A petition purported to have more than 670 000 signatures calling for a national referendum on six questions related to electoral system and political reforms was presented to Bulgaria’s Parliament on February 8 2016 by a committee led by television talk show host Slavi Trifonov.
Legislative changes approved by Parliament in 2015 reduced from 500 000 to 400 000 the number of citizens’ signatures required for a petition for a referendum to be valid.
Officials from the Department of Civil Registration and Administrative Services will examine the validity of the signatures and identity numbers of the purported 673 481 to establish whether the legal requirement has been met.
The six questions include issues that have been raised before in other previous attempts at calling for referendums, one that was resolved in a referendum in October 2015, as well as other issues. Gathering of the signatures on the Trifonov petition began in November 2015.
The questions are on whether MPs should be elected by a majoritarian electoral system with an absolute majority in two rounds, whether the number of members of the National Assembly should be reduced from 240 to 120, whether voting in elections and referendums should be compulsory, whether electronic voting in elections and referendums should be introduced (it was this question that was the subject of the October 2015 referendum), whether the annual state subsidy for financing political parties and coalition should be one lev per valid vote in the most recent parliamentary election, and whether the directors of the regional directorates of the Ministry of Interior and the heads of regional offices in the regional directorates of the Ministry of Interior should be elected by majoritarian electoral system with an absolute majority in two rounds.
The October 2015 referendum, which produced a result in favour of the introduction of electronic voting as an option in national elections and referendums, is now undergoing the parliamentary process.
The single question in that referendum was just one of three that head of state President Rossen Plevneliev had proposed to Parliament to ask Bulgarians. The other two were about a majoritarian element in the election of MPs and about the introduction of compulsory voting.
An earlier attempt, in 2013, at getting a referendum held on these issues was rejected by Parliament at the time of the now-departed Bulgarian Socialist Party-Movement for Rights and Freedoms ruling axis.
Trifonov hosts a nightly talk show which is claimed to be among the most-watched, if not the most-watched, on Bulgarian television. Continuing for several years, it blends jokes, music and an upholding of a brand of populist nationalism by the presenter, who currently is the subject of speculation about mounting a bid in the presidential elections to be held in Bulgaria in October or November 2016.
(Photos via bTV and the Facebook page of Trifonov’s show)