As Bulgaria’s Parliament is poised to debate amendments to the Electoral Code that would scrap a limit on the number of polling stations abroad – but only in European Union countries – the Central Election Commission has confirmed that it had already increased the number of polling stations in foreign countries for Bulgaria’s November 2016 presidential elections.
An earlier legal provision limiting to 35 the maximum number of polling stations that could be opened in a foreign country caused public indignation among Bulgarian expatriates and expressions of concern that it was unconstitutional, by curtailing the possibility to exercise the right to vote.
The limit originally was imposed at the insistence of government minority coalition partner the nationalist Patriotic Front, which wanted to pare back the possibility of voting in Turkey, where its political enemy the Movement for Rights and Freedoms has a stronghold.
In a compromise, partners in Bulgaria’s governing coalition agreed to abolish the limit on polling stations in EU countries. The compromise was agreed after the PF threatened to withdraw its support for the government if the limit was scrapped universally.
The Central Election Commission said that it had increased the number of polling stations abroad to 307.
There will be two additional polling stations at the Bulgarian embassy in Berlin, and a total of three at the consulate in Munich. In Frankfurt, there will be two, at the embassy in Madrid two and two at Bulgaria’s embassy in Vienna.
It is expected that after Parliament votes the abolition of the limits in EU countries, a further 16 polling stations will be opened in the UK.
Previously, the CEC announced that in the UK, the United States and Turkey, each would have the maximum number of 35. These three countries have the highest numbers of Bulgarians who have applied to vote in the presidential elections.
CEC spokesperson Alexander Andreev said that the commission would do everything necessary to comply with the forthcoming overhaul of the Electoral Code.
Andreev noted that the Venice Commission held that it was not good to amend election rules less than six months before an election.
Should the National Assembly vote on the new amendments by Friday, this would mean that the amendments had been approved a little more than two weeks before the elections.