OSCE Report on Bulgaria's Early Elections Mentions Wiretapping Scandal
An interim report of the Election Observation Mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) dispatched to Bulgaria for the May 12 early parliamentary elections mentions a wiretapping scandal and fears of undue intervention of the Interior Ministry in the election process.
The interim report published on the OSCE website on May 2 spans the period April 16-30.
"Following an invitation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and based on the recommendation of a Needs Assessment Mission conducted from 18 to 20 March, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) established an Election Observation Mission (EOM) on 16 April," the report says, adding that the EOM, led by Miklos Haraszti, consists of a ten-member core team based in Sofia and 12 long-term observers (LTOs) who were deployed on 21 April throughout the country.
"The official campaign started on 12 April with a focus on poverty, the fight against corruption and organized crime as well as other social issues. Campaign activities are mainly conducted through media, social networks, meetings with voters and rallies organized in big cities. The use of nationalistic, at times inflammatory language, allegations of vote-buying, as well asallegations of wire-tapping conducted by the Ministry of Interior involving public figures, have characterized the campaign discourse," OSCE observers inform.
"Several political parties questioned the role and Involvement of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in political life and the electoral process," the report states, reminding that on March 28, Sergei Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), submitted documents to the Chief Prosecutor pointing to an unlawful scheme for wire-tapping politicians, journalists and businessmen.
"According to the leader of the BSP, the responsibility rests with the former minister of interior, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who is currently the head of the GERB campaign headquarters," the OSCE observers state.
The report goes on to remind that on April 15 Bulgaria's Chief Prosecutor announced that a probe had uncovered malpractices in the work of the Interior Ministry related to wiretapping and ordered investigations of a number of officials.
OSCE points out that the turn of events caused a number of political parties to call for Tsvetanov's resignation of as the head of GERB's campaign headquarters.
The interim report of OSCE also informs about irregularities concerning coverage of the election campaign by the media.
"A pluralistic media landscape pertains. The Electoral Code, however, does not provide for free airtime and most campaign coverage in the media is de facto paid for. Paid media coverage is often not labeled as such, thus potentially misleading the audience about the nature of the reporting," the report states.
Commercial broadcasters and the press are largely unregulated. They are required to offer campaign coverage under equal contractual conditions to all contestants. The rates, terms and conditions for paid coverage, as well as the contracts between the media and candidates, must be published on the webpage of each media outlet. However, several private media houses have yet to post their contracts despite having already published paid political advertising," the OSCE observers declare.
The report informs that the OSCE/ODIHR EOM received a number of complaints that some private electronic and print media continued not to properly label their paid coverage, thereby potentially misleading the audience about the nature of the reporting.
"To assess the conduct and coverage of the campaign in the media, the OSCE/ODIHR EOM started a quantitative and qualitative monitoring of the prime-time broadcasts of four television stations (BNT, bTV, Nova TV and TV7), two radio stations (BNR1 and Darik Radio) as well as three newspapers (24chasa, Telegraf, Standart) on 19 April," the interim report states.
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