Sofia, April 25, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgarians living abroad are protesting and petitioning against changes approved by Parliament to electoral laws that provide for polling stations outside the country to be opened only at diplomatic and consular offices.
Meanwhile, a public protest is planned for Sofia on April 26 against various new provisions in the Electoral Code, approved at second reading by the National Assembly on April 21 and 22.
Bulgarians in Belgium and the UK held protests this past weekend, irked by the change limiting polling stations to the country’s embassy offices. Bulgarians living in London said that it was not practical to expect that 50 000 Bulgarians living in the UK would all vote at the embassy in the British capital.
Until now, Bulgarian election provided that a polling station abroad would be opened where there were at least applications by those eligible to cast a ballot to do so.
According to those protesting, about 80 000 Bulgarians abroad would practically not be able to vote under the provisions of the changed law because it would not be feasible for them to do so.
An online petition has been initiated, addressed to President Rossen Plevneliev, the members of the National Assembly and Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, calling on the President to veto the new provision and for Parliament to rescind them.
The online petition, at http://www.peticiq.com/143910 had just more than 3900 signatures by the morning of April 25.
The protesting Bulgarians abroad said that Borissov had gone back on a promise made in 2011 because the governing majority had now removed the access of Bulgarians living abroad to meaningful participation in public life.
They said that the changes negated the efforts made over the years, at the initiative and solely through the organisation by Bulgarians abroad, to build a network of polling stations outside the country.
They also queried the introduction of electronic voting abroad when it had not been properly tested.
In Bulgaria, the Protest Network, which emerged during the 2013/14 protests against the “Oresharski” government, announced a protest to be held in front of the National Assembly on April 25 at 6.30pm against what the network described as the “arrogance” of various provisions, including the introduction of compulsory voting, the rejection of a separate constituency for voters abroad, the de-linking of the holding of referendums and elections and the “hasty” introduction and “likely orchestrated failure” of electronic voting.