Bulgarians Abroad to Protest until Election Code Changes Reversed

Politics » DOMESTIC | May 19, 2016, Thursday // 08:26
Bulgaria: Bulgarians Abroad to Protest until Election Code Changes Reversed File photo, BGNES

A representative of Bulgarian nationals living abroad said on Tuesday protests will be held until MPs agree to rescind amendments to election rules restricting the number of polling stations outside the country.

His announcement followed the decision of lawmakers to override President Rosen Plevneliev's veto on the new Electoral Code. Plevneliev had returned the text to Parliament for consideration, saying the curbs infringed on voter's rights.

MPs from the senior coalition partner GERB explained with the need to preserve stability as a nationalist party was threatening to withdraw its support from the cabinet if the President's motion is not defied, but they also put forward a more eased version of the restrictions.

"I expect that protests of Bulgarians abroad will not only be continued, but also accompanied by concrete actions," Stefan Manov, a Bulgarian living in France who recently joined the civic council with Bulgaria's Central Electoral Commission, told Darik Radio.

"We saw it was not just about protests of Bulgarians abroad, it is also about the civil society and the free media, social scientists, political scientists, opinion makers and who unanimously agreed the changes are a step back from the integration of Bulgarians outside of the country into the national life."

More than two million Bulgarians have left the country since democratic changes began in the 1990s, around a million of them being eligible voters.

The nationalist Patriotic Front, which proposed the restrictions, however maintains the public outcry came only from a small number of people, whom its co-leader Valeri Simeonov called "a handful of Sorosoids". Simeonov says voter turnout is low among Bulgarians living in Western Europe, while the measure is required to curb the effect of uncontrolled vote coming from Turkey where hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity have lived for decades following the assimilation policies applied by Bulgaria during the 1980s.

Manov said it was only the current version of the Electoral Code, adopted under the socialist-liberal government of 2013-2014, that allowed Bulgarian expats to take active part in Bulgarian elections.

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Tags: Rosen Plevneliev, Valeri Simeonov, veto, electoral code, election rules, Bulgarians abroad, expats, polling stations

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