16 pre-trial proceedings over vote-buying ahead of Bulgaria’s October elections – prosecutor

Prosecutors have begun 16 pre-trial proceedings in connection with alleged violations of election laws, mainly through vote-buying, ahead of Bulgaria’s October 5 2014 early parliamentary elections.

Ilona Krastenyakova, a prosecutor at the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation, said on September 29 that as of two days earlier, there had been 81 complaints from individuals and institutions.

In 33 cases, pre-trial proceedings had not been started because prosecutors were not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence of a crime.

One of the pre-trial proceedings was in connection with active bribery, four had to do with offering property benefits in return for votes, and nine were in connection with providing a property benefit in exchange for votes.

Pre-trial proceedings had been initiated in connection with alleged printing of fake ballot papers in the town of Haskovo. A subsequent separate statement said that the ballot papers were marked “sample”, lacked serial numbers and could not be used for voting.

A few days ago, Bulgarian National Radio reported that police were investigating 10 individual allegations of vote-buying in Pleven.

Three pre-trial proceedings had been initiated, one against a man who had offered money to seven to eight people to vote for a specific party. The other two were against “unknown persons” in Pleven and Cherven Bryag.

In the May European Parliament elections, it was Pleven that saw the only case of alleged vote-buying that ended in a conviction, when a 30-year-old man from the village of Zgalevo was sentenced to five months in jail and a fine of 10 000 leva (about 5000 euro).

On September 24, local media quoted the Interior Ministry as saying that an organised crime group seeking to buy votes in Yambol had been bust.

The group allegedly had been strongarming people to sell their votes in exchange for the writing off of small debts owed. Investigators found notebooks with the names of the debtors, the amounts owed and the dates due.

On September 23, caretaker Interior Minister Yordan Bakalov said that by September 19, the ministry had received 53 allegations of vote-buying, with a further 24 were under investigation.

Formal warnings had been issued to 160 people that there was evidence against them that they were involved in vote-buying while there were pre-trial proceedings against 11 people.

Officials had visited addresses in the regions of Pernik and Montana alleged to be involved in vote-buying. A group of three people had been detained near Yambol. People had been preparing lists of people to be offered to political parties to buy votes, Bakalov said.



The Sofia Globe staff

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