Bulgarians Vote in Crucial Early Elections, Deadlock Feared
Bulgarians go to the polls on 12 May in an early election, four months after mass protests against austerity measures and energy costs forced out the government of the center-right GERB party.
A total of 6 868 455 eligible voters have been urged to cast a ballot in the poll, which comes amid resentment and disappointment over unfulfilled expectations during the term of Boyko Borisov’s government.
This will be Bulgaria’s eighth free general election since the collapse of communism in 1989.
A total of 8,148 candidates are vying for seats in the 240-member parliament.
Parties need to win at least 4% of the vote to gain seats in parliament.
The center-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov managed to cut Bulgaria's budget deficit and public debt to one of the lowest in the EU, but lost the support of many voters due to wage and pension freezes and failure to root out rampant corruption.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in February to protest against corruption, rising unemployment and high utility bills, forcing Borisov and his GERB party to resign.
Since then the country has been run by a caretaker government, headed by former Ambassador to France Marin Raykov.
The backlash that the former government faces however has not fueled the popularity of one particular party, raising the possibility of a hung parliament, uncertainty over the formation of a government and further political turmoil.
A party needs to garner more than 43% of the actual votes to hold a parliamentary majority.
Sunday's elections will be observed by a number of foreign and Bulgarian organizations. They come amidst concerns over vote-buying on an epidemic scale and have turned into a chance for politicians to escape legal proceedings against them as Bulgarian law grants immunity from prosecution to candidates.
The run-up to the elections had been marred by by revelations of illegal wiretapping of politicians, claims of frauds and preparations for total falsification of the vote by the formerly ruling party GERB.
On Saturday prosecutors said they had seized 350,000 illegal ballot papers at a printing house.
The Socialist leader and main opponent to the former prime minister Sergey Stanishev called the news “a huge scandal”.
The election day will start with the opening of voting polls at 7 am and will end with their closing at 8 pm.
There could be exceptions at some locations, where polls might open at 6 am, but only with the Central Electoral Commission’s written authorization.
If there is a line at a voting poll at 8 pm, it will remain open, but no later than 9 pm. At 8 pm, the members of the poll's commission will collect the IDs of those in line and only the people who were present at closing time will be allowed to cast a ballot.
CEC has also adopted an operational plan for its work on Election Day and for vote counting.
A total of 6 868 455 individuals are included in voting lists. 160 972 have been removed – of them 739 prisoners, 7243 – under injunction, 378 have applied to vote at another location, 78 542 – to cast a ballot abroad, and 67 420 – to vote at a poll under the jurisdiction of their current address registration.
There will 11 676 voting polls in the country, but this number does not include the portable ones.
There will be 227 voting polls abroad in 57 countries.
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