Bulgaria’s election law drama continues after presidential veto

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on May 8 that he believed that President Rossen Plevneliev was correct to veto amendments to the Electoral Code, and he was prepared to make changes but first would have to speak to minority coalition government partner the Patriotic Front.

Plevneliev’s office announced on May 7 that the head of state was sending back to the National Assembly controversial changes to the rules for voting abroad seen as limiting the franchise rights of Bulgarian expatriates.

It was the nationalist Patriotic Front, part of the governing coalition agreement although it does not have seats in the Cabinet, that drove these amendments, in a move largely seen as directed against the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and its electoral stronghold in Turkey.

The amendments vetoed by Plevneliev created different rules for opening polling stations in European Union and non-EU countries, and tightened the requirements for opening a polling station outside Bulgaria. After the National Assembly approved these amendments, protests by Bulgarians living in Western countries ensued, along with a petition signed by thousands calling on Plevneliev to impose a veto.

Reacting to the veto, Patriotic Front co-leader Valeri Simeonov called Plevneliev’s decision “treason”. Simeonov said that Plevneliev had made the move in a bid to get MRF votes in the autumn 2016 presidential elections (there is no confirmation that Plevneliev, elected in late 2011 on the ticket of Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, will be a candidate in the autumn).

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