Bulgaria Will Not Hold Referendum on Election Rules

Prof. Georgi Bliznashki is adamant that his Initative Committee is to go on with efforts to trigger a referendum on voting rules. Photo by BGNES

Lawmakers in Bulgarian Parliament rejected a referendum proposal which allows citizens to decide on the introduction of a majority system, mandatory voting, and e-voting.

The idea for a national poll was first put forward by President Rosen Plevneliev in January, and an Initiative Committee introduced two months later into Parliament a petition with more than 500 000 signatures, which in theory made it obligatory for MPs to call a referendum.

Part of the signatures was declared invalid, but the petition still met the required 200 000 votes which forced lawmakers to discuss it.

The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) backed only the proposal that citizens have their say on mandatory voting after its leader Sergey Stanishev voiced his support for the move earlier in June.

Its partners in government from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) turned down the proposal, with party chief Lyutvi Mestan making a 24-minute-long statement to warn against the insignificant aftermath such a poll might have on democratic development.

He earlier described referendum plans, which were partially embraced by the BSP, as "cynical", arguing they would harm his party.

Originally the idea of the Initiative Committee envisaged that the referendum could be held alongside the EU elections on May 25.

After prolonged inspections of the petition and consequent lack of debate in Parliament delayed any action on the proposal, both the Committee and center-right opposition party GERB maintained it could take place together with the early elections scheduled for this autumn.

Prof. Georgi Bliznashki, who heads the Committee, has vowed to pursue efforts for the national poll.

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