More than half of the 500 000 signatures from Bulgarian citizens needed to petition for a national referendum on electoral reform already have been collected, according to one of the organisers of the petition campaign, Sasha Bezuhanova.
With the votes of the ruling axis, Bulgaria’s 42nd National Assembly approved on February 21 the second-reading vote on the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s controversial rewrite of election laws.
Plans were for the legislation to be formally presented to head of state President Rossen Plevneliev on February 24.
Plevneliev will have eight days to either sign his assent to the legislation or to announce that he is returning it to the National Assembly for reconsideration.
It is widely expected that Plevneliev will veto the electoral code, but it is also widely expected that the ruling axis will vote to override his veto.
On January 29, Plevneliev made a public call for a national referendum, to be held simultaneously with Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections on May 25 2014, on three issues of electoral reform – a majoritarian element in elections, compulsory voting and electronic voting.
Plevneliev’s call has been rejected by the parties in power.
Speaking on February 23 to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio, Bezuhanova – of the MoveBG online civic debate platform and a member of the steering committee collecting signatures for a referendum on electoral reform – said that the new electoral rules approved by the National Assembly do not ensure fair procedures and maximum participation by Bulgarian citizens in elections.
The election code did not provide for a substantive change in the electoral process in Bulgaria, she said, criticising a number of points including a registration process that would allow inaccuracies in voters’ rolls – and dead people voting.
The referendum petition initiative was begun in early February by constitutional law professor Georgi Bliznashki. The goal is to collect 500 000 valid signatures by the end of February, to present to the National Assembly in support of a formal request for a referendum.
The campaign is being run by the steering committee, and also is backed by centre-right opposition party GERB, which earlier was the only party in Parliament to voice support for Plevneliev’s call for a referendum on electoral reform. The initiative also is supported by the Reformist Bloc, an alliance of a number of centrist and right-wing parties currently without seats in Parliament.