Bulgarian Parliament passes Electoral Code amendments, President vows veto

Bulgaria’s National Assembly passed at second reading on September 17 a bill of amendments to the country’s Electoral Code, but even as MPs debated its provisions, President Roumen Radev said that he would veto the bill.

The main changes introduced by the bill is that voters will not be required to use voting machines and can opt to cast paper ballots, as well as a change to the format of the election results protocols, meant to simplify them.

Both moves were decried by opposition parties as the governing majority preparing to falsify the election results.

The bill also requires the Central Electoral Commission to purchase or rent voting machines, while also mandating several state bodies to carry out the necessary certification of the equipment.

The bulk of the bill, introducing a first-past-the-post element to elections to a Grand National Assembly, was rejected. A provision to extend the voting period during pandemic periods was also voted down.

Asked whether he intended to veto the bill, Radev said he would “categorically” do so, describing it as “an attempt to keep the possibility of manipulating the elections.”

Bulgaria’s constitution grants the head of state a limited power of veto, through enabling the President to return legislation to the National Assembly for further discussion. The National Assembly may overturn the President’s veto through a simple majority vote or accept the veto and review the vetoed clauses.

Since taking office in January 2017, Radev made liberal use of this power, using it 23 times, most recently earlier this week, when he vetoed provisions of a bill amending the Judiciary Act.

Parliament overturned his veto in all but two cases, when the provisions in question were withdrawn. On several occasions, Radev has followed through with a Constitutional Court challenge, where he has been more successful in blocking legislation.

(Photo: parliament.bg)

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