Bulgaria's Main Ruling Party Mulls Introduction of Compulsory Voting
Conservative GERB, the winning party of the October 5 early elections, is considering changes to the Electoral code that might introduce compulsory voting next year, the party's deputy parliament group head Tsvetan Tsvetanov says.
If mandatory voting is adopted, it might be tested in the 2015 local elections, Bulgarian daily Sega quotes Tsvetanov as saying.
The idea of compulsory voting has been in the air for some time, especially among the parties of the present parliamentary majority, including Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), its some members of GERB's coalition partners, right-wing Reformist Bloc (RB), and the supporting entities Patriotic Front (PF) and Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV).
Last winter GERB initiated amendment of the Election Code which included compulsory voting, but it was turned down by the then ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). Maya Manolova, one of the authors of the Electoral code, claimed that compulsory voting contradicts the Constitution. An official enquiry was to be posed to the Constitutional Court, but in the end it was never put forward.
Currently GERB has a solid backing for its proposal. Two of the parties constituting the RB, Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) and Bulgaria for Citizens Movement (DBG), are in favor.
The nationalist PF are the most fervent supporters of compulsory voting, having described it as a way to fight the practice of vote buying and curb the influence of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS). Recently, the PF asked for next year's local elections to be combined with a referendum containing several questions, one of them being compulsory voting.
Left-wing ABV for its part supports a referendum on.
Tsvetanov promised that consensus is to be sought on the topic, with all 8 parliamentary represented parties to take part in a debate. Such discussions will commence right after the voting on the new rules of procedure of the National Assembly and the constitution of the parliamentary committees, above all the one on legal affairs, which is to deal with the amendments to the Election Code.
Unexpectedly, GERB might find like-minded parliamentarians among its ideological rival BSP.
The Socialist MP Filip Popov, member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Legal Affairs, announced that personally he is in favor of the idea, but discussions within his parliamentary group are forthcoming.
According to Popov, this change should encompass all kinds of elections. In relation to this, Popov insisted on the introduction of sanctions for people not going to the ballot box.
He also reminded the question of compatibility of compulsory voting with Bulgaria's basic law is left hanging in the air, as it remains unclear whether the act of voting should be considered not only as a right, but also a duty.
Petar Slavov of the RB, also member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Legal Affairs, commented that he understands the desire of GERB to minimize vote buying and corporate voting, but was sceptical how this will materialize in practice. According to Slavov, compulsory preference voting will be the better option.
Hristian Mitov, Member of Parliament of the PF, expressed a similar opinion, supporting the idea in principle, but suggesting that voters should be provided not only with a stick, but also a carrot. In Mitov's words, the nationalists are ready to discuss GERB's proposal. As regards its compatibility with the Constitution, the question has to be posed to the Constitutional Court.
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