The official election campaign period for Bulgaria’s October 29 2023 mayoral and municipal elections begins on September 29.
These elections are scheduled ones, being held four years after the previous local elections in 2019.
Elections are being held in all 265 municipalities in Bulgaria’s 28 districts.
In all, a total of 6 048 081 people are eligible to vote, including adult Bulgarian citizens and citizens of other European Union countries permanently resident in Bulgaria, in the latter case only if they registered to vote ahead of the September 18 deadline to do so.
A total of 5053 municipal councillors are being elected.
The largest number of candidate mayors is in Sofia, 21 (there were 19 in 2019 and 21 in 2015), followed by Plovdiv, 18. Among Bulgaria’s other major cities, there are 12 candidate mayors in Bourgas and Rousse, and 10 in Varna.
All candidates are subject to checking by the Dossier Commission for affiliation to the communist-era secret service State Security or military intelligence of the Bulgarian People’s Army. However, having worked for the communist-era secret services is not a bar to holding public office.
That a Bulgarian holds dual nationality is not a bar to being a candidate mayor. Citizens of other EU countries may be candidate councillors, but not candidate mayors.
Unlike parliamentary and presidential elections, voting in municipal elections takes place solely in Bulgaria, and Bulgarian citizens not resident in the country are not allowed to vote. Eligibility to vote in a municipality requires having had the same permanent address registration there for at least six months.
Fifty-nine parties and nine coalitions have registered to participate in the elections.
The media are obliged by law to state which content has been paid for. In reporting on opinion polls, the law requires a declaration of various facts about the poll, including the methodology and how it was funded.
Election campaign materials may not contain national symbols such as the Bulgarian national flag and coat of arms.
Clergy are banned from participating in campaigning.
Campaigning is permitted only in the Bulgarian language.
Bulgaria’s government has allocated 151.1 million leva for the country’s mayoral and municipal elections, the government information service said on August 30.
Voters have a choice between using a voting machine or a paper ballot. A total of 12 837 voting machines are to be used, and the Central Election Commission has said that it does not intend acquiring new voting machines for this year’s municipal elections. About 21 million paper ballots are to be printed, at an estimated cost of 11 million leva.
The official campaign period ends at midnight on October 27. On October 28 and 29, no campaigning is permitted and the results of opinion polls may not be published.
In the case of exit polls, these may not be published until after 8pm on October 29, according to an official chronology posted on the website of the Central Election Commission.
The elections will be held on October 29 from 7am to 8pm. By coincidence, October 29 2023 is also the date that clocks change from summer time to winter time, going back an hour at 4am to 3am.
Where mayoral election results are indecisive, second-round elections will be held on November 5 2023 from 7am to 8pm.
Bulgarian law leaves it up to municipalities individually to decree whether there will be a ban on the sale of alcohol on and around election day. Any such ban applies to everyone, irrespective of whether or not they have the right to vote.
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