Representatives of organisations of Bulgarians abroad emerged from May 5 talks with Prime Minister Boiko Borissov saying that they had his support for their objections to amendments recently approved by Parliament that would trim back polling stations outside the country.
Bulgarians abroad, through organisations and on social networks, have petitioned President Rossen Plevneliev to veto the changes, approved by the National Assembly in more than one round of rewrites attended by considerable controversy.
Changes to tighten the rules on opening polling stations abroad were pushed by the nationalist Patriotic Front, a minority partner in Borissov’s governing coalition.
The current version sets strict and different conditions for opening polling stations in foreign countries, in a move seen as targeted by the Patriotic Front mainly at the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which has traditional electoral strongholds in Turkey.
The meeting between Borissov and the representatives of Bulgarians abroad was brokered by Maya Manolova, currently the country’s ombudsman and formerly an MP whose own, previous version, of election law was highly controversial when her socialist party was in the 2013/14 ruling axis.
Manolova told reporters that a meeting would be arranged with Patriotic Front co-leader Valeri Simeonov and if necessary with the leaders of other parties in the governing coalition.
According to participants in the meeting, Borissov had agreed that the latest changes to the Electoral Code would take away the rights of Bulgarians abroad and had supported their request for a return to the previous election rules.
Stefan Manov, a representative of the interim public council of Bulgarians abroad, told reporters, “we want restoration of the existing (previous) rules for opening polling stations outside the country and insist on the creation of an ‘abroad’ constituency”.
According to Manov, Borissov “fully shared” their vision of the need for Bulgarian citizens abroad to have equal voting rights with Bulgarian citizens in the country.
Another representative of Bulgarians abroad, Sylvia Lozeva, said that like other Bulgarian expatriates, she believed that the rights of Bulgarians as a nation should not become a political football.
“And regardless of what is being discussed in Parliament, I think that the interests of all Bulgarians must be protected, regardless of party interests,” Lozeva said.