The early parliamentary elections held in Bulgaria on July 11 were competitive and generally respectful of fundamental freedoms, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said on Monday.
The campaign environment was characterised by accusations of corruption between the former ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) and the caretaker government, and the efforts to curb vote-buying, OSCE noted, citing the findings from its election observation mission.
Despite the generally adequate legal framework of the elections, the short-notice revisions, from the establishment of a new Central Election Commission (CEC) to the removed limitations on polling stations abroad, and the required machine voting in stations with over 300 registered voters, were seen as a strain on electoral preparations and a hazard to legal certainty, the organization said.
The observers also said that machine voting was managed relatively efficiently, despite the short-notice revisions and the pandemic restrictions, but noted that the technical aspect of machine voting might have prevented older, less technically-inclined citizens to vote.
The public mistrust towards political entities is seen as another issue perpetuated by the concentration of media ownership, the political influence over media and the lack of comprehensive reporting, according to the observers. The media coverage on the actions of the caretaker cabinet and the previous ruling party GERB overshadowed the electoral campaign and the other candidates, OSCE noted.
“While the use of new technologies in electoral processes can be considered as a positive development, nevertheless the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation is convinced that new technologies alone cannot restore Bulgarians’ trust in a truly democratic electoral process and cannot, on their own, exclude cases of political corruption, scandals and other long-standing problems," said Alfred Heer, head of the PACE delegation.