Protests are to be held in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia and the Black Sea cities of Varna and Bourgas on the evening of November 18 against the push by GERB, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the Bulgarian Socialist Party to amend the Electoral Code, in particular to return the option of voting using a paper ballot.
The opponents of the move – the We Continue the Change party and the Democratic Bulgaria coalition – see it as an attempt by the “status quo” parties to enable corruption in the electoral process.
The protest in Sofia starts at 6.30pm in front of Parliament, in Varna at 6pm in front of the municipal headquarters and in Bourgas at 6.30pm in front of the municipal headquarters.
The amendments were approved at an all-night sitting of Parliament’s legal affairs committee this week.
They include giving voters a choice between using a voting machine or a paper ballot, reversing current law which says that at polling stations where 300 or more voters are registered, voting is done solely by using a voting machine. Proponents of the sole use of voting machines have argued that this resulted in a cleaner electoral process.
Other controversial moves include raising the threshold for opening a polling station abroad from 40 to 100 applications, rejection of the idea of a separate multi-mandate electoral district for voters abroad, and disbanding the public advisory council to the Central Election Commission.
The controversy has had an impact on the parliamentary process and on prospects of the current National Assembly electing a government.
We Continue the Change and Democratic Bulgaria are boycotting sittings until the House deals with the Electoral Code amendments.
They also have rejected the idea of negotiating with the Bulgarian Socialist Party, their erstwhile partner in government, on the possible formation of a new government unless the socialists withdraw their support for the return of paper ballots.
On the morning of November 18, the National Assembly struggled to achieve a quorum to begin its sitting, doing so only at the third and final attempt.
We Continue the Change and Democratic Bulgaria absented themselves, while the GERB group was not present because leader Boiko Borissov called it into an early morning meeting.
Speaking at a news conference after the GERB group meeting, Borissov said that he was willing to make concessions on the amendments, with the exception of the return of the paper ballots.
Borissov accused We Continue the Change and Democratic Bulgaria of using the Electoral Code amendments as a pretext to force elections.
The two groups responded with a counter-proposal, to vote into being a parliamentary ad hoc committee on amendments to the Electoral Code.
They reiterated that they wanted the entire bill of amendments withdrawn, describing the legal affairs committee meeting that approved it as “midnight madness”.
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