Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev announced in the National Assembly on March 14 that the country’s 2014 European Parliament elections would be held on Sunday May 25.
This date had been widely expected, because while the timeframe set for European Parliament elections is May 22 to 25, Bulgaria customarily holds elections on Sundays.
In a special address to the National Assembly following his traditional “month of political consultations” with the leadership of all parties represented in Parliament, Plevneliev said that it was expected that the campaign ahead of the European Parliament elections would be heavy and keenly-fought.
Plevneliev issued a strong plea against attempts at stoking ethnic and religious hatred and warned against populism, aggression and hate speech.
He said that a campaign based on discrediting opponents would backfire by alienating the electorate and discrediting the institutions.
The ultimate consequences of dirty fighting in politics would be that neither tourists nor investors would come to the country.
Plevneliev, who some weeks ago called for the holding of a national referendum on issues in electoral reform simultaneously with Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections – a call rejected by the parties of the ruling axis but which has won the backing of more than 500 000 citizens who signed a petition in support – again made his case on the issue to the National Assembly
He expressed his objections to “procedural tricks” being used to delay the possibility of the referendum being held along with the European Parliament elections.
Under Bulgarian law, the gathering of more than 500 000 signatures calling for a referendum compels one to be held. But members of the Bulgarian Socialist Party have said that it would take too long to check the signatures for a referendum to be held at the same time as the European Parliament vote.
Plevneliev also hit back at criticisms that some of the issues raised in the proposed referendum questions were “unconstitutional”.
Saying that consulting the citizenry directly was unconstitutional “shows your attitude to the values of the constitution,” Plevneliev said.
Speaking in favour of the general principles of the holding of referendums, he said, “whatever the results of a referendum, it is a success for democracy…whatever the result, direct democracy makes sense”.