Bulgaria’s July 11 2021 parliamentary elections: Factfile

Bulgaria’s voters go to the polls on July 11 2021 in early parliamentary elections. The official campaigning period began on June 11 and continued until July 9. This is The Sofia Globe’s factfile. Updated on July 10.

Some of the key numbers and rules:

Eligible to vote: 6 711 048 people, according to provisional figures from the Central Election Commission (CEC). Bulgarian citizens over the age of 18, resident in the country or abroad, are eligible to vote. People serving a term of imprisonment are not allowed to vote. By law, voting is compulsory, but there are no sanctions for not doing so.

Age of eligibility to be a candidate MP: 21.

Up for grabs: 240 seats.

Term of the National Assembly: Four years. The now-dissolved 45th National Assembly, however, lasted only from April 15 to May 11 2021. The 44th lasted its full term.

Electoral threshold: A party or coalition that gets a minimum four per cent share of the total number of valid votes is entitled to a share of seats.

Competing: Seventeen parties and six coalitions. In the April 4 regular parliamentary elections, there were 22 parties and eight coalitions.

Campaign rules: Campaigning in a language other than Bulgarian is against the law. Also forbidden are anonymous campaign materials and the use of state resources, for example official vehicles, for election campaigning. Campaign materials may not incorporate state symbols such as the national flag of Bulgaria or any foreign state, the coat of arms or any religious images. Campaigning on public transport and at public institutions is banned.

Public media: During the official campaign period, election coverage and campaign advertising have separate special slots on the public broadcasters. All paid party political broadcasts, or other advertising, are required by law to include a notice “buying and selling of votes is a crime”. Grammarians have complained about that construction, to no end.

Think about it: By law, July 10, the day before the election, is a “Day of Contemplation” on which no election campaigning is allowed.

Drink about it? There may be varying restrictions on sales of alcohol on and even before election day, generally ending when polls close. By law, these restrictions, if any, are up to individual municipalities to decree and are not decided at national level. Any ban on sales of alcohol also applies to foreigners who cannot vote. To date, bans on the sale of alcohol on election day have been announced by the municipalities of Plovdiv, Shoumen and Vratsa.

Where to vote: Voters may use their personal identification number on the website of the Chief Registration and Administrative Services website, to find out at which polling station they should vote – https://www.grao.bg/elections/

Voting hours: Polls open at 7am and close at 8pm. Outside the country, the equivalent local times apply. Local election officials may allow those still queueing at the time polls close, to proceed to vote. However, that extension may be until no later than 9pm.

Methods of voting: In line with Electoral Code amendments approved by the short-lived 45th National Assembly, voting must be done using a machine at all polling stations where more than 300 voters are registered. Bulgaria has about 9600 voting machines that it bought ahead of the April elections.

There will be machine voting at 9400 polling stations in Bulgaria. At about 700 polling stations, two machines will be available. Voting will be by paper ballot at 2800 polling stations. Outside Bulgaria, there will be machine voting at 273 polling stations in 24 foreign countries.

Voting districts: For the parliamentary elections, Bulgaria is divided into 31 multi-member constituencies.

Voting abroad: There will be many more polling stations abroad than there were in April, a result of the amended Electoral Code easing the process for opening polling stations abroad. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a section on its website regarding the elections.

There will be 782 polling stations in 68 foreign countries, about 300 more than in the April 4 parliamentary elections. According to the amended Electoral Code, polling stations are automatically opened at embassies and consulates where there has been at least one polling station with 100 voters in the past five years – a figure of 568.

Bulgarians in foreign countries had until June 15 to submit an application to vote abroad.

Even if a Bulgarian has given notice of intention of vote in a foreign country, if he or she is in Bulgaria on July 11, they may vote at the polling station for their permanent address, while being required to submit a special declaration provided on the spot.

The ‘I don’t support anyone’ option: Voters will have the option to vote “I don’t support anyone”. Such votes are counted towards voter turnout but do not influence the share-out of seats in Parliament.

Opinion polls: Bulgarian electoral law requires that the results of opinion polls published during the campaign period should specify the method, sample, and who paid for the poll, whether a third party or the agency itself.

Anti-Covid measures: Bulgaria’s epidemic declaration because of Covid-19 has been extended to the end of July by the caretaker government, meaning that these elections again will be subject to anti-epidemic measures.

What’s the bill, please? The caretaker government allocated a budget of about 57.1 million leva (about 29.19 million euro) for the conduct of the early parliamentary elections. The April elections cost more than 62 million leva. The cost of the July elections also has been influenced by developments such as the acquisition of additional voting machines and the cost of implementing anti-epidemic measures.

After the election:

According to the constitution, the President has up to a month after the elections to convene the National Assembly. Should the President not do so, Parliament may be convened by at least a fifth of its members.

After consultations with parliamentary groups, the President appoints a Prime Minister-designate nominated by the party that has won the highest number of seats in the National Assembly.

Should the Prime Minister-designate fail to form a government within seven days, the mandate is passed to the person designated by the second-largest parliamentary group. Should the second attempt at forming a government fail, the mandate goes to a minority parliamentary group of the President’s choice.

Should consultations on forming a government prove successful, the President asks the National Assembly to vote to elect the Prime Minister-designate.

If no agreement on forming a government is reached, the President appoints a caretaker government, dissolves the National Assembly and schedules new elections on a date two months hence.

(Photo of the National Assembly building in Sofia: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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