The National Assembly voted on March 4 to overturn President Rossen Plevneliev’s veto of a number of provisions of the Election Code.
The vote was 138 to 80, with the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Ataka, as well as three “independent” MPs voting together, and only centre-right opposition party GERB voting to accept Plevneliev’s decision to return several parts of the controversial legislation to Parliament for reconsideration.
Plevneliev spelt out his objections in detail on February 28 in a written response to the law that had been approved by Parliament seven days earlier, and the March 4 special sitting was called to respond.
In swift succession, the ad hoc committee on the electoral legislation – headed by Maya Manolova, the BSP MP who had the task of getting the Election Code through Parliament – overturned the veto, followed by the vote in the House.
It had been widely expected that the BSP would be able to get Plevneliev’s veto overturned.
The MRF voted to overturn the veto while also confirming that it would seek Plevneliev’s support to challenge in the Constitutional Court provisions against election campaigning in any language other than Bulgarian.
The language rules were not among the reasons for Plevneliev imposing the veto.
On its own, the MRF lacks the minimum number of signatures from MPs to petition the Constitutional Court. The President, as head of state, has the constitutional right to approach the court directly.
The BSP said that Plevneliev had vetoed the provisions for reasons that were political, not legal, and said that he made a serious mistake in heeding the position of GERB and some NGOs.
GERB MP Krassimir Tsipov said that again, Bulgaria was adopting changes to the electoral process at the last moment, and again was choosing the members of the Central Election Commission at the last minute. He predicted that the CEC members would be chosen in a rush and with no transparency to the procedure.
The BSP has been in a rush to get its version of electoral laws through ahead of Bulgaria’s May 25 2014 European Parliament elections. The second reading vote on the new law was adopted after a process lasting several days, during which the MRF expressed discontent with some of the provisions pushed by its ruling axis partner the BSP, including the rule requiring only Bulgarian to be used in campaigning, and restricting voting rights on the basis of permanent residence.
Meanwhile, on March 4 public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said that a month previously, the European Commission had taken the first step in an infringement procedure against Bulgaria because of the country’s failure to transpose EU directives on the right of Bulgarian citizens living in other EU countries to stand for election as MEPs.
Apart from Bulgaria, 13 other countries, including Belgium, Denmark, France and Romania also had not, by the beginning of February, changed their laws to come into line with the EU directive, the report said.
(Archive photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)