Bulgarian MPs' Silence Leaves Voting System Change to Next Parliament

Politics » DOMESTIC | January 17, 2017, Tuesday // 10:58
Bulgaria: Bulgarian MPs' Silence Leaves Voting System Change to Next Parliament File photo, BGNES

It is unlikely for Parliament to decide on proposed changes to Bulgaria's electoral system, with the fate of the proposal hinging on attitudes of the next legislature.

In November, 2.5 million Bulgarians backed in a referendum a change of the currently used proportional representation system, opting for a switch to majority voting.

Parliament was supposed to debate and vote on a bill made as a result of the referendum, as it fell just thousands of votes short of the activity threshold that would have made it binding.

However, no official decision of the election watchdog has yet been announced as ballots are still being counted to avoid a mistake.

Bulgarian outgoing Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's GERB party submitted last week a new Electoral Code proposal which included a change to a first-past-the-post system. Earlier, a bill suggesting similar amendments was dropped from the agenda, with some lawmakers citing the lack of time.

However, the Legal Affairs Committee - which is supposed to review the bill before it goes to Parliament's floor - refused to consider it as part of the agenda.

No committee session has been scheduled for this week, and Parliament may be dissolved anytime after Rumen Radev takes over the President's office on January 22.

Legal experts are divided over whether the obligation to debate and vote on the change can be transferred to the next legislature.

Moreover, the next National Assembly will not convene before the spring (with elections due late in March or in April). The legislation currently in force suggests that when referendum results are not binding (voter activity having stood below the threshold), Parliament has a three-month deadline to have a say. In April, it would be nearly five months after the poll was held.

Lawmakers, on the other hand, may submit again amendments proposing the change.
Since the referendum was held and an overwhelming majority said "yes" to change, several established Bulgarian parties have argued the voting system has to be overhauled to meet the needs of the people, trying to stem the popular disenchantment with mainstream politicians.

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Tags: Referendum, voting system, first-past-the-post, majority system, electoral code

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