Parliament Amends Election Code Provisions on Residence for Local Elections, Deposit Refund Score

Parliament Amends Election Code Provisions on Residence for Local Elections, Deposit Refund Score

Bulgaria's Parliament Thursday amended conclusively the Election Code, complying with a May 5 Constitutional Court Judgment that declared unconstitutional nine provisions of the Code.

On a motion by Legal Affairs Committee Chair Iskra Fidossova MP of GERB, the qualifying period of residence in the respective nucleated settlement for the right to elect municipal councillors and mayors this coming autumn was reduced to four months from ten months in the original version of the Code. The qualifying period of residence in the respective nucleated settlement for the right to be elected municipal councillor and mayor in 2011 was also shortened, from six months before to four months now. Fidissova argued that the restriction imposed in the Transitional and Final Provisions of the Code has already played its role and there is no inland voter tourism.

Pavel Shopov MP of Ataka said that the shortening of the qualifying period of residence is unacceptable to his party, according to which this period should be as long as possible.

Chetin Kazak MP of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) warned that the provisions restricting citizens' rights will be challenged before the Constitutional Court.

Elections of mayoralty mayors will be conducted only in those mayoralties which have 350 residents at the date of promulgation of the presidential decree scheduling the local elections, Parliament resolved, rejecting a motion by Lyuben Kornezov MP of the Left to reduce this number to 150.

The legislature halved the score required for a refund of the 10,000 leva election deposit from 2 to 1 per cent of the valid votes for parties and from 2 to 1 per cent of the valid votes for independent candidate nomination committees in presidential elections. The score for nomination committees in parliamentary elections was not changed from one-quarter of the constituency electoral quota.

During the second-reading vote, Parliament successively defeated 16 motions by the MRF to scrap the provision that "X" is the only sign validly marking the voter's choice on a ballot paper and that that use of any other signs invalidates the ballot.

MRF Deputy Chairman Lyutvi Mestan argued that this restricts voters' rights and that the only advantage of the "X" sign is that prerequisites for controlled voting are created in this way. He insisted that the restriction is intended by the ruling party as an instrument of voter intimidation. GERB Floor Leader Krassimir Velchev reacted that something should be done to eliminate controlled voting and that the MRF should stop treating voters as paralyzed by fear and deprived of a will of their own.

GERB and Ataka voted down motions by Coalition for Bulgaria, the MRF and the Blue Coalition to make borough mayors elected by direct popular vote.

Maya Manolova MP of the Left said that the direct election of borough mayors affects more than 2 million Bulgarian citizens. She argued that without direct elections, the borough mayors will be practically appointed by a party headquarters. Ekaterina Mihailova of the Blue Coalition said that this denies citizens their democratic right to elect and to be elected.

The amendments will enter into force upon their promulgation in the State Gazette. (Source: BTA)

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