Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission (CEC) formally decided on February 10 that there will be voting machines at all polling stations in the March 26 early parliamentary elections, pledging that the parameters for the public procurement to get the machines would be ready by the end of the day.
The technical parameters for the machines will remain secret for security reasons. The cost of getting about 13 000 machines remains unknown.
On February 8, Bulgaria’s caretaker government effectively handed the deputy prime minister in charge of the government’s role in the elections, and the CEC, a blank cheque to acquire the machines. The step follows a Supreme Administrative Court ruling that electoral law must be complied with by providing voting machines at all polling stations.
The CEC initially had provided for only 500 machines. In spite of the law requiring them at all polling stations having been approved by the now-departed Parliament last year, the Commission neither asked MPs to revise the law nor did it move to get the machines. Caretaker Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov has accused the CEC of having been “asleep” for two months.
CEC spokesperson Alexander Andreev told a February 10 news conference that the Commission had adopted the technical requirements for the hardware and software for the machines.
Another of the CEC’s spokespersons, Tsvetozar Tomov, said that more detail about the procedure to get the machines could not be provided until these details were finalised.
“Our main task is that every Bulgarian has the opportunity to express their political will in the elections and mechanical voting is only one option to do so. The backup option to vote with a ballot paper is always there,” Tomov said.
There need be no fear that, in a country with 100 years of experience of voting with ballot papers, the election would be invalidated, he said.
The CEC said that of the 18 political parties that had applied to participate in the elections, approval had been given to 13. Nine coalitions had been registered.
The competitors in Bulgaria’s March 26 2017 parliamentary elections will be the Union of Free Democrats, the Yes Bulgaria Movement, Bulgarian Democratic Centre – Bulgarian Democratic Union, the BSP for Bulgaria, WHO – Bulgarian Left and Green Party, the National Republican Party, the Progress Bulgaria Movement, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the Movement for a Just Social Model, New Republic, Revival, the Party of the Greens, DOST, Glas Naroden, ABC-Movement 21, the Reformist Bloc, the Coalition of the Dissatisfied, Bulgarian National Unity, Movement for Radical Change – Bulgarian Spring, the United Patriots – NFSB, Ataka and VMRO, Volya, and GERB.
The CEC said that so far a total of 4297 applications to vote abroad had been submitted. As is customary, most came from Bulgarians in the UK, Germany and Spain. The deadline for Bulgarian citizens eligible to vote to do so abroad is February 28. Applications may be submitted via the CEC website.
Nine individuals have registered as independent candidate MPs. They include television character Super Lubo, in offscreen life Ivan Mitev.