Bulgaria awaits results of key parliamentary election

Problems with voting machines in some places, and expectations of a reduced voter turnout compared with the parliamentary elections in April, were key themes as Bulgarians awaited the outcome of the July 11 vote for the 46th National Assembly.

The Parliament elected on April 4 did not vote a government into office, resulting in it being dissolved to make way for the July 11 early elections.

By 5pm, election officials had allowed 66 voting sections to go over the use of paper ballots instead of voting machines because of technical issues with the machines.

This figure is, however, a very small fraction of the more than 10 000 voting sections where the Electoral Code, as amended earlier in 2021, required the mandatory use of voting machines.

While initially the Central Election Commission (CEC) had said that it alone would make decisions about allowing polling stations to go over to using paper ballots, on the morning of election day it decided to delegate such decisions to district election commissions.

Pollster Pavel Vulchev of the Alpha Research agency told Bulgarian National Television on the afternoon of July 11 that voter turnout was expected to be about five per cent lower than in the April 4 elections.

Figures given by the CEC did not allow for precise comparisons. According to the commission’s website, on April 4 at 5pm, voter turnout in the regular parliamentary elections was 39.8 per cent. The CEC told BNT on July 11 that at 4pm, voter turnout was 27.2 per cent.

By mid-afternoon, the CEC had received six complaints and 45 reports about breaches of election rules.

One was regarding the illegal posting of exit poll results by a Bulgarian-language website and 21 were about posting of exit poll results on social networks. The CEC responded that because the law did not define social networks as a media service, it could not take action against these posts.

While media reports showed that some Bulgarians had chosen to spend election day at the country’s Black Sea beaches rather than head for the polling stations where they were registered, reports also showed large queues at polling stations in Greece, a popular summer holiday destination for Bulgarians.

The Interior Ministry said that by 3pm, there had been no serious incidents on election day. Caretaker Interior Minister Boiko Rashkov said that the day was proceeding normally.

However, Boiko Borissov and his GERB party were vocal in their criticism of the process, including the performance of the CEC.

Borissov, who for weeks regularly has criticised the predominance of the use of voting machines in the July 11 vote, said that Europe had lived to see elections in the style of “Venezuela and Maduro”.

The GERB leader spoke of “total chaos in the country, and abroad the theft of the century”. The CEC was “asleep” while there were “thousands of complaints,” Borissov said.

However, he said that his party would not challenge the election results in court.

In the morning, President Roumen Radev urged Bulgarians to vote en masse to ensure that the next Parliament is legitimate. He denied that there were problems with the voting machines.

“As I see it, there is no problem with the machines. There are no queues, voting is fast, easy and convenient,” Radev said.

Also calling on voters to turn out en masse, caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev said that he expected at the end of the day to have an election result that reflected the real electoral attitude of every Bulgarian citizen.

Yanev expressed hope that a predictable and stable cabinet would be formed after the elections on the basis of a predictable and stable parliamentary majority.

He said that the caretaker cabinet has shown determination to limit vote buying to a minimum.

On election day there is a mass police presence throughout the country, so that even if there were attempts to buy votes, they would be stopped, Yanev said.

While results of exit polls will be announced officially just after 8pm, they may not give the full picture, given that voting results from abroad will not come in until July 12 and will change the figures.

The Central Election Commission has until July 15 to announce the votes won and the share-out of seats in the next National Assembly. The following day, candidate MPs who have stood and won in more than one electoral district must declare from which one they have been deemed to be elected.

On July 18, the commission must declare the names of those who have been elected MPs.

For further details about the July 11 parliamentary elections, please visit The Sofia Globe’s Election Factfile.

(Screenshot via BNT)

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