The number of ballots cast in Bulgaria’s national referendum, held on the same day as the first round of presidential elections on November 6, was just short of the threshold that would have made the outcome binding on Parliament, the Central Electoral Commission data showed on November 8.
With all voting precincts protocols processed, the three referendum questions fell less than 13 000 ballots short of the threshold – 3 500 585, or the voter turnout in the previous nationwide elections, namely the parliamentary elections in 2014.
On the first question, about the introduction of a majoritarian vote to elect MPs (a departure from the proportional system now in place) the number of ballots was 3 488 258; the question about the introduction of a mandatory vote (a redundant one, considering that the presidential election was organised under an Electoral Code that already has a mandatory voting provision) was answered by 3 488 605 voters; and the question about reducing the state subsidy for parliamentary-represented parties (to one lev for each valid vote received in the parliament election, as opposed to 11 leva, as stipulated in the draft 2017 Budget Act) saw 3 488 154 ballots cast.
All three questions showed overwhelming support for change – 71.9 per cent in favour of switching to a majoritarian electoral system, 61.9 per cent in favour of mandatory voting, and 72.2 per cent in favour of reducing state subsidies for political parties.
The referendum’s initiator, television showman Slavi Trifonov, has already claimed that the results were being manipulated by the Central Electoral Commission, alleging that the electoral body excluded 13 792 ballots – enough to prevent all three outcomes from being binding – because they were cast without the mandatory envelopes.
As it stands, the turnout is enough to make a debate in parliament mandatory – the threshold for that is a turnout of 20 per cent – but the National Assembly is not required to abide by the outcome of the referendum.