Bulgaria’s election laws ban the sale of alcoholic beverages on election days, but only in the immediate vicinity of voting precincts. Local authorities are left to decide whether to implement stricter bans, which leads to significant discrepancies across the country, with the presidential elections on November 6 being the latest example.
As in previous elections, Sofia city hall was once again among those that decided on the most lax interpretation of the law, banning liquor sales only near voting precincts, which are usually opened in schools, for the duration of the voting day.
Similarly, town halls in places like Veliko Turnovo and Rousse have also opted against issuing a blanket alcohol sales ban.
In Plovdiv, by contrast, the ban applies throughout the city for the duration of the election day, from 6am until 8pm. However, as has been the case with previous elections, festivities organised in advance – a clause usually reserved for weddings or other family events – are exempted from this ban.
In Varna, the ban is somewhat longer – from midnight on November 6 until voting closes at 8pm, with establishments that are hosting family events organised in advance given a dispensation from the ban. The town of Svishtov on the Danube River went slightly further, banning alcohol sales starting 9pm on November 5.
Alcohol bans are tied to Bulgaria’s “day of contemplation” practice, the day before the election when campaigning is banned in order to give voters the opportunity to make their choice without outside influence (campaigning on the day of election is likewise banned) and the election day itself, when it is meant to prevent breaches of public peace.
The rules have been eased in recent years, compared to a decade ago, when alcohol sales would often also be banned from as early as the Friday before the elections, and few municipalities enforce it as strictly.
(photo: Zsuzsanna Kilian/sxc.hu)