Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on December 23 to overturn President Roumen Radev’s veto on amendments to the country’s Electoral Code. The motion to overturn the veto passed with 125 MPs in favour and 101 opposed.
The same parties that backed the bill when it was passed by the National Assembly earlier this month voted to also overturn the veto – former prime minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF coalition, predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Bulgarian Socialist Party.
Critics of the bill dubbed the three groups the “paper ballot coalition” since one of the main provisions of the bill is to allow voters to choose whether to cast paper ballots or use voting machines.
Opponents of the bill have claimed that the introduction of mandatory machine voting in most precincts last year cut down on vote-buying and invalid ballots. The bill’s supporters have said that it was merely giving voters a choice whether to use the voting machines or paper ballots.
Centre-right Democratic Bulgaria coalition, which opposed the bill and voted in favour of the veto, said that it would ask the Constitutional Court to rule on whether the law’s provisions comply with the Bulgarian constitution.
It would require the support of other parliamentary groups to do so, as it only has 20 MPs and a formal request for a Constitutional Court ruling has to be signed by at least 48 MPs to be considered by the court.
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Previous legislatures overturned the veto on all but three occasions – two cases when the provisions in question were withdrawn and one instance where the government coalition failed to muster the support needed to overturn the veto.
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