Bulgarian minority party threatens to quit coalition government over election law changes

Bulgarian socialist minority party ABC has threatened to walk out of the country’s coalition government if Electoral Code changes, including the introduction of compulsory voting in elections, are adopted in their current form.

Over two days of debate and voting on April 21 and 22, MPs approved compulsory voting, dropped a proposal to create a separate constituency for Bulgarian voters abroad, and de-linked the holding of referendums and elections.

Ivailo Kalfin, a senior member of ABC and one of four deputy prime ministers in Boiko Borissov’s centre-right coalition government, said on April 23 that the party was ready to leave the government if the changes were adopted in their current form.

ABC is also unhappy about a provision reducing the length of the official election campaign period.

All the changes were adopted at second reading already, leaving the only possible obstacles a presidential veto or rejection by the Constitutional Court.

Kalfin described the introduction of compulsory voting as “absurd”. Under the transferable vote system, the votes would go to the big parties, he said. “This does not correspond to logic nor democracy, nor anything at all,” he said.

He said that many of the clauses approved as changes to the Electoral Code did not correspond to a number of agreements that ABC had with Borissov’s GERB party.

Since the formation of Borissov’s current coalition government in November 2014, ABC has only once before issued a serious threat to quit the government, and that was to reinforce the demand of ABC leader Georgi Purvanov – a former Bulgarian Socialist Party leader – for Borissov’s Cabinet to confirm the nomination of Irina Bokova as a candidate UN Secretary-General. Borissov gave in to that demand, in spite of its political divisiveness.

The Reformist Bloc also has criticised some of the amendments, but thus far there is no unanimity with the bloc – which in any case is internally divided between those who continue to support Borissov’s Cabinet and those who do not – about wholly withdrawing support for the government.

The Reformist Bloc reportedly is considering querying the provision on compulsory voting in the Constitutional Court.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the Bulgarian Parliament’s third-largest party and which has a track record of getting a fairly predictable share of the vote, has indicated that it intends to challenge the compulsory voting provision in the Constitutional Court.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party, the second-largest party in Parliament and also in opposition, will discuss whether to approach the Constitutional Court over the amendments approved in the past two days, BSP leader Mihail Mikov said on April 23.

Mikov said that there was a lot of controversy within the ruling coalition about the amendments and “maybe there will be some changes”.

“Let’s see what is accepted and then talk about the Constitutional Court,” he said.

Taksko Ermenkov, a member of the BSP’s hard leftist faction, said that he would support taking compulsory voting to the Constitutional Court, believing it unconstitutional because it transformed a right into an obligation.



The Sofia Globe staff

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