Only minor problems as voting proceeds in Bulgaria’s April early parliamentary elections

Minor problems attending the process of voting in Bulgaria’s April 2 2023 early parliamentary elections, the fifth time in two years that Bulgarians are electing a legislature.

By the early afternoon, voting at 65 polling stations had gone over solely to the use of paper ballots because of malfunctioning voting machines.

However, the intention had been for voting machines to be available at 9366 polling stations, meaning that problematic machines amounted to 0.69 per cent of the total.

The April 2023 elections are being conducted on the basis of a choice, legislated by the now-defunct 48th National Assembly, between voting using a machine or a paper ballot.

GERB-UDF coalition leader Boiko Borissov and Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova, whose parliamentary groups had backed the reintroduction of the option of a paper ballot, voted using paper ballots.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) also had backed bringing back the paper ballot option. MRF founder and honorary president Ahmed Dogan voted using a paper ballot, but MRF leader Mustafa Karadayi used a voting machine.

Those opting to vote using a machine included We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria’s Kiril Petkov, Assen Vassilev, Hristo Ivanov, Atanas Atanassov, Nikola Minchev and Ivailo Mirchev. In the previous Parliament, the WCC and DB groups opposed the return of paper ballots.

Others to vote using a machine were caretaker Prime Minister Gulub Donev, caretaker Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev, Vuzrazhdane leader Kostadin Kostadinov and Bulgaria Ascending leader Stefan Yanev. President Roumen Radev used a voting machine.

GERB-UDF said on Facebook that it had lodged a complaint with the Central Election Commission alleging that at polling stations in Sofia, electoral officials were urging voters to use voting machines rather than paper ballots, a move that it alleged was a breach of the law.

Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said that as of 3pm on April 2, voting was proceeding normally and there had been no serious breaches of the peace.

The ministry said that it had received 691 complaints about alleged breaches of electoral legislation. As of the afternoon of April 2, a total of 182 criminal proceedings and 34 fast-track proceedings had been initiated.

In the week ahead of the elections, there were a large number of bomb threats against schools in Bulgaria, which customarily are used as polling stations. Demerdzhiev said in the 24 hours preceding election day, no bomb threats had been received. Reportedly, before election day there were separate arrests of two teenagers allegedly behind some of the threats.

Ahead of the elections, the Interior Ministry announced a series of operations against vote-buying.

One electoral official, at a polling station in the village of Gabarevo in the Stara Zagora district, allegedly took an all too spirited approach to election day. He was the subject of an official complaint by his colleagues that he was obviously drunk.

It is expected that exit polls will be announced at 8pm on April 2 when voting ends, though the law allows voting to be extended at a polling station up to 9pm if there is a queue waiting to vote.

Publicising exit poll results before then is illegal, though some media resorted to platforms such as Viber and YouTube to post what they said were the results of exit polls, without identifying which agencies had produced these exit polls.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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