As voting day unfolded, there were various controversies in Bulgaria’s October 25 2015 municipal elections and national referendum on whether to introduce online voting.
After many complaints, the Central Election Commission said that it had instructed polling stations to issue voters with ballots for the referendum as well as for the local elections. Posts on social networks and media reports said that there were cases where voters were either not given ballot papers for the referendum or were asked whether or not they wanted one.
Another major concern was a delay in announcing up-to-date figures on voter turnout, which according to the Central Election Commission was because of its website being brought down by the weight of traffic as municipal election commissions reported these figures.
The problem is unprecedented in comparison with all elections in recent years, in which updates on voter turnout were given by the commission every few hours while polling stations were open.
The commission said that it believed that it was heavy traffic, and not a hacking attack, that was behind its website going offline or otherwise malfunctioning. However, a separate Bulgarian-language report said that other official websites, including that of the Interior Ministry, also had been offline for some time on the morning of October 25, which it quoted its own sources as attributing to hacker attacks.
A headline-making controversy was that involving Prime Minister and GERB party leader Boiko Borissov telling reporters and posting on Facebook the identity of the candidate for whom he had voted in the Sofia mayoral elections. By early afternoon, the CEC said that it was awaiting video footage to examine Borissov’s statements to establish whether he had broken the law on the secrecy of the ballot and against campaigning on election day. The commission said that it would make a decision on the matter as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, while Bulgarian electoral law forbids the publication of running election results via exit polls while voting is still proceeding, some Bulgarian-language media used what is interpreted as a lacuna in the law by posting exit poll results on their Facebook pages, on the basis of the interpretation of the law that it does not cover social networks.
Separately, the CEC told the media that by the late morning, it had received more than 80 complaints of alleged breaches of election rules. These complaints included violations of the electoral process or were about voters not being given all the ballot papers required to vote in the municipal elections and referendum.