Ruling Majority Agrees on Changes to Election Code

Ruling Majority Agrees on Changes to Election Code

Sofia, October 17 (BTA) - The ruling majority of GERB, the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front have agreed on a joint position on the proposed changes to the Election Code dealing with the voting sections aboard and the controversial "None of the above" ballot checkbox, Patriotic Front Floor Leader Valeri Simeonov told a briefing in Parliament after meeting with Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and representatives of the three formations.

Reformist Bloc Floor Co-Leader Naiden Zelenogorski said GERB, the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front will back a proposal to impose no restriction on the number of voting stations in EU member states, while for the remaining countries, the cap of 35 will remain in place. The Reformist Bloc will move a proposal with regards to the "None of the above" checkbox to not use the voted Election Code methodology in majority-rule elections like in the case of presidential or mayoral votes. This will ease concerns that the vote could be rigged and the polling threshold will remain 4 per cent, Zelenogorski said.

At the moment, the Election Code treats any ticked "None of the above" checkboxes as valid votes but those are then subtracted from the total for the purposes of the vote count. The ruling majority has agreed to keep this rule for the proportional elections but not apply it in majority-rule elections.

Valeri Simeonov said after the meeting of the ruling majority: "We do not have any good news for the opposition. We think that the Government can continue the useful work it is doing for the country. I see no reason at all for any changes in relations in Parliament, on the one hand, or in the Government, on the other."

Earlier in the day, it emerged that Reformist Bloc MPs Radan Kanev and Atanas Atanasov had moved changes to the Election Code that would lift the restriction on the number of voting sections abroad altogether. The Patriotic Front said that if this happens, they would withdraw their support for the

Borissov told the briefing in Parliament: "What Zelenogorski suggested - that is what we agreed with the Patriots and that they should get a move on it immediately, we will back them for the sake of the stability of the coalition and for the sake of what the Government has done in two years."

"Had we failed to come to an agreement, that would have meant we no longer had a coalition and what would have followed were each party's own constitutional forms and solutions."

Borissov recalled that compromises were made a couple of months ago with regards to the Election Code for the sake of the Government's stability and the public at one point had to contemplate the issue of someone seeking a win through forfeiture or to favor one of the candidates or to restrict the vote of the Bulgarians in Europe and the world. The Prime Minister said that now, with the removal of the restrictions for the number of voting sections in the EU, with the option to have more than one ballot box, an opportunity will be given to Bulgarians' fellow countrymen to vote.

Earlier in the day, Bulgaria's National Ombudsman Maya Manolova Monday approached the Constitutional Court, challenging two provisions of the Election Code imposing limitations on the number of voting sections abroad.

Manolova commented to journalists that the effective legal framework, on the one hand, makes mandatory the establishing of a voting section in any place where not fewer than 60 voters have applied for this but, on the other hand, limits the total number of sections that can be established in any single State to 35.

"These provisions deprive thousands of people of the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. This is arbitrary administrative treatment and a violation of the principles of the law-governed State," Manolova commented.

She argued that it is not clear how it was decided which 35 voting sections in the UK would be established. Manolova expects a quick response by the Constitutional Court to her appeal.

ABV Deputy Leader Roumen Petkov told a news conference his party will support either setting a minimum of 55 for the voting sections abroad or scrapping the cap on their number altogether.

In his view, by playing up of the threat of votes from Turkey, the Patriotic Front are engaging in "gross speculation". Neither the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) nor DOST have fielded a presidential candidate and saying that they would be king-makers is "quite an ugly speculation," Petkov said.

In his view, the whole "ballot checkbox" controversy and the drive to make possible its use as an election instrument over the medium term fit someone's interests. This is nothing short of an outright attempt to limit the number of the formations in the next parliament to a minimum with that minimum comprising GERB, BSP and MRF, Petkov said, adding there are two options - either do nothing or drop the checkbox altogether.