Bulgarian MPs Adopt Introduction of Compulsory Voting at First ReadingBusiness | March 10, 2016, Thursday // 14:47| views
The plenary chamber of the Bulgarian National Assembly. Photo: BGNES
The Bulgarian parliament adopted at first reading on Thursday draft amendments to the Electoral Code, which pave the way for the introduction of compulsory voting.
The amendments were adopted with 121 MPs voting in favour, 27 being against and 21 lawmakers abstaining, daily Dnevnik informs.
The changes, which foresee the imposition of sanctions for those not voting, were proposed by one of the parties supporting the coalition government - the Patriotic Front (PF).
Those not voting will be either subject to a BGN 50 fine or will be deprived of social benefits for three months.
People with lasting disabilities and pensioners above 80 years old will not be penalised for not voting.
A total of fourteen draft amendments to the Electoral Code were discussed and adopted at first reading on Thursday.
The introduction of compulsory voting, agitation in mother tongue with translation, the creation of a multi-mandate constituency for voters abroad, active registration and preferences caused the most heated discussions among MPs.
Campaigning in any language other than Bulgarian remains prohibited after lawmakers turned down a proposal to revoke the restriction. Liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) party, along with the party of ex-DPS leader Lyutvi Mestan, DOST, described Parliament's decision as "unnatural" and "unconstitutional", with Mestan asserting the change would happen "sooner or later", possibly after a ruling against Bulgaria from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Separately, a principle of active registration was introduced before any elections are to take place. The proponents, from the Bulgaria of Citizens Movement, argue the move will help purge the lists from "dead souls".
Online voting is to be introduced from 2018, in accordance with the results of a referendum held last year at which nearly three-quarters of voters backed the option.
A "foreign" constituency - the thirty-second one that is being created under the Bulgarian electoral system of proportional representation - will also be set up, lawmakers decided. The constituency (an idea introduced once in the 2000s and then reversed) should represent Bulgarians living abroad. Its narrow parameters, however, are yet to be discussed.
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