Parliament Concludes Passage of Election Code Amendments, Takes Recess

Parliament Concludes Passage of Election Code Amendments, Takes Recess

Parliament Concludes
Passage of Election Code Amendments,
Takes Recess

Sofia, April 28 (BTA) - Bulgaria's Parliament Thursday passed conclusively the last batch of amendments to the Election Code and took an Easter recess.

Overseas Voting Restrictions Modified

Reversing an earlier resolution, the legislature voted, 105-29 with one abstention, to modify the ban on overseas voting outside the Bulgarian embassies and consulates by certain exceptions. Voting sections in settlements in EU Member States where there is no Bulgarian diplomatic mission or consular post may be established provided that not fewer than 100 voters have submitted applications stating their wish to vote. In countries which are not EU Member States, a single voting section may be established in a settlement of a population exceeding 1 million by a decision of the Central Election Commission (CEC) on a proposal from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, provided that not fewer than 100 voters have submitted applications stating their wish to vote.

Chetin Kazak MP of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) asked that the wholesale ban on opening voting sections outside the diplomatic missions and consular posts abroad be repealed instead of modified.

MRF Chairman Mustafa Karadayi explained that he voted against the modified provision because "the wording is antidemocratic". "Worse yet, this Election Code contains enough unconstitutional formulations adopted in breach of the parliamentary rules," he argued. "GERB fell hostage to populists and avowed nationalists," Karadayi said. In his words, "the worst victims of these amendments are the Bulgarian citizens resident in Turkey, the US and Canada." After these provisions were passed, the MRF MPs walked out of the debating chamber.

Independent MP Lyutvi Mestan said that by adopting this resolution, the Bulgarian Parliament "falls victim to a downright fascist outrage".

E-Voting to be Experimented after January 2018

Electronic voting will be experimented after January 1, 2018 in three successive elections, including by-elections, in one Bulgarian region, according to Election Code amendments adopted on second reading late Wednesday night.

The CEC has until that date to simulate remote e-voting with fictitious parties, coalitions or candidates on three occasions.

The CEC is to set up a permanent specialized unit for technical support and technical control of remote e-voting, which will coordinate its activity with the Council of Ministers.

If the experimental e-voting is successful, meaning that the secrecy of the ballot and the system's security are guaranteed, citizens' control of the election process is ensured, and significant violations are not established, remote e-voting will be available as an option in the 2019 European Parliament elections and the results will be taken into account.

The MPs also resolved to introduce machine voting in at least 500 voting sections as early as for the 2016 presidential elections. Machine vote counting will be experimented at this year's presidential elections, too, according to rules adopted by the CEC.

No Ban on Simultaneous Conduct of Elections, Referendum

Parliament reversed another previously approved amendment that banned the conduct of elections and voting in a national referendum on one and the same day. This reinstates a provision of the Citizens' Direct Participation in Central Government and Local Self-Government Act, according to which, when national elections and a national referendum are held in the same year, they must take place on and the same date.

The MPs banned canvassing during religious rites on a motion by Yordan Tsonev MP of the MRF.

Any new parliamentary parties and coalitions, which enter the Bulgarian Parliament in the next elections or have Members of the European Parliament but are not represented in the National Assembly, can nominate one member to the CEC for the 2014-2019 term. The nominations will be made to the President.

A CEC member who violates the Election Code will be fined between 20 leva and 200 leva for a first offence, and between 200 leva to 500 leva for a repeat offence.

Parties or candidates which or who fail to declare donations will be fined between 1,000 leva and 3,000 leva for a first offence, and between 3,000 leva and 10,000 leva for a repeat offence.

The threshold for valid preferences for municipal councillors was set at 7 per cent of the votes for the candidate list. Before this provision was amended, a candidate was required to win at least 7 per cent of the municipal electoral quota to move further up the list.

The next plenary sitting of Parliament will be held on May 11. PK/DD, LG

Source: Sofia