Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court has ordered the reduction of the number of polling stations in Turkey for the October 8 parliamentary elections by eight.
The order was handed down after an appeal by the ultra-nationalist Patriotic Front coalition, made up largely of Valeri Simeonov’s National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria and the Krassimir Karakachanov’s VMRO.
Turkey is host to the largest single number of polling stations abroad in Bulgaria’s 2014 early parliamentary elections.
The large number of polling stations in Turkey is a key issue for Bulgaria’s far-right ultra-nationalist parties, which see it as indicating an unfair advantage for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity.
The MRF, which denies being an ethnic party, has been part of a number of governing coalitions in Bulgaria in recent years, including the highly unpopular May 2013/August 2014 cabinet that was formed on the basis of a mandate handed to the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
In the case of voting in Bulgaria’s elections in Turkey in October, a number of irregularities in arrangements for the opening of polling stations have been found.
The court found that there were no legal grounds to open polling stations in various towns in Turkey.
However, the court declined an application by the Patriotic Front for more polling stations to be opened in Macedonia, Serbia and some other countries.
Voting by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity has been highlighted by other parties, including the populist Bulgaria Without Censorship (BWC) coalition, whose leader – former talk show host Nikolai Barekov – has said that that Bulgaria’s border with Turkey should be closed on election day and if not, BWC will “blockade” it.
Voting abroad in Bulgaria’s October 8 2014 elections will cost 1.8 million leva (about 900 000 euro), according to the Foreign Ministry, the sum being higher than the initially estimated 1.2 million leva because of the unprecedented number of polling stations abroad.
Before the Supreme Administrative Court’s September 18 decision, the plan was for there to be 426 polling stations abroad, 88 per cent higher than the figure in Bulgaria’s ahead-of-term national parliamentary elections in May 2013.
Countries where the number of polling stations is fourfold higher than in 2013 include the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands.
Other countries seeing significant increases are Spain and Greece.