The Unbearable Burden of Being a Bulgarian Voter Abroad
Cheer confusion and chaos are reigning over the vote abroad for the Bulgarian presidential elections on October 23.
The pandemonium is rolling like an avalanche after the culminating blunder committed by the Bulgarian Foreign Affairs Ministry by publishing on their website the addresses of all Bulgarian expats, who registered to vote, even though the Election Code calls only for their names and their respective voting section.
The outrage comes on the backdrop of numerous complaints from Bulgarians abroad, reporting that diplomatic representations are creating a number of obstacles to those who want to take part in the elections.
In a miserable attempt the whitewash the gaffes, officials from the Ministry spun a tale of human error, hacker attacks, shortage of IT experts, miserable State pay, PDF formats, lacking signatures, doubled applications, too many names in one envelope, and passing of the ball with the Central Electoral Commission.
To garnish it all, they announced that sections will not be open in three German cities, despite staggering complaints and regardless of admissions the Embassy in Berlin published wrong information about the required number of applications. Bulgarians in these cities had no way of knowing the exact number of the submitted ones and should have been more active, the Ministry officials say.
Wrong – having firsthand experience with voting abroad, I can vouch expats know how many applications have been submitted – they talk to each other and once the required number is reached, they stop sending them. Just to save some precious time over the unbearable, countless, time-wasting requirements, imposed by Bulgarian authorities.
As a person with dual citizenship, now residing in Bulgaria, I used my right to vote in the US presidential elections in 2008. There is a website called Overseas Vote Foundation – signing up – both for first time voters and registered ones is relatively painless– just some basic personal data is needed. Upon successful registration, an email is sent to the voter with link to their ballot with deadlines, filling and mailing instructions – the latter free of charge if the voter takes it to Embassy and with regular postage if dropped in the mailbox. End of story.
Many suspect the hurdles for the diaspora wishing to state their civil position and vote have been created on purpose. It could be true, but it is and would be hard to prove.
One thing is, however, obvious – Bulgarian pen pushers set their own trap by creating a number of unnecessary hurdles, requirements, formats, clauses, under clauses, articles and annexes, in which they later get stuck over incompetence, idleness, inaptitude and any combination thereof, casting a shadow on the effort of capable and dedicated diplomats (I personally know a few), who are trying to help fellow Bulgarians.
The sad end-result is that many Bulgarian expats will be deprived from their right to cast a ballot to elect the next president of Bulgaria.