Nearly 18-hour Marathon in the Bulgarian Parliament: Mixed Voting, District "Abroad" is Preserved

Politics | December 2, 2022, Friday // 09:00
Bulgaria: Nearly 18-hour Marathon in the Bulgarian Parliament: Mixed Voting, District "Abroad" is Preserved @BNT

The National Assembly held an 18-hour plenary session and managed to discuss and vote on only half of the proposals during the second reading of the Electoral Code.

A majority of 124 deputies from GERB-SDS, DPS and BSP finally adopted the texts that in the sections with more than 300 voters, the voter can vote with a paper ballot or with a machine voting ballot, and a specialized machine will be used to print the ballot from the machine voting paper with additional protections.

After voting by machine, a ballot will be printed, which will be counted manually at the end of the election day, the deputies also decided. The legal commission's proposal to count the result only after a manual counting of ballots from the machine voting was not supported by “We Continue the Change” and "Democratic Bulgaria", which proposed separate editorial amendments that essentially required the protocol for the manual count to be applied and a printed report from the machine. Their proposals were rejected.

The arguments "in favor" and "against" the return of mixed voting grew into scandals, personal attacks, the departure of the plenary hall by the MPs of "We Continue the Change" and "Democratic Bulgaria", calls for protests and the WCC’s request that if the paper ballot is returned, they will not offer a minority government with the second mandate.

Today, the debates on the electoral rules will continue

The election marathon started at 9 a.m. on December 1 and ended just before 3 a.m. this morning.

At midnight, "Vazrazhdane" requested:

"It's 12 o'clock, we want the group of Vazrazhdane to play the anthem of the Republic of Bulgaria, so that this sit-in here ends."

And the anthem sounded in the plenary hall, and the deputies listened to it on their feet.

In the wee hours of the night, several attempts to interrupt the meeting were rejected, the counting of a quorum was boycotted, but it was decided to continue the debates without any votes on the individual texts.

The co-chairman of the WCC Asen Vassilev reacted:

"This is not law-making, it is not legislation, it is nonsense and an attempt in the dark ages to steal the votes of Bulgarian citizens".

A midnight presidential council followed, which decided to discuss two more paragraphs and to continue the debates and votes on the Electoral Code proposals in today's regular meeting.

The push to print a paper ballot after a machine vote has sparked controversy.

WCC and DB stated that by printing the ballot in the machine voting, the question is in practice whether the machine will remain a machine or become a printer.

MP Nadezhda Yordanova from DB commented:

"In addition to restricting rights, what we are doing now is legislative adventurism."

The majority decided finally that the results of the machine voting should be counted by counting the ballots from the machine vote.

WCC and DB objected again on the grounds that this was effectively removing the machine protocol and returning to queues and nightmares with the wrong protocols written by hand. Desislava Atanasova from GERB countered:

"In already voted texts, the memory is preserved by means of a so-called magic flash drive".

The most acute were the disputes surrounding the return of the paper ballot.

The co-chairman of the WCC Asen Vassilev stated: "The only reason we are against the paper vote is that it is organized in Bulgaria with sacks - sacks of money and sacks of falsified ballots".

Georgi Svilenski from BSP, who are the proponents of the mixed voting, emphasized: "BSP is for a transparent, honest vote, secured in every way. Because the problem, apart from the doubts that there are, is also the refusal of Bulgarian citizens to vote.”

Deputies made dozens of final votes. In the hall, the idea of "Democratic Bulgaria" for counting centers was rejected.

The "Abroad" district has been preserved, but it remains to be decided how many and from where the mandates will be distributed.

Booths are being phased out and replaced with screens for both machine and paper ballots.

There remained 40 applications for the opening of a new section abroad, the 15-member composition of the Central Election Commission was preserved, the technical media on which the result of the machine voting will be recorded was preserved.

There will be video surveillance and video recording in the sections during the counting of votes and completion of the protocol after the end of the election day.

And more: The Central Electoral Commission will provide access to the source code from the machine voting to parties and coalitions that crossed the 4 percent barrier in the last parliamentary elections, the deputies finally recorded with the adopted amendments to the Electoral Code.

Access to the code and other electronic documentation will not be available 10 days before election day.

The MPs revoted and rejected in the second reading the DPS proposal to vote only with paper ballots, necessary for the introduction of a new type of machine.

Separately, the parliament also rejected the DPS proposal to introduce machines with optical scanning devices to count the votes.

Today, as point one, a blitz parliamentary control of the prime minister and his deputies, as well as a regular parliamentary control, is foreseen.

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