Bulgarian President Roumen Radev said on February 25 that he has vetoed several provisions in the amendments to the country’s Electoral Code, passed by Parliament earlier this month.
The veto comes against a background of the senior partner in the government coalition, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s party GERB, backtracking on the issue of preferential voting, which had been rendered all but meaningless by the bill.
But the preferential voting amendments overshadowed other important changes to electoral rules, which “put us further away from a fair and democratic electoral process,” Radev said in a brief televised address.
“The package of amendments to the Electoral Code weakens the mechanisms that guarantee fair elections, which is why I am imposing a veto,” he said.
Radev also called on the opposition socialists, who have quit Parliament in protest over the Electoral Code amendments, to return to the National Assembly to take part in the new debate on the bill.
Among the provisions vetoed by Radev were those that changed the rules for appealing decisions by electoral authorities, as well as limiting which decisions can be appealed, but also the clauses on machine voting.
Under the amended bill, Bulgaria will begin a phased introduction of machine voting (replacing the current practice of using ballot papers), but only at 3000 precincts in the European Parliament elections in May. Additionally, no voting machines are to be used in small precincts with fewer than 300 electors – this being the provision that Radev vetoed.
Finally, Radev vetoed the changes to preferential voting thresholds, seen as virtually impossible to attain – namely that preferential votes would only apply if a candidate receives as many preferential votes as the number required to win an MP seat in their particular electoral district (or the nation-wide minimum required to win an MEP seat in European Parliament elections.)
These are the provisions that GERB indicated it was prepared to disavow and re-instate the current status quo, which is a five per cent validity threshold on preferential votes for European Parliament elections and seven per cent for national elections.
But with Radev’s veto covering a wider range of topics, it remains to be seen whether the GERB-led coalition will choose to accept the veto – it has done so only once in 14 instances when Radev exercised his power since taking office in January 2017.
Alternatively, MPs could vote to overturn the veto, followed by GERB tabling new amendments that would only roll back changes regarding the preferential voting thresholds.
(Roumen Radev photo: president.bg)