Citizens of Bulgaria resident outside the European Union will not be allowed to vote in European Parliament elections, members of the National Assembly decided on February 13 in a second-reading vote on the election code.
Bulgarian nationals will be not be included in voters’ rolls for European Parliament elections if they are living outside the EU at the date that voters’ rolls are prepared.
Similarly, Bulgarian citizens living outside the country in the six months before municipal and mayoral elections will not be allowed to vote in those elections.
Yanko Yankov, an MP for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), said that these provisions would affect many Bulgarian citizens living in Turkey.
The MRF is led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity and Bulgarian passport-holders living in Turkey have been a traditional solid electoral base for the party.
Yankov said that the measure meant that a significant group of Bulgarian citizens were being deprived of the right to vote in places where they had permanent resident addresses, housing and paid taxes.
Earlier, the 42nd National Assembly rejected an amendment proposed by ultra-nationalists Ataka that would have barred Bulgarian citizens from voting if they had dual citizenship.
This measure also would have been a significant blow to the MRF because many Bulgarians living in Turkey also hold Turkish citizenship.
Voting on the second reading of the election code was continuing for a second day on February 13, amid continuing controversy about its provisions.
Already, on February 12, the parties of the ruling axis rejected amendments that would have provided for a majoritarian element in the election of members of the National Assembly, and also rejected compulsory voting and electronic voting.
These parties earlier rejected, in public statements, a proposal by President Rossen Plevneliev for a referendum on these last three issues to be held simultaneously with Bulgaria’s May 2104 European Parliament elections.
This rejection has led to criticism that the parties in power are ignoring the public demands of the past year for a breaking of the monopoly of large established parties in Bulgarian politics, and also appear to be opposed to any mechanism that would increase voter turnout and thus also threaten their hegemony.
Meanwhile, controversy continued on February 13 about a clause in the election code’s transitional provisions sent, along with the rest of the code, to the Venice Commission towards the end of 2013.
This clause apparently made provision for holding national parliamentary and presidential elections simultaneously with the May 2014 European Parliament elections.
Elections for head of state are not due until 2016. In a strongly-worded statement on February 12, President Plevneliev expressed outrage at the clause, seeing it as manoeuvring behind the scenes by unidentified forces who were trying to involve the Venice Commission in legitimising the holding of presidential elections in 2014.
The parties of the ruling axis – the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the MRF and Ataka – do not have sufficient numbers in the National Assembly to impeach Plevneliev, however much they despise him (they also lack legal grounds to seek an impeachment, but that is by the by).
GERB, the centre-right ruling party on whose ticket Plevneliev was elected head of state at the end of 2011, also expressed outrage about the controversial clause mentioning “three-in-one” elections.
Senior GERB MP Tsetska Tsacheva said that the clause was enough reason to suspect that “certain circles” wanted to attempt a coup d’état.
Bulgarian National Radio reported that the clause had now been edited to specify that presidential elections would be in 2016.
Maya Manolova, the socialist MP who has been driving the high-speed and turbulence-ridden process of rushing out a new elections law, said that GERB was seized by “severe paranoia”.
According to Manolova, the intention in the reference to the presidential elections had been to clarify that parliamentary, European Parliament, municipal and presidential elections all were to be held in line with the same legislation and rules.
A reason to clarify this was that in the previous parliamentary election, there were 31 constituencies, while for the 2014 European Parliament elections, there were 32 constituencies. The clause had been intended to avoid confusion,she said.
Later, after the point about the clause was raised during the second-reading vote, Manolova said that it was there to “provide for all eventualities”.
Tsacheva said that there would be several grounds on which to approach the Constitutional Court over the new election code.
GERB said that given the fast deals that had been made during the voting on the second reading of the code among the heads of parliamentary groups, resulting in ad hoc rewriting of clauses, there was no way to avoid “very serious errors” in a complex piece of legislation.
(Photo: Steven Fruitsmaak/wikinews)