Bulgarian President Roumen Radev said on December 14 that he had vetoed amendments to the country’s Electoral Code, passed by Parliament earlier this month after protracted and acrimonious debates.
In his veto motives, Radev said that he vetoed a number of provisions in the bill, saying that the amended law would not guarantee equal treatment of voters, the secrecy of the vote and the “optimal oranisation of the electoral process abroad.”
In particular, he said that the freedom to choose how to cast the vote – using a voting machine or a paper ballot – was not one enshrined in the constitution and that Parliament had to set clear rules for the voting process, in line with the principle of the rule of law.
Parliament also effectively denied voters a choice between machine voting and paper ballots, since the bill requires voters to cast printouts from the voting machines.
“Machine voting is no longer an alternative for ballots but is in effect also casting a ballot, just not one printed in the Bulgarian National Bank printing house, but one printed by a machine in the voting precinct. This eliminates the point of machine voting and, in practice, denies voters the ‘right to choose’ how to vote,” Radev said.
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 and the latest Electoral Code amendments were his 29th vetoed bill.
Previous legislatures overturned the veto on all but three occasions – two cases when the provisions in question were withdrawn and one instance where the government coalition failed to muster the support needed to overturn the veto.
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