Bulgaria's Voting System Referendum Leaves Public Divided amid Boycott Calls
Bulgarian voters have been left split down the middle by a three-point referendum proposed by a popular TV show held along with the presidential election on Sunday.
The electorate is being asked whether the majority system should be introduced for elections, whether voting should be made compulsory for both elections and referenda, and whether state subsidies allocated to political parties per vote should be slashed from BGN 11 to BGN 1.
Under the latest Electoral Code amendments, it is already compulsory to vote in elections, but not in the referendum. Bulgaria now uses a proportional representation system and allocates state subsidies to parties that have gained more than 1% of support in elections. (You can read more about the referendum here.)
Turnout for all three questions will be measured separately. If more than 50% of eligible voters tick an answer to a question, the result will be binding.
For the referendum results to take effect directly, turnout has to be at least as high as that of the last parliamentary elections, or 3 500 585. If the activity is above 20% of the electorate, however, Parliament will have to hold a debate and vote on the issue.
Of these, more than half, or 1 750 294, must have voted "Yes."
Both Bulgaria's President Rosen Plevneliev and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov have called on voters to take part in the referendum and use it as a tool of democracy used to show the will of the people.
The driving force behind the referendum, however, has more than once accused the political leadership of seeking to sabotage the national poll and leading a campaign against it.
Triggered by Slavi's Show, a popular late-evening TV program aired by bTV broadcaster, the referendum is seen by critics as a tool for show host Slavi Trifonov to find his way into politics.
Many opinion makers - including political scientists, human rights activits, and leading journalists - have called for a boycott of the poll to reduce turnout as much as possible.
Some voices have questioned voters' competence to take decisions on such issues, while others see Slavi's Show and his host are seen by part of the public space as symbols of bad taste that can only win over the hearts and minds of voters with lower levels of education.
Trifonov disputes this, dubbing it an intended attack from the political class. Trifonov, who is also a musician, gathered tens of thousands of supporters at a "concert meeting" last Saturday.
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