Bulgaria’s referendum results show wide support for electoral rules reform

Bulgaria’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) announced on October 28 the final results of the referendum on electoral rules, held together with the local elections four days earlier, which showed strong support for the introduction of electronic distance voting.

A total of 69.5 per cent of respondents were in favour and 26 per cent voted against, with the remaining 4.5 per cent of ballots declared invalid. Capital city Sofia saw the biggest margin of victory, with 76.5 per cent in favour and 21.6 per cent against, while the district of Shoumen had the lowest ratio of “yes” votes at 57.8 per cent, versus 40.3 per cent of “no” votes.

The outcome was even more skewed among voters who cast ballots outside the country, with 91.5 per cent in favour and 7.8 per cent voting against, although the electoral commission did not provide the exact number of ballots cast.

The results of the plebiscite were not legally binding because turnout, at 39.7 per cent, failed to clear the 48.7 per cent threshold – under Bulgarian law, national referenda are binding on Parliament if turnout exceeds the turnout figure in the previous national election, which in this case was the October 2014 parliamentary election. Because turnout did exceed 20 per cent, the National Assembly will be required to debate the issue, although it can decide to make no changes to the status quo.

Although turnout was well short of the required threshold, supporters of the electoral rules reform may come to see the plebiscite as a missed opportunity because the turnout in the local elections was 53.7 per cent.

This is likely to prompt some questions about the CEC’s role in the outcome, given that the election authority initially said that referendum ballots would be handed to voters only if asked for. On election day, following numerous complaints to the CEC, the authority required election officials to hand out referendum ballot papers to all voters, but it is unclear to what extent that delay influenced the final figures.

(Photo: podtepeto.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

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