Referendum on Compulsory Voting Might Be Held with Local Elections

Domestic | January 15, 2015, Thursday // 11:08|  views

The plenary chamber of the Bulgarian National Assembly prior to holding its first regular meeting for 2015. Photo: BGNES

It emerged that a national referendum on the possible amendments to the electoral rules is likely to be held along with the local elections, which are scheduled to take place in Bulgaria in the autumn.

The idea is supported by all parties of the governing coalition, together with the oppositional Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and nationalist Ataka, daily Sega reports.

Only the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) is firmly against the proposal.

At present the only question that is to feature with certainty in the referendum is that on compulsory voting.

At the opening of the new parliamentary season on Wednesday, the main ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) declared its staunch support for compulsory voting as it represented a reliable measure against vote buying.

GERB's position comes only five days after its leader and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said that he was against anything that was compulsory.

Prior to that, Borisov and other GERB officials had expressed support for compulsory voting on numerous occasions and GERB even intended on introducing it through amendments to the Election Code, without holding a referendum.

However during the negotiations on the formation of cabinet, the four coalition partners agreed that such a referendum should take place, which was included in the programme declaration of the governing majority.

BSP confirmed its position in favour of a national referendum on compulsory voting on Wednesday.

But in case a referendum takes place, BSP will demand the inclusion of an option to “vote against all” on the ballot paper, for those who are not satisfied with what is on offer.

Maya Manolova, member of parliament from BSP, declared herself against electronic voting as it concealed dangers for the secrecy of the ballot.

The leader of DPS Lyutvi Mestan said that his party is firmly against compulsory voting, as a change to the electoral system would not lead to a reform of the political system.

Mestan advised that in order for voter turnout to increase, the other parties had to reform themselves, rather than seek this change artificially.

According to him, compulsory voting will twist parliamentary representation.

The law provides that a proposal for the holding of a referendum can be submitted by 48 members of parliament, the President, the Council of Ministers or citizens' initiative.

The National Assembly has to decide whether to hold a referendum or not, in case 200 000 signatures are collected, while the holding of it is compulsory when 500 000 signatures are gathered.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev tried to initiate a referendum in the beginning of 2014, which was to feature three questions.

Compulsory voting was one of them, the other two being the introduction of electronic voting and whether part of the parliament should be elected through majority electoral system.

An initiative committee collected over 520 000 signatures in favour of the request for a referendum and submitted them to Parliament in April.

However when the Civil Registration and Administrative Services (GRAO) carried out a check on the signatures, 60 000 were identified as invalid.

The then parliamentary chairman Mihail Mikov denied the initiative committee to make corrections to the signatures.

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Tags: Bulgaria, compulsory voting, Referendum, local elections, GERB, BSP, DPS, Ataka, Boyko Borisov, Maya Manolova, Lyutvi Mestan, Mihail Mikov, Rosen Plevneliev, voter turnout, vote buying


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