Bulgarians Abroad Right to Protest over Election Rules - Ombudsman

Politics » DOMESTIC | May 5, 2016, Thursday // 14:05
Bulgaria: Bulgarians Abroad Right to Protest over Election Rules - Ombudsman Maya Manolova, Bulgaria's National Ombudsman. Photo by BGNES

National Ombudsman Maya Manolova has said she sides with Bulgarian citizens abroad disgruntled with Electoral Code amendments preventing them from exercising their right to vote.

Manolova has commented after brokering a meeting of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov with representatives of Bulgarian expats, who have been protesting against changes restricting the number of polling stations and setting additional requirements of the opening of stations outside diplomatic missions and big cities.

Borisov "fully" understood that their demands are fair, Focus News Agency quotes her as saying, adding that while she is only supposed to mediate in principle, she cannot be impartial when it comes to basic constitutional rights.

Stefan Manov, a member of the civic council with Bulgaria's Central Electoral Commission, later said Borisov had accepted the demands of citizens and would insist that the old rules should be returned, taking the "commitment" to do so.

She added there were two options, either the President would veto the texts "restricting the rights of Bulgarians abroad" or parties from the coalition government would suggest they should be edited in Parliament.

While Bulgarian MPs passed in April changes to election laws making it compulsory to cast a ballot, voting is interpreted as a "right" according to the Constitution.

A separate meeting is due with Valeri Simeonov, the co-leader of nationalist Patriotic Front coalition which put forward the changes, arguing they would curb organized vote from Turkey.

Tensions grew between Simeonov and some Bulgarians living abroad after he wrote an email to one of them demanding they stop interfering while lawmakers were working on "serious" issues.

His move drew fire from civic activists, with a group called the Protest Network (that was formed around the 2013 mass demonstrations) even calling for his resignation as MP after he was heard saying, "Enough with this democracy, enough with these Bulgarians abroad" on air on SKAT TV (a cable network formally owned by him).

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Tags: Maya Manolova, polling stations, Valeri Simeonov, Boyko Borisov, electoral code, election law, veto

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