In recent years, local authorities in Bulgaria have taken very different approaches to enforcing the legal ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol on election day, as once again illustrated by the wide range of policies put in place for the October 25 local elections and national referendum on electronic voting.
The details of the ban length and reach are always left to the local administrations, which is why there are significant discrepancies across the country, compared to a decade ago, when blanket bans restricted all alcohol sales from the evening of Friday before election day to the Monday morning after.
It was argued that in addition to avoiding incidents disruption public order on election day, it would give Bulgarians a clear head on the Saturday “day of contemplation”, as they weighed their voting options.
Since the regulations were eased, Sofia has been among the least restrictive cities, banning the sale and consumption of alcohol for the duration of voting – and only in the close proximity of schools serving as polling stations. The same restriction is in place this year, with Bourgas following the example set by the capital city.
Other major cities – Plovdiv, Varna and Stara Zagora – have opted for a blanket ban for the duration of election day.
As usual, festivities organised in advance – a clause usually reserved for weddings or other family events – are exempted from this ban, although they require special permission from the city hall. This is reason why there is no wedding scheduled in Varna on election day, while the three in Plovdiv are all set for the evening, after the ban expires at 8pm, mass-circulation daily Trud reported earlier this month.
Plovdiv, however, makes another exception for alcohol consumption at funerals, with the city hall reasoning that while weddings are planned in advance, funerals are not.
Even the most restrictive bans, in towns like Shoumen and Cherven Bryag, have a limited scope compared to previous elections, going in force at 10pm on October 24 and expiring at 8am on October 25.
The election day will also bring some traffic restrictions in Sofia near the National Palace of Culture (NDK), which serves as a major vote-counting location for the capital city, as well as hosting the large media scrum for political parties’ first news conferences on election night, after polling stations close.
Starting 8am on October 25, cars will be banned from parking on Vitosha, Fridtjof Nansen and Patriarh Evtimi boulevards in the immediate vicinity of NDK, the sole exception being vehicles carrying ballots. After 7pm, the sections of Vitosha and Fridtjof Nansen boulevards next to NDK will be closed to all traffic save public transportation.
Some traffic restrictions will be in place on Dondoukov Boulevard starting 7pm on October 24 until “transportation of election papers is finalised” and on Knyaz Alexander I Street starting 7am on October 25, the Sofia city hall said.
The weather forecast for the election day is sunny, with temperatures ranging between 14C and 18C, with the daily high in Sofia forecast at 16C.
(Photo: Zsuzsanna Kilian/sxc.hu)