With polls due to close at 8pm in Bulgaria’s November 14 2021 presidential and early parliamentary elections, a key theme was what voter turnout would be, as the final hours ticked by.
Voter turnout is a key factor in the presidential election, because for a candidate to win at the first round, that candidate must get more than 50 per cent of the vote with voter turnout higher than 50 per cent.
If voter turnout on November 14 falls short of that threshold, a second round of Bulgaria’s presidential elections will be held on November 21.
On Bulgarian National Television, Alpha Research pollster Pavel Vulchev said that voter turnout was low, similarly to that in the country’s July early parliamentary elections.
According to official Central Election Commission (CEC) records, final voter turnout in Bulgaria’s April 4 2021 regular parliamentary elections was 50.61 per cent, and in the July 11 early parliamentary elections, 42.19 per cent.
On November 14, the CEC said that by 4pm, turnout in the presidential election was 25.72 per cent and in the early parliamentary elections, 25.58 per cent. In July, at 4pm voter turnout was just more than 27 per cent, according to the CEC.
Alpha Research estimated that by 4.30pm, voter turnout in the presidential election was 28.1 per cent.
Bulgaria’s November 14 election day proceeded fairly smoothly, with the CEC reporting that only a tiny fraction of voting machines had malfunctioned, meaning that the affected polling stations had to go over to using paper ballots.
The CEC announced in the afternoon that it had ruled that candidate MP Kiril Petkov had violated election law by displaying his ballot paper showing the ballot numbers of the political party and presidential candidate he had voted for.
The penalty for Petkov was not immediately announced.
Bulgaria’s Electoral Code forbids canvassing 24 hours before election day and on election day. The penalty for a first offence is 2000 to 5000 leva (about 1000 to 2500 euro) and in the event of a second or further offences, 5000 to 15 000 leva.
The Interior Ministry said that between October 14 and the afternoon of November 14, a total of 847 reports of alleged breaches of electoral law had been received.
Of these, most – 688 – were allegations of vote-buying, 35 about illegal canvassing, 18 regarded corporate voting and three destruction of property, the ministry said.
Bulgarian media gave prominent coverage on November 14 to an incident at a polling station in Sofia in which a 74-year-old woman printed out her ballot from a voting machine and, instead of placing it in the ballot box, ate it.
The woman had refused to hand the slip of paper to election officials and led them on a chase down two flights of stairs before chewing and swallowing it.
For the receipt to be recorded in the official tally, instead of recording the receipt number, an official wrote “ate the receipt”.
Bulgarian National Television reported that electoral law did not include instructions on how officials should react in such a case. However, the missing ballot would not affect the process, because officials knew what had happened to it, the report said.
For further details about Bulgaria’s November 2021 elections, please see The Sofia Globe’s Election factfile.
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