Election Consultations

Президент - БСП - среща
Photo: БТА

January 12 (BTA) -

Socialist Party Ready for Elections at All Times

During yet another round of pre-election consultations with President Rumen Radev on Tuesday, Bulgarian Socialist Party Chair Kornelia Ninova said her party is ready for elections anytime and will reckon with any decision the President may make within his constitutional powers concerning the date for the upcoming parliamentary ballot.

On Tuesday, Radev is holding consultations with the parliamentary parties. In the last few days, he met with representatives of the health authorities, the election administration, extraparliamentary political parties and organizations of expatriate Bulgarians.

Ninova said: "We share the same objective: protecting the health of the people while conducting the elections in a way that ensures a maximum voter turnout, because it will give greater legitimacy and representativeness to the parties and the elected institutions."

Another goal of BSP is to make sure that the forthcoming elections "change the deficient governance model which we are firmly and clearly opposed to." The Socialists want the elections to be transparent and fair and to produce a result which reflects the actual will of Bulgarian citizens.

Ninova views machine voting as one of the guarantees that the ballot is fair. She insisted that the health protocol should be announced promptly. She noted that BSP calls for setting an active registration rule to clear voters' lists of "ghost voters." The party favours the establishment of a multi-member constituency for expatriates.

Ninova believes that postal voting is feasible, provided that there is an active registration rule, as BSP suggested some time ago - otherwise, postal voting will be meaningless.

The Socialists disapprove of voting on two days instead of one, which has been suggested as a way to avoid long queues and gatherings of people in large numbers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The party proposes increasing the remuneration of the members of district election commissions.

Parties are getting late in presenting their campaign programmes, the Socialists say. BSP is the only party which has unveiled its programme so far, Ninova said, urging political entities to waste no time in putting forward their ideas about Bulgaria's development so that they can start talks in substance.

Dispelling "suggestions of hostility" between Radev and BSP

BSP and President Radev denied that there is a conflict between them. "I would like to dispel a suggestion in the public domain. We are not at war with the President and the presidential institution," Ninova said at the start of Tuesday's consultations.

Radev, who was elected president with BSP's support, said that he and Vice President Iliana Iotova, a former high-ranking member of the party, have done nothing to indicate the existence of a rift between them and BSP. The President said: "Anywhere we go, we get a warm welcome and we have open dialogue and communication with all Bulgarian Socialists. We have always supported BSP's efforts to build up a strong opposition, the kind that Bulgaria needs, because democracy weakens without a strong opposition."


MRF Sees Invalid Ballots, Subjective Factor in Ballot Counting

The large number of invalid ballots and the subjective factor in ballot counting are among the problems which the opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) sees with the election process. Machine voting should solve these and other election problems and increase trust in the election results, MRF leader Mustafa Karadayi said at a meeting with President Rumen Radev on Tuesday.

In this round of consultations, Radev met with the parliamentary parties. Earlier in January he met with representatives of the health authorities, the election administration, the extraparliamentary political parties and organizations of expatriate Bulgarians.

Also, the MRF highlighted the problem with the high number of incorrectly filled and corrected section tally sheets which further erode trust in the election results.

According to the MRF, the combination of both paper and machine voting and a manual count of machine votes is a condition for more incorrect tally sheets and mistrust in the election results.

Karadayi highlighted the necessity for a different and much more responsible approach to the whole election process by all participants and observers in the elections.

President Radev said that he and the MRF shared a common view about the aims of machine voting, formulated by the MRF. He said there are speculations by citing countries such as the Netherlands where machine voting was rejected.  However, there with a voter turnout of 83 per cent over two consecutive elections, the percentage of invalid ballots is below 0.5 per cent, whereas in Bulgaria during the last general elections with 53 per cent voter turnout, the percentage of invalid ballots was 5 per cent, said Radev. He added: "In order for us to denounce machine voting, let's reach first this percentage of invalid votes." He deplored the fact that the process for the
introduction of machine voting started in October and a solution to the problem is sought in critical times.

Radev recalled that he had vetoed the combined counting and tallying of machine and paper ballots, but this was overturned by Parliament.
He suggested a random control count at the end of election day by running the results of paper slips against the memory of the voting machine at least during these elections so that there is enough trust in machines at the next elections. According to Radev, this would be a disciplining measure for anyone who tries to interfere with the voting machines.


Volya Tells President Talks Come Too Late, President Blasts Them for Groundless Attacks and Unprincipled Positions

Meeting President Rumen Radev the parliamentary Volya party told him that the consultations come too late and are meaningless at this point of time. In response, he blasted them for their groundless attacks and unprincipled positions in support of some legal initiatives of the ruling majority, including a short-lived new Constitution draft.

On Tuesday Radev held consultations with the parliamentary parties. In the last few days he met with representatives of the health authorities, the election administration, the extraparliamentary political parties and organizations of expatriate Bulgarians.

Volya leader Vesselin Mareshki said that "today's exercise with these consultations which we are doing on the eve of the elections, and not earlier, is in our opinion totally pointless, aimless, and an expression of alarm, probably also of incompetence and fear, to take responsibility for setting a voting date, which is fully within your remit; earlier consultations should have heard all opinions".

The President told Volya that the consultations are fully within the deadline laid down in the Constitution, even a bit ahead of time, because he wanted "to give a chance to all entities in charge to set to work and work purposefully and responsibly, whereas he did not see such an attitude now".

Responding sharply to Volya's accusations, Radev said that the delay is a delay of the legislators. The President asked Volya to answer that "if you genuinely steer things, when will there be a contract on machine voting, a methodology, and a clear health protocol" for the elections.

According to Mareshki, provided all health measures are strictly complied with, the elections should be conducted at the earliest possible date, March 28. The Volya leader also spoke on the issue of video surveillance of vote counting, and about mail voting, reminding of his party's position on the need for electronic distance voting.


Ataka Party Expects President to Serve as Guarantor for Fair Elections

The parliamentary Ataka party urged an audit at the Information Services Company, which will process the voting data, and called for clearing voters' lists of "ghost voters." Ataka leader Volen Siderov argued that, compared to
these questions, the date of the elections is a minor detail.

Ataka expects President Radev to serve as a guarantor for the fairness of the elections. Siderov put the number of ghost voters at around 600,000. He cited National Statistical Institute (NSI) data which shows that there are 5,636,267 Bulgarians over 20 years of age, whereas Central Election Commission records indicate that their number is 6,221,729, which is 585,482 more. "What do they do about the difference?" he asked.

Ataka finds it important to conduct an audit at the Information Services Company and enlarge its board to include
representatives of opposition parties and civic movements so as to ensure oversight of its operation. "Oversight is impossible at present, no one knows what is going on in the company, how the staff is recruited and what kind of computer software is used," Siderov said.

President Radev recalled that the issue of clearing ghost voters off voters' lists was raised a year ago at a meeting in the Presidency involving the leadership of the Directorate General for Civil Registration and Administrative Services (DGCR) and NSI. Back then, DGCR said that they could start such a process,
but it would be difficult, and they would do it only if the executive branch of government tasks them with it, Radev said. "The executive is supposed to be controlled by Parliament," he added.

The President pointed to a legislative amendment which practically granted the Information Services Company a monopoly over the processing of election data for an indefinite period of time. He vetoed the provision, but the National Assembly overrode his veto. As a result, the company became "a black box," he added.


Source: Sofia