Bulgarian elections 2014: Interior Ministry has ‘information’ on politicians involved in vote-buying

Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry has information about certain politicians involved in vote-buying ahead of the country’s early parliamentary elections on October 5, but lacks sufficient evidence to make statements about it, according to caretaker Interior Minister Yordan Bakalov.

Speaking to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio on October 1, Bakalov said that this stage the ministry had no concerns about security on election day but said that in terms of the fight against vote-buying “things are little more complex”.

He said that the ministry had to work on evidence that could put those involved in vote-buying in court, or at least prevent it happening.

Unfortunately, there were organised groups buying and selling votes, but the Interior Ministry was monitoring the situation and would continue to do so after the Central Election Commission came out with the election results.

“We have information that if a certain amount (of money) has been given, the rest will be given after the elections,” Bakalov said.

He said that the ministry already had prevented attempts at vote-buying and pre-trial proceedings had resulted. These had included attempts at buying preferential votes – the system whereby a voter can shift a candidate higher up in that party’s election ballot.

As to politicians involved in vote-buying, he said that “we have certain information in certain respects about certain individuals” but added that there was not enough evidence to follow through.

Bakalov’s statements came a day after television station Nova Televizia, in a hidden-camera expose, became the latest media to report on a vote-buying scheme.

A reporter posing as a party functionary received an offer from an evangelical church group for the party to be endorsed during a sermon ahead of the October 5 elections.

The report alleged that pastors first wanted 50 000 leva (about 25 000 euro) to provide more than 7000 votes from their congregations in 140 churches in various parts of Bulgaria, many in impoverished Roma areas. At a subsequent meeting, the alleged go-between asked for the money to be doubled.

When confronted by the reporter, who identified himself and with a camera clearly in view, the alleged vote-seller ran away, denying everything he had said before.

A group called Christians of Protest demanded the right to reply to Nova Televizia’s report, sending an open letter regarding the scheme which they said tarnished the image of evangelical Christian churches in Bulgaria.

The group said that they believed that the majority of evangelical communities were concerned at media reports of evangelical pastors selling the votes of their church communities ahead of the elections.

“We condemn any such actions and categorically distance ourselves from them, while we hope that those guilty will be punished to the full extent of the law,” the group said.

(Photo of caretaker Interior Minister Yordan Bakalov: mvr.bg)



The Sofia Globe staff

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