Bulgaria’s 2019 local elections: Two websites fined for posting exit polls before voting ends

Written by on October 27, 2019 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria’s 2019 local elections: Two websites fined for posting exit polls before voting ends

As voting proceeded in Bulgaria’s October 27 local elections, at least three media ignored a call by the Central Election Commission (CEC) to heed the law by not posting results of polls before the end of election day.

On the eve of the elections, the CEC posted an appeal on its website to the media to comply with the law on election day.

“We respect the right of the Bulgarian media to inform and be informed – basic values of a democratic society.

“But on election day, everyone should show maturity and responsibility and comply with the provision of Article 205, paragraph five, of the Electoral Code, which prohibits the posting of results of surveys or polls in any form, including the publication of links to social networks, before the close of election day, 8pm on October 27,” the CEC said.

In spite of this call, on Sunday one of the most-read Bulgarian-language news website began posting initial results, first with the outcome of voting so far in Bourgas and Varna at 9am.

It followed with regular updates, quoting what it said was information held by party headquarters, for Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Bourgas, Rousse, Pleven and Blagoevgrad.

Another Bulgarian-language website made available via YouTube and its Viber account what it said were running results from mayoral elections in Sofia, Plovdiv and Pleven.

It quoted the head of the CEC, Stefka Stoeva, as having said in an interview at the end of September that it was “normal” to announce the results of voting throughout election day, and not just when it ended.

Stoeva had said that the law should allow this, the website said, saying that its position was that the parties had access to the preliminary results and could act on them and “why should the voters not”.

A third Bulgarian-language website posted results from the first few hours of voting in Sofia, and urged visitors to go to its video channel to see more.

In previous elections in Bulgaria, various websites resorted to manoeuvres such as posting the results of “popular book sales” or “motor races”, with the colours used easily identifying political parties competing in the elections.

In more recent elections, some media refrained from posting exit polls on their own sites, but sought to evade the law by providing links to their social network pages, where the results could be found.

Bulgarian law provides for fines of 2000 to 5000 leva (about 1000 to 2500 euro) for making public exit polls during voting hours, for a first offence, rising to a maximum 10 000 for a second or further offence.

In the second half of the afternoon on October 27, the CEC said that it was fining news website 24 Chassa and another site, PIK, for posting the purported results of polling, and said that it had ordered them to refrain from posting exit polls until the close of voting at 8pm.

Some other Bulgarian media called into question the credibility of the claimed exit poll results and urged voters to go to the ballot booths without taking these claims into account.

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