationalists Ataka have rejected it, dooming prospects of parliamentary approval.
Supporters of the idea now are taking the route of attempting to force a referendum. If 500 000 valid signatures are collected, holding a referendum will be mandatory, while if 200 000 are collected, it will be up to the National Assembly to decide whether to proceed with such a vote.
A steering committee was formed at a meeting in Sofia on February 5, with Sofia University constitutional law professor Georgi Bliznashki as its head.
Other members include professors Milena Stefanova, Kalin Yanakiev, Alexander Kyossev, associate professor Svetla Bozhilova, Dr Hristo Hristev, Alfred Foskolo, Yulia Berberyan, Sasha Bezuhanova, actors Hristo Mutafchiev, Ivailo Zahariev and Veselin Kalanovski, composer Viktor Stoyanov, Boris Angelova and Alexandrina Ikonomova of the anti-government “Early Rising Students” group.
The steering committee was to be formally registered at the National Assembly on February 6, after which it will have three months to collect signatures.
Bliznashki said that the steering committee had the support of GERB, the Reformist Bloc – a group of extra-parliamentary right-wing and centrist parties – and other smaller parties.
He said that the committee would be calling for support from other political parties and NGOs.
The aim was to show that the Bulgarian people stood behind the call by the President, he said.
On February 3, the Reformist Bloc said that it would set up a nomination committee to gather signatures for a petition in support of the Plevneliev proposal.
Reformist Bloc spokesperson Radan Kanev, who also is the leader of one of the bloc’s constituent parties, the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, said that they were firm about the idea of the referendum so that Bulgaria could have a true democracy.
There was a marked reluctance by the government to allow the people of Bulgaria to have their say, he said.
Kanev said that politicians were deliberately excluded from the committee.
“We believe that politicians should not define the rules by which they apply for jobs. This should be done by their employers.”
Among other minority parties that have voiced support for the idea of the referendum is the “Bulgaria without Censorship” extra-parliamentary party of which former reporter Nikolai Barekov has been named leader, although the party has come up with a menu of 12 questions, including on the taxation system, party subsidies and the number of members of Parliament.