Controversy continues over law on Bulgarians voting abroad

A day after President Rossen Plevneliev announced a constitutional court challenge to a controversial new law on the system for Bulgarians voting abroad, the row was continuing in political circles and with civil society and expatriates expressing indignation about the law.

Plevneliev announced the Constitutional Court challenge after the ruling parties, joined by some opposition parties, voted in the National Assembly to reject the veto that he had imposed because the amended Electoral Code effectively restricts the franchise rights of Bulgarians abroad.

The ruling parties overthrew the veto in a deal to keep the government together, leading Plevneliev to accuse them of putting partisan interests above those of the constitution and citizens.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party gave in to a demand from the nationalist Patriotic Front, a minority partner in the coalition government deal, to overturn the veto, after the PF said it would withdraw its support for the government unless this happened.

After the vote to reject Plevneliev’s veto, the ruling parties announced that they would again revise the law on voting abroad, but it appears doubtful that these further amendments will mollify the indignation of Bulgarians abroad and within the country.

The move by the ruling parties handed an opportunity to the opposition to come out with criticisms, with Zhelyu Boichev, an MP for the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, telling reporters: “Obviously, we have seen a total rift in relations between GERB and the President”.

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