Hours before polls closed in Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections, two political party leaders alleged that large-scale vote-buying by rivals was going, prompting one – GERB leader Boiko Borissov – to say that his party was postponing its election night news conference until there was clarity about what had happened in Roma residential areas.
On May 25, about 6.3 million Bulgarians were eligible to vote in elections to choose the country’s 17 MEPs, with 15 parties, six coalitions and three independent candidates standing in the election. About 11 658 polling stations were opened in the country, albeit in a few cases with slight delays.
At a mid-afternoon news conference, Central Election Commission (CEC) spokesperson Alexander Andreev said that 80 reports and 40 complaints had been received by the CEC.
These included allegations of vote-buying in Stara Zagora, Haskovo and Vidin. The CEC had notified the Regional Election Commission and the prosecutor’s office had been asked to investigate.
The CEC said that since the official start of the campaign just more than a month ago, prosecutors had investigated a total of 211 cases. Of these, 147 had been terminated for lack of evidence. Work was proceeding on the others. The largest number of allegations, 77, was in Sofia.
Speaking to reporters after casting his vote, Borissov described the elections as the “most marred” and said that he was receiving calls from all over the country about vote-buying on behalf of another party, especially in residential areas where Roma people lived.
“Tonight, we will not hold a news conference because we want to see the results at the Roma quarters first,” Borissov said.
He said that after his party checked the data, it would give reporters lists of which parties had bought votes.
Nikolai Barekov, leader of the Bulgaria Without Censorship (BWC) party, said that a “huge manipulation” was being plotted for the end of the election day, and alleged that there were counterfeit official ballot records and “entire polling stations will be bought”.
On May 24, an organisation close to a party competing in the election was ordered to stop sending mass-scale text messages marking the day, celebrated in Bulgaria as the Day of Slavonic Script and Learning, with the CEC saying that the identification of the organisation constituted illegal canvassing.