Bulgaria’s Parliament changes rules on polling stations abroad…again
This week’s version of the Bulgarian Electoral Code says that polling stations abroad can be opened in places other than embassies and consulates in European Union countries if at least 100 people apply for one, and in countries outside the EU, in a city that has a population of more than a million and no Bulgarian embassy.
The amendment approved by the National Assembly on April 28 changed last week’s version, which prompted controversy by saying that polling stations abroad could be opened only at Bulgarian embassies and consulates.
Last week’s version, proposed by the nationalist Patriotic Front and widely seen as directed against the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which has a track record of strong voter mobilisation in Turkey, prompted public protests by Bulgarians in Western countries who said that it would restrict their right to vote. In the UK, Bulgarians said that it was not practical to expect 50 000 people to vote at the embassy in London, while in Germany, Bulgarians said that it was unreasonable and impractical to expect them to travel hundreds of kilometres from other cities to Bulgaria’s diplomatic missions in that country.
This week’s version did not make the MRF happy either. After the vote on the provision passed, MRF MPs walked out of the House.
In the case of non-EU countries, not only would a city have to have a population of more than a million and no Bulgarian diplomatic mission, the rule that 100 eligible voters would have to apply in advance for the opening of a polling station would also be in effect.
The vote on polling stations abroad came amid yet another day of drama in Bulgaria’s National Assembly on the amendments to the Electoral Code. In recent days, proposals and amendments have been the subject of numerous negotiations inside and outside Parliament, including the intervention, on more than one occasion, of Prime Minister and GERB party leader Boiko Borissov.
Other changes, counting only those that have survived or been introduced in the current version, include the introduction of compulsory voting, the penalty of removal from the voters’ roll if failing to vote in two consecutive elections of the same type (for example, presidential, or parliamentary) a plan for experimental online voting, and the option on the ballot paper of putting a tick next to “I don’t support anyone”.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)