A sitting of Bulgaria’s National Assembly scheduled for June 12 to discuss proposals for a national referendum on electoral reform issues such as compulsory voting was cancelled after too few MPs turned up for proceedings to begin.
Two consecutive attempts to secure a quorum failed and the day’s sitting was cancelled.
The proposed issues to be discussed in a national referendum are whether to introduce compulsory voting, electronic voting and a majoritarian element to the electoral system.
President Rossen Plevneliev, earlier in 2014, called for these issues to be put to the country on the same day that European Parliament elections were held. This, along with a petition raised by an ad hoc committee on a referendum on electoral reform, was opposed by the ruling axis.
The question of compulsory voting came to the fore amid Bulgaria’s current political melodrama, when Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev said on June 6 that his party was ready to discuss others a date for early elections, adding that he wanted a system of compulsory voting introduced.
In the days since that statement, the principle of compulsory voting has been backed by centre-right opposition and parliament’s largest party GERB, as well as the smallest party, Ataka, and two minority parties that now have seats in the European Parliament, the Reformist Bloc and Bulgaria Without Censorship (BWC). On behalf of BWC, an MP who is a member of that party tabled draft legislation in the National Assembly to introduce compulsory voting.
On June 11, the National Assembly’s media office said that socialist Speaker of Parliament Mihail Mikov had invited President Plevneliev to attend the sitting on the referendum proposals and address MPs.
Plevneliev’s office responded that his written reasons explaining his call for a referendum had been sent to the National Assembly four months previously, and Plevneliev had spoken publicly on numerous occasions about his request for the referendum.
Plevneliev called on MPs to heed the demands of civil society for a referendum on election rules. Numerous public opinion surveys and the 600 000 signatures collected in a month for the petition calling for a referendum on electoral reform clearly showed that the President’s reasoning had been heard and supported by the people, a letter from the President’s office to the National Assembly said.
On June 12, after the sitting of Parliament was cancelled because there was no quorum, Mikov alleged that this was the fault of GERB, describing this was “very strange” considering the party had insisted on the inclusion of the item in the day’s agenda.