Continuing controversy as Bulgaria’s new Central Election Commission elected

The process of appointment of Bulgaria’s new Central Election Commission has not escaped the kind of dispute seen all the way through the process in recent months of changing election rules.

President Rossen Plevneliev is at odds with the parties of the ruling axis over the sharing out of seats on the commission, while within Parliament – inevitably – the election of the members was characterised by an internecine war among the political parties.

Appointment of the new commission was done in accordance with the new election law driven by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, a law that Plevneliev partly vetoed only to have that veto overriden when the ruling axis rapidly summoned a meeting of Parliament to do so.

On March 20, as the parties in Parliament spent four hours in a tussle over the future commission – the first major task of which will be to oversee Bulgaria’s May 25 2014 European Parliament elections – Plevneliev announced his decision in the dispute over the share-out of commission seats.

The dispute had revolved around whether the two largest parties in the 42nd National Assembly, centre-right opposition GERB and the current holder of the mandate to govern, the BSP, should get an equal number of seats or whether GERB should get one more.

(While GERB won the most votes in the May 2013 national parliamentary elections, it had no allies in Parliament with which to form a governing coalition and so the mandate to form a government was handed to the second-ranked BSP.)

A statement released by the President’s office said that he had decided to follow the principle of keeping the balance and proportion among the parties represented in Parliament, and so accorded six seats to GERB, five to the BSP, and one each to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and to Ataka.

In accordance with election law, two members of the CEC will come from parties that have no seats in the National Assembly but do have seats in the European Parliament – the National Movement for Stability and Progress, and the Blue Coalition.

In Parliament, meanwhile, BSP nominee Ivilian Alexieva was named to chair the commission, with Ataka nominee Sevinch Sokolova as her deputy.

GERB walked out of the House in protest at the appointment of just one deputy chairperson, when the law said that there should be two.

The proposal approved by the National Assembly provided for a different share-out of the seats on the commission: five each for GERB and the BSP, two for the MRF, one for Ataka and one each for the NMSII and the Blue Coalition.

The BSP and MRF said that they would appeal against Plevneliev’s decision.

MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan said that Plevneliev, in his allocation of seats, had violated election law and had handed an “extra” seat to GERB at the expense of the MRF.

A day earlier, on March 19, Plevneliev had issued a public appeal to the parties in Parliament to unite around a consensus solution to end their dispute about the CEC and come up with candidates nominated by NGOs who have expertise and enjoy public confidence.

Plevneliev said that the proposals made by the parliamentary majority, instead of uniting around a worthy candidate, had made proposals that would only deepen confrontation.




The Sofia Globe staff

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