Protests Due over Bulgaria's Election Rules as Talks Kick OffDomestic | April 26, 2016, Tuesday // 10:03| views
File photo, BGNES
Crunch talks have begun among Bulgaria's political leaders looking into options to amend draft electoral legislation following a public outcry both home and abroad.
The introduction of compulsory voting, the removal from electoral rolls of Bulgarian nationals who did not cast a ballot, and a ban on opening polling stations abroad in venues other than Bulgaria's diplomatic missions have been met with criticism from the public, but also from coalition partners.
A refusal of MPs to set up a "Foreign" constituency, where vote of Bulgarians abroad would be allocated, was also met with anger from many Bulgarian nationals living in Western Europe or elsewhere.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov scheduled on Monday a meeting for the next morning to discuss any negotiable changes with leaders of parties and coalitions backing the government. These include the Borisov's own GERB party, the Reformist Bloc, ABV, and the Patriotic Front which has no cabinet ministers but supports the minority coalition. Borisov indicated he was ready to make concessions and talk about them with coalition partners.
Over the weekend ABV's Deputy Prime Minister Ivaylo Kalfin warned the party could withdraw from the cabinet if the Electoral Code was approved, and the Reformist Bloc, the second-largest coalition partner, had said it was having second thoughts about its role in the government. Separately, communities of Bulgarians abroad held protests, arguing the amendments were curbing their right to vote by limiting their options.
The meeting began at 09:00 local time, two hours before an emergency session is due in Parliament on Electoral Code amendments.
Lawmakers will have six hours until 19:00 to pass the changes.
In the meantime, a protest is being organized on Facebook, and is scheduled for 18:30 in front of Parliament, over election laws. Posts in the group suggest civic anger is targeting the precise set of amendments adopted and combined in an "arrogant" way:
"They make voting compulsory, turn down [the setting up of] a "Foreign" constituency, put heavy barriers for the voting of our compatriots abroad, ban the holding of elections and referendums simultaneously, the defend the status quo and will [take the wrong steps] with online voting through its hasty implementation and a possible orchestrated collapse as early as this year."
Borisov's party has maintained it is working toward the introduction of online voting, which was overwhelmingly backed in a referendum last year, would make up for the limited options for Bulgarians abroad to cast a ballot.
The Prime Minister on Monday also noted that most of the amendments, even those detrimental to his party (which might jeopardize some of the thousands of votes for GERB coming from abroad), were adopted despite his own views against them, but as part of an agreement with his coalition partners, particularly with those from the Patriotic Front.
Reiterating his opposition to compulsory voting, he also said there was no need of a ban on the announcement of poll results throughout the election campaigns. "Why shouldn't there be surveys for instance, what harm do they do us, I never read them."
Polling agencies last week signed an open letter calling for the amendment to be reversed, describing it as an infringement of free speech and citizens' right to information.
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