Bulgarian Ombudsman Joins Expats Election Rights Battle

Domestic | December 14, 2011, Wednesday // 17:32|  views

Konstantin Penchev, Ombudsman of Republic of Bulgaria, says having double citizenship is not a crime. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Bulgarians living abroad should obtain the right to run and be elected Members of the country's parliament, was the topic of the round table organized in Sofia Wednesday.

The debate under the motto "Participation of Bulgarians Abroad in the County's Rule," was organized by Bulgaria's Ombudsman, Konstantin Penchev, with the participation of representatives of political parties in the Parliament, institutions, and Bulgarian expats.

During the talks, it emerged that a solution of the issue had been delayed for too long now, and the expats insisted on equal rights in politics and the election process.

Penchev stressed that a large number of Bulgarians have left and are leaving their homeland, thus the need of a separate electoral region for them.

"The truth became evident during the last Census – the number of Bulgarians in the country is going down and those abroad are growing. If we push them away from political life, we risk pushing them away from Bulgaria as well, from being interested in the country's faith and future, which would not be beneficial for anyone," the Ombudsman stated.

Most officials joined in support of Penchev, but representatives of the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, were missing from the discussion.

The editor of the Bulgarian newspaper in Cyprus, Georgi Donkov, stated that expats have been treated, for a long time by the State, as a lower category people, as a virtual group which exists only when convenient for local politicians.

"Currently, there is not regulation of the election rights of Bulgarians abroad over the lack of political will; to the contrary – there is political will to not regulate these rights," he said.

Penchev made the commitment to work on the issue until it is resolved.

In May, the Ombudsman reacted quickly to an open letter mailed to him on May 25 by well-known French journalist and Bulgarian native, Roumiana Ougartchinska, initiator of the campaign of Bulgarians with more than one passport to seek constitutional amendments that would warrant their rights to participate in the election process in their homeland.

Ougartchinska's letter focuses on the mass exodus from the country and discrimination of those, who have chosen to live abroad. The expats insist that Bulgarians with dual citizenship are allowed not only to vote in all elections, but to run for Members of the Parliament, President, and other high-ranking political and management positions in State institutions and agencies.

In his response, Penchev voiced full support to the emigrants' plea for constitutional amendments, calling texts in the current Constitution, which restrict the passive election rights of Bulgarians with dual citizenship, "a rather obsolete prejudice than a necessary requirement."

The letter concluded with the Ombudsman's promise to initiate a debate to discuss the issues connected with the participation of Bulgarians with dual citizenship in the rule of the country.

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Tags: Round Table, Roumiana Ougartchinska, Penchev, Konstantin, emigrants, expats, Ombudsman, constitutional, rights, constitution, amendments, dual citizenship, GERB


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