Bulgarian Lawmakers Approve Cap on Polling Stations Abroad

Politics » DOMESTIC | July 13, 2016, Wednesday // 12:30
Bulgaria: Bulgarian Lawmakers Approve Cap on Polling Stations Abroad DOST head Lyutvi Mestan has argued the "fascist" restrictions to voting abroad will unleash "ethno-nationalism" in the country. Photo: BGBES

Parliament has passed restrictions to the number of polling stations for Bulgarian expats taking part in general and presidential elections.

Lawmakers have approved the amendments to the Electoral Code with a majority of 100 backing them, 25 against, and 8 abstentions.

Electoral Code changes that place a cap on the number of stations outside Bulgaria's diplomatic missions were subject to much controversy over the past months, with President Rosen Plevneliev imposing a veto (that MPs later defied) on earlier texts that initially banned and later tightly restricted opening terms. Protests followed of Bulgarians living both in the country and abroad.

DPS and DOST, two parties dominated by ethnic Turks, have voted against the amendments, with DOST head Lyutvi Mestan describing them as "fascist" and possibly leading to "ethno-nationalism".

The DPS has warned the changes will restrict rights of Bulgarians living abroad.

More than a million voters are thought to live outside Bulgaria. Since the 1990s, more than two million Bulgarians have emigrated to Europe, North America or elsewhere, leaving a country with a population of 7.1 million as of 2015.

But a nationalist coalition, the Patriotic Front, had tabled the restriction, arguing it would curtail controlled vote from Turkey where tens of thousands of Bulgarian Turks, with Bulgarian citizenship, have lived since the 1980s when they were forced into leaving due to the assimilation policies applied by the Communist regime.

The PF had tied the adoption of restrictions to its support for the cabinet.

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Tags: polling stations, voting abroad, Patriotic Front, DPS, DOST

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