Bulgaria’s PM says election commission decision on machine voting violated law, should be reversed

Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov said on October 28 that the Central Election Commission (CEC) decision to scrap machine voting in the forthcoming municipal elections violated the Electoral Code and he called on the CEC to reverse it.

The CEC decision on October 27 followed a controversy around a report by the State Agency for National Security (SANS) calling into question the integrity of machine votinig.

Denkov said that the decision was “an abuse and a violation of the Electoral Code.

He said that the SANS report was manipulative and, failing to meet legal requirements for such reports, appeared designed to be distributed as widely as possible on the eve of the elections.

The Cabinet was ready to immediately vote on the resignation of SANS deputy head Denyo Denev, who signed the rport.

Denkov said that he expects the proposal for Denev’s dismissal to come from the current head of the agency.

The CEC decision was apparently based on a lack of a certification from the e-government ministry of the voting machines. Denkov pointed out that the deadline for machine certification was 5pm on October 28, but the CEC had made its decision on October 27.

Denkov once again, as he and the e-government ministry had the day before, underlined the integrity of the process of machine voting, saying that the machines acted as printers.

Claims in the SANS report that someone could manipulate the vote were baseless, Denkov said.

He said that the CEC had misled the public with its claim that the machines had left the warehouses without its permission. Meanwhile, reports on October 28 said that machines were being returned to Sofia from various cities and towns in Bulgaria.

Denkov said that the episode had come at the last minute, so that institutions, such as the Supreme Administrative Court – where the CEC decision on the voting machines is being taken on appeal – did not have time to react.

Asked by a reporter if considering the situation, the resignation of the government was being considered, Denkov said that if the tensions continued “there is no point in having a Cabinet”.

“It is important to make the right decisions – so far this has been done. But what is happening now is far beyond the limits of what is acceptable,” he said.

Asked if his government would heed a call (which came from Boiko Borissov’s GERB) to put the SANS report online, Denkov said that he saw no reason to make public a report that was a manipulation.

“To distribute it on the website of the Cabinet means to legitimise a lie,” Denkov said.

“I appeal to the CEC – you have every reason to reconsider your order yesterday and return the machine voting. The Interior Ministry is ready to deliver the machines in time to the populated areas if the decision is changed.”

Denkov said that October 28 is a day for reflection, in which we have to decide for whom to vote, but instead, he said, we once again are discussing how we will vote – with machines or only on paper.

“In the last local elections, held only with paper ballots, over 660 000 ballots were declared invalid,” he said.

“We can only guess how many of the current mayors were elected through these bogus ballots,” he said.

According to him, it was for this reason that the machines were introduced in the last local elections. “The ballots from them (machines) cannot become invalid, and this gives much greater confidence that the final result is correctly reported,” Denkov said.

The Supreme Administrative Court told Bulgarian news agency BTA on Saturday that it will rule on Monday, October 30, at the earliest on an appeal against the CEC decision cancelling machine voting for the October 29 local elections.

If the full set of the appeal is submitted to the court on Saturday, it can be administrated on Monday at the earliest, that is, on the day following polling day, the court said, adding that it does not have duty panels over the weekend.

At its meeting on October 28, which started after Denkov’s statement, CEC rejected a proposal to review its October 27 decision on voting machines, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television reported.

Related stories:

Bulgaria’s 2023 municipal elections: Thousands protest for the return of machine voting

Bulgaria’s 2023 municipal elections: Controversy deepens as machine voting cancelled

Row as campaigning ahead of Bulgaria’s local elections comes to a close

Bulgaria’s 2023 municipal elections: The Sofia Globe’s factfile

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Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.