Ruling Coalition Rethinks Some Election Code Amendments

Ruling Coalition Rethinks Some Election Code Amendments 

Sofia, April 26 (BTA) - At a two-hour meeting on Tuesday, the parliamentary groups of GERB, the Reformist Bloc, the Patriotic Front and ABV and Prime Minister and GERB leader Boyko Borissov reached agreement on Election Code amendments which had triggered concerns among some of the parties and expatriate Bulgarians.

Democrats for Strong Bulgaria, which is part of the Reformist Bloc, did not participate in the meeting. 

Earlier in April, Parliament adopted Election Code revisions making voting compulsory, banning the simultaneous conduct of referendums and national elections, and limiting overseas voting to embassies and consulates, among other things.

The amendments were approved by the votes of GERB, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the Patriotic Front. The Reformist Bloc voted against most revisions, and ABV were opposed to some of them. Further amendments to the Election Code are due to be put to the vote this week.

Rather than restricting voting abroad to embassies and consulates, which sparked discontent among expatriate Bulgarians, the government coalition agreed on the opening of up to 50 voting sections in another country.

The government coalition also agreed that the President would set the date for referendums, regardless of whether they are held in the same year as national elections or not.

According to the ruling coalition, the Election Code should stipulate that at least 500 voting sections should enable experimental machine voting, instead of up to 500 as specified in the effective Election Code. The Economy Minister is to check if this is technically possible. Machine vote counting is another avenue to explore. As to electronic voting, its introduction will take longer, said Reformist Bloc Co-floor Leader Nayden Zelenogorski.

Voters who have not turned up for two successive national elections of the same kind will be struck off the electoral roll. The recent amendments stipulated that the electoral rolls would automatically include only people who cast their votes in the previous election.

The parties also reached a consensus on local coalitions. They will be registered by listing the parties and entities which support and form the coalition without writing its name as now, e.g. "Local Coalition for Nessebur's Future". GERB Floor Leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov explained that this would be a barrier to corporate coalitions at local level.

The ruling coalition decided against a ban on the publication of surveys during the election campaign, proposed by GERB and the Patriotic Front and approved by the Legal Affairs Committee. Regarding the duration of the campaign, which is 30 days now, campaign headquarters will be allowed to shorten it on their own discretion. It had been suggested to limit the campaign to 21 days.

The Reformist Bloc is satisfied that the restrictions on the registration of local coalitions and on sociological surveys will not be adopted, said Zelenogorski.

Mariana Todorova MP of ABV said her party was very happy that when there is a public signature list or another initiative for a referendum, the President will be the one to schedule it.

Source: Sofia