Bulgaria’s mayoral elections run-offs: Problems with voting machines in a few places

Voting in Bulgaria’s November 5 mayoral elections run-offs was proceeding normally, the Interior Ministry said, with the Central Election Commission reporting problems with voting machines in about 20 polling stations.

Polling stations opened on time at 7am, with voters in several parts of Bulgaria electing 91 mayors of municipalities, 431 mayors of mayoralties and 31 district mayors.

Run-offs are being held in places, including capital city Sofia, where no candidate got 50%+1 of the vote in the first round on October 29.

The run-offs are between the two candidates who got the largest shares of votes in the first round, with the exception of three villages where three candidates are competing, after the second and third got the same number of votes.

Voting was taking place at 7250 polling stations, with voting machines sent to 5900 polling stations. Where problems with voting machines were encountered, voting went over to paper ballots, as Bulgarian election law provides.

Ahead of the second-round vote, the company that maintains the machines, warned that there could be problems, because the Central Election Commission (CEC) had ordered the wrong size of paper – as it had done in Bulgaria’s April 2023 early parliamentary elections.

Among those who encountered a problem with a voting machine was Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov. On the first attempt, the machine did not print. A second attempt succeeded.

Denkov said that the problems with the machines were the result of the poor coordination between the institutions, and especially the CEC was responsible.

“Obviously, once the elections are over, the question must be clearly raised about how we restore trust in the electoral process,” he said.

Controversially, the CEC barred the use of voting machines at the first round. An October 30 ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court opened the way for voting machines to be used in the second round.

Denkov urged people to go out and vote.

“Regardless of whether it is by paper or by machine, the important thing is that people vote,” he said.

Bulgarian National Television reported that in an incident at a polling station in Sofia, a woman tore up her mother’s ballot paper, saying that she had seen that her mother had “voted wrongly”. The vote was annulled, the report said.

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