The official campaign period ahead of Bulgaria’s March 26 early parliamentary elections began on February 24, with a total of 4732 candidates – nominated, altogether, by nine political parties and 18 coalitions – pursuing the 240 seats in the National Assembly.
The civil registration and administrative services office has until February 26 to check whether the candidates meet the requirements for eligibility for election.
The Dossier Commission will be checking to see which of the candidates were affiliated to Bulgaria’s communist-era secret services State Security and the Bulgarian People’s Army military intelligence division. The names will be announced – including those exposed in checks in previous elections – but constitutionally, a link to the former secret services is no bar to seeking or holding public office.
Some parties and coalitions were holding campaign-opening events on February 24, such as the ultra-nationalist United Patriots coalition – made up of Valeri Simeonov’s National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, Krassimir Karakachanov’s VMRO and Volen Siderov’s Ataka – which has chosen the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Sofia for the occasion.
On February 24, it was expected to become clear whether the sole company to have bid to rent voting machines to the Central Election Commission meets the conditions of the tender.
The Supreme Administrative Court ruled on February 1 that there should be voting machines at all 12 000 polling stations, not merely the 500 that the CEC had planned for. Only one company put in a bid, 13 minutes before the deadline.
The day before the official election campaign period started, Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court overturned the penalty for failing to vote in two successive elections of the same type. The penalty, deprivation of the right to vote, was rejected as unconstitutional by the court, in effect rendering the Electoral Code provision making voting compulsory, meaningless.
Between now and the end of the official campaign period, at midnight on March 24, Bulgarians will be presented with nightly television adverts for parties and candidates, each accompanied – as the law requires – by a reminder that “buying and selling votes is a crime” (as literally translated from the Bulgarian, and yes, in successive elections, various people including language professors have taken issue with the grammar).
Bulgarians abroad who want to vote in the election have until February 28 at midnight Sofia time to submit applications to do so, which can be done via the website of the CEC. The commission said on February 23 that so far a total of 21 516 applications had been submitted via the site, while just more than 400 had been submitted at various diplomatic missions abroad.
The largest number of applications to vote abroad has come from Bulgarian citizens in Turkey, 7566, a total of 2395 from the UK, 1687 from Spain and 1666 from Spain.
The number of polling stations in foreign countries will be announced on March 4.
Bulgarians will again have the option, in these elections, of rejecting all candidates and ticking the “I don’t support anyone” box on the ballot paper.