The petition for a referendum on electoral rules in Bulgaria fell short of the 500 000 signatures needed to put the issue on Parliament’s floor, Bulgarian mass-circulation daily Trud reported on May 16, quoting the findings of the Civil Registry’s check into the authenticity of the signatures.
The initiative committee in support of the referendum collected 561 528 signatures in a month and submitted the petition in early March – making it procedurally possible to hold a referendum at the same time as the May 25 European Parliament elections in Bulgaria.
Such an outcome was unlikely from the start, however, given the ruling axis’ opposition to the referendum – the socialists and the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) would not welcome any increase in the voter turnout, the government’s critics say, given the continued strong opposition to the cabinet headed by Plamen Oresharski, as evidenced by opinion polls.
The Civil Registry’s check found that 108 286 signatures on the petition were invalid – the bulk because they contained incorrect personal ID numbers, while others had mistaken addresses and some appeared on the petition more than once, Trud reported.
This puts the petition 36 674 signatures short of the half-a-million threshold, but the initiative committee will have a month, under Bulgarian law, to remove the invalid signatures and collect new ones.
If the re-submitted petition is found to have more than 500 000 valid signatories, the National Assembly will have up to three months (counting from the date that the petition was re-filed) to decide on the wording of the referendum question, but cannot block the plebiscite from going through.
After Parliament agrees the referendum question, the President sets the date for the plebiscite – no sooner than two months and no later than three months after Parliament’s decision, meaning that the referendum could be held sometime in autumn.
In January, Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev announced that he would ask the National Assembly to agree to the holding of a referendum on electoral law issues.
The three questions, suggested by Plevneliev, concerned the possible elections of some of the lawmakers by majoritarian vote, the introduction of electronic voting and whether Bulgaria should make voting in elections and national referendum compulsory.
Plevneliev’s idea was met with no small degree of contempt by country’s ruling axis, which formally rejected the motion on his request.
Under Bulgarian law, for a referendum to be considered valid, turnout must be higher than at the previous parliamentary elections – namely 51.33 per cent at the May 2013 elections. In this scenario, the referendum’s result is binding on Parliament, which must amend the laws to reflect the plebiscite’s outcome.
If turnout is below that benchmark but higher than 20 per cent, Parliament must discuss the issue, but is not bound by the referendum results.
(Illustration: Billy Alexander/sxc.hu)