Arrests, fines over breaches of electoral law as Bulgaria votes on March 26
As Bulgarians voted in parliamentary elections on March 26, the head of the Central Election Commission in Bulgaria’s Pleven region was arrested for vote-buying, an allegation was made that an election official in Petrich was functionally illiterate, and the commission fined media for illegally disclosing exit polls while voting was proceeding.
On the afternoon of March 26, Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov said that the number of complaints of alleged irregularities added up to 534, almost double the number at the previous early parliamentary elections in October 2014.
While Bulgaria’s electoral law forbids the publication of exit poll results before the end of voting hours, several Bulgarian-language media posted exit polls online on Facebook in the course of the day, on the basis that the ban does not cover social networks.
One Bulgarian-language website, 24 Chassa (“24 Hours”) posted full details of exit polls on its site, saying that it was doing so because of compelling public interest in the day’s National Assembly election.
At 4pm, a CEC spokesperson said that media that had flouted the law would be fined and penalties already had been issued.
Later on March 26, the CEC website showed that five penalties had been issued against 24 Chassa, one against the website Pik and another against the website Blitz.
In a statement on March 25, the CEC noted that the law provided for, in the event of a first offence, a fine to 2000 to 5000 leva (about 1022 to 2555 euro), and in the event of a second or further offence, a fine of 5000 to 10 000 leva.
Meanwhile, in one incident in the village of Chernogorovo in the Dimitrovgrad area, a man was found to have photographed his ballot paper. He admitted to police that he had received money to vote for a particular political party.
In Petrich, it was alleged that an election official who was filling in ballot reports appeared to have difficulty in writing and reading. Voters reported the man, the 23-year-old head of the voting station, the Regional Election Commission in Blagoevgrad, which said that the complaint could not be proceeded on.
Bulgarian National Television reported Yordan Simonski of the Regional Election Commission in Blagoevgrad as saying that the law made no provision regarding education. “He may be illiterate. We cannot ascertain that. There is no legal requirement, no educational qualifications about who can be in a sectional election commission. It’s a matter in relation to the party that nominated him”.
A BNT team established that at a voting section in the Vuzrozhdentsi neighbourhood of Kurdzhali, the secrecy of the ballot was not being maintained. Ballots were not properly folded and for which party votes had been cast was clearly visible.
The regional commission also had received a complaint that a district electoral commission deputy chairperson was checking ballots to see how people had voted.
Prosecutor-General Tsatsarov said that apparently in these elections, the stakes were high for political parties. One particular formation was conducting an “absolutely aggressive campaign,” he said.
Tsatsarov said by noon, charges had been lodged against eight people. The Prosecutor’s Office had initiated 73 pre-trial proceedings.
For the full results of Bulgaria’s March 26 2017 parliamentary elections, please follow us on Twitter at TheSofiaGlobe and via our sofiaglobe.com homepage and Facebook page. A timeline of key political events in Bulgaria from 2007 to 2017 is available on The Sofia Globe’s special page.
The Sofia Globe election factfile about Bulgaria’s March 2017 vote is online here.