Outrage in Bulgaria after political parties abuse identity numbers to register

Investigations have been promised following revelations that some political parties in Bulgaria fraudulently used the official personal identity numbers of people to lodge applications to register for the country’s May 25 European Parliament elections.

There was indignation among those who took advantage of a new facility online to check whether their identity numbers had been used by political parties in official registration application documents presented to the Central Election Commission (CEC).

Among those who found that their identity number had been used without their knowledge or consent was a reporter with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television (BNT) who had been assigned to cover the story. “Our reporter was amazed,” BNT said.

A procession of political parties presented documents, supported by thousands of signatures of citizens, to be able to compete in the European Parliament elections. For registration to be accepted, a party or coalition has to present 2500 signatures. A number of parties exceeded this figure several times over.

After the presentation of the documents, the validity of the signatures is subject to checking by officials. The website of the CEC offers people the opportunity to type in their personal identity numbers to check whether they have been submitted by a political party (a separate facility enables voters to check where they are registered to vote).

The CEC said on April 15 that it would consider each report of abuse and forward it to the appropriate authorities. It added that where a person complained that their signature had been appended to political party registration applications without their consent, that signature would be regarded as invalid.

Those who found their personal data had been used without their consent could complain to the Commission on the Protection of Personal Data and where there was evidence of a crime, could approach prosecutors, the CEC was quoted as saying on April 15.

Under Bulgarian law, abuse of personal data carries a fine of up to 100 000 leva (about 50 000 euro).

BNT reported that a lawyer had found his personal data in the application documents of two political parties.

“I’ve never signed any such lists in my life, let alone for registrations of parties for the European elections,” the lawyer said.

In the first hours after the facility went online, there were dozens of complaints, while on April 15 the CEC said that it did not have a precise number.

Bulgarian-language media reports said that several political parties had been involved.

Unconfirmed reports alleged that the party that had come up the most times as having used people’s identity numbers was Bulgaria Without Censorship, formed a few months ago around former television talk show host Nikolai Barekov, as well as a number of other small parties lacking representation in the current National Assembly – the Bulgarian Democratic Union, Party of Bulgarian Communists, National Democratic Party, United Coalition of Democrats and the Green Party.

Meanwhile, it also emerged that the registration applications of three of the 18 parties who had lodged documents with the CEC had been declined because they did not have the required number of valid signatures. These were the Bulgarian Democratic Union, the Party of Bulgarian Communists and the National Democratic Party, which is headed by Kapka Georgieva, former spouse of ultra-nationalist Ataka party leader Volen Siderov.

Meanwhile, the existence of the facility to type in a personal identity number to establish whether it has been used for political party registration has been a matter for concern for the Access to Information Programme, whose Alexander Kashumov told local media that it could be abused by employers – who would know their employees’ identity numbers – to check their political views, while the Interior Ministry, which also had access to this information, could add to the profiles of people and their political beliefs.

(Photo: Neil Simon via oscepa/flickr.com)




The Sofia Globe staff

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