New Referendum in Bulgaria 'Not Ruled Out' This Year

Domestic | March 30, 2016, Wednesday // 08:30|  views

Parliament is yet to hold a vote on amendments to the Electoral Code which could allow for referendums to be held separately from elections when the two are scheduled for the same year. File photo, BGNES

The possibility of a new referendum on voting rules should not be excluded, Desislava Atanasova, an MP from Bulgaria's biggest party, GERB, has said.

She is referring to a referendum petition submitted earlier this year by the team of Slavi's Show, one of Bulgaria's most popular TV shows, in February.

Atanasova has told the Bulgarian National Television's afternoon show that, if new amendments to the Electoral Code are approved by a parliamentary committee in April and passed by the plenary session of lawmakers, the national poll might be held even prior to the presidential elections that are due this autumn.

Under the current Electoral Code, changes to voting rules cannot be enforced if there are less than six months before the next election, which is possibly at the end of October.

It also stipulates that a referendum, if set to be staged in a year of elections, it should be held alongside the vote.

However, lawmakers from Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's GERB party, the senior coalition partner in the government, are currently preparing legislation that could enable the scheduling of a referendum for a time other than regular elections.

Last year, Bulgarians voted overwhelmingly to back the introduction of remote online voting, in a referendum tabled by President Rosen Plevneliev which initially had contained two more questions, asking citizens to also have a say on mandatory voting and the introduction of a partial or a full majority system.

The referendum put forward by Slavi's Show, supposedly backed by as many as 673 481 signatories (with 400 000 currently needed for the petition to take effect), initially had included the same three questions. It was later adapted to add several issues such as: cutting the number of MPs in half from 240 to 120; cutting the state subsidy allocated to parties and coalitions to BGN 1 (down from BGN 11, or EUR 5.5) for each vote won at the last general elections; majoritarian election of the directors of the regional and district departments of the interior ministry.

Bulgaria's civil register authorities are yet to verify the signatures to declare them either valid or partially void.

The results of the e-voting referendum made it mandatory for Parliament to hold a vote on making it possible to cast a ballot online, with MPs backing the option.

But in 2014, the first attempt to table Plevneliev's referendum proposal (then containing the same three issues, but submitted by an initiative committee) was defeated by Parliament. The petition was brought up for a debate because it did not contain the needed number of signatures, part of the 500 000 signatures having been declared invalid, and was later voted down.

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Tags: Desislava Atanasova, Referendum, elections, presidential election, Slavi's Show, Rosen Pleveneliev, voting rules, e-voting, electoral code


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