Bulgaria’s MPs approved on January 21 a resolution on the introduction of electronic voting in elections, with 136 votes in favour and 56 against.
Parliament was required to debate the issue after a referendum on electoral rules reform, held in October 2015, passed the turnout threshold of 20 per cent, but it was not bound by the outcome of the plebiscite, which had 69.5 per cent of respondents in favour of introducing electronic voting.
On the House floor, the resolution to introduce electronic voting was backed by GERB, the senior partner in the ruling coalition, and two of its junior partners, centre-right Reformist Bloc and socialist splinter ABC, as well as two opposition parties, the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms and populist Bulgarian Democratic Centre.
Opposition socialists and ultra-nationalist Ataka, as well as the nationalist Patriotic Front, which is part of the government coalition, voted against the resolution.
The main argument in favour of electronic voting is that it will make it easier for hundreds of thousands of Bulgarian expatriates to vote in elections, but opponents pointed out that it put existing technology was too risky and endangered the secrecy of the vote, as well as creating an opportunity for the manipulation of electoral results.
The resolution requires the legal affairs committee of the National Assembly to draft the amendments to the Electoral Code by end-April, but gives no time frame in which those amendments have to be approved on the House floor.
The introduction of electronic voting was one of the three-pronged electoral rules reform proposal made by President Rossen Plevneliev in 2014, which envisioned a referendum on whether some of the members of the National Assembly should be elected on a majoritarian basis, whether compulsory voting in elections and national referendums should be introduced, and whether electronic voting in elections and national referendums should be allowed.
In July 2015, Parliament approved the proposal to hold a national plebiscite on electoral rules, proposed by Plevneliev, but only one of the three questions put forth by the presidency won enough support to be put on the ballot.
(Bulgarian Parliament, photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)