OSCE: Violations Loom in Bulgaria's Vote

OSCE: Violations Loom in Bulgaria's Vote

About seven million Bulgarians can vote in the presidential elections on October 23, which is 95% of the entire population of the country.

The data comes from the last Census, conducted by the National Statistics Institute, NSI, in February 2011, and is included in a recent a report on Bulgaria's upcoming elections, published by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE.

About 6.4 million have the right to vote at the local elections, which are also held on October 23.

Not a single Bulgarian institution has published so far the exact number of people eligible to cast a ballot on October 23, among staggering doubts that the voters' lists are filled with nonexistent names - the so-called "dead souls." A September study of the Bulgarian Dnevnik daily reveals they are at least 10%-15% from all voters.

There are also fears about large-scale vote buying and manipulations in the counting of the ballots, OSCE point out. Media reporting on the election campaign comes with hefty fees, placing some candidates in a disadvantaged position and restricting their voice. The mission of the international organization has monitored the 3 largest TV channels, including the State TV, and the dailies Trud (Labor), 24 Chassa (24 Hours), Telegraph, Standart (Standard) and Sega (Now).

The new Election Code is a solid base to have democratic elections, according to the OSCE report, but it points out the need of taking into account the recommendations of the Venetian Commission: to allow minorities to use their native language during the campaign; to introduce clear rules for media campaigning, and clear definitions of the rights and the responsibility of monitors. OSCE further point out that the 24-hours deadline to contest decisions of the Electoral Commissions is not long enough and criticize the transparency in the activities of these commissions and the high share of their members being from the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, party.

The report mentions cases of pressure on candidates to withdraw their bids, including tax audits of their business and of the business of their relatives.

According to experts, which have spoken to OSCE, some political parties, mainly the far-right, nationalist Ataka, have used for political gains the incident in the village of Katunistsa, where ethnic Bulgarians rebelled against abuses of the Roma boss Kiril Rashkov AKA Tsar Kiro. (Source: Sofia News Agency)

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