The general elections should be held on time with licensed voting machines as prescribed by the law in compliance with all measures in order to guarantee the right of every Bulgarian to vote while minimizing health risks, said President Rumen Radev on Monday in remarks to journalists. He said that the deadline is March 28.
He spoke on a wide range of other issues as well, including COVID vaccination, relations with North Macedonia and a proposal for the establishment of a prosecution office to investigate the Prosecutor General, as he attended a public commemoration of poet Nikola Vaptsarov.
The President has made it clear previously that he does not intend to delay the elections. It was earlier in December when he was asked to react to remarks by Central Election Commission Spokesperson Tania Tsaneva that high coronavirus infection rates might delay the general elections by two months, which is the maximum time allowed by the Constitution.
According to the Constitution, the President is the only person who can delay the elections.
The President also said on Monday that all competent bodies, including the election administration, the executive and the judiciary should put in place the necessary conditions for fair elections and safety for voters.
The deadline for placing a procurement tender for the delivery of the voting machines expires at midnight on Monday.
The Central Election Commission has said that it is not clear at this stage how the voting rights of COVID patients and quarantined people would be guaranteed. Spokesperson Tania Tsaneva said that this is yet to be discussed if the severity of the pandemic does not ease.
Asked if he would get vaccinated for COVID, the President said that the first batch of vaccines will be enough for 60,000 people, and vulnerable groups such as the elderly, medics, teachers, police officers, pharmacists, social workers, commerce and transport employees far exceed that number. "I have no right to deprive them of their chance at vaccination," said the head of State, adding that if he decides, he will get vaccinated when there are no more people from these groups waiting for a vaccine.
Radev said that he expects the government to approach the matter responsibly, to hold a competent and open information campaign about both the benefits and risks from the vaccines and ensure that they are approved by the European Medicines Agency and the Bulgarian Drugs Agency.
The President expects that the vaccination will only be voluntary and people will have a chance to get vaccinated promptly. Radev also said that it is crucial to guarantee the rights of those who do not want to get vaccinated.
Asked whether he will convene a Consultative National Security Council about the vaccines, the President said that the matter is entirely expert. He said that he expects from the experts under the guidance of the government to consolidate their views because dissenting opinions discourage people and create concerns.
New top prosecutor
Commenting on GERB's idea for a prosecutor who will investigate the Prosecutor General, Radev said that the incumbent "are no longer shy to demonstrate their close relations with the Prosecutor General."
He also said that in GERB's proposal, the Prosecutors' College, which is fully dominated by the Prosecutor General, will name the person who will investigate him and that the same Supreme Judicial Council that by an overwhelming majority confirmed the incumbent Prosecutor General, will elect the prosecutor who will investigate him.
"The imitation of reforms in the judicial system by the ruling coalition only gives away their aim: to consolidate the status quo," said Radev, describing the proposal as far removed from all sense and decency.
Relations with North Macedonia
Asked about the European perspective of the Republic of North Macedonia, the President reiterated that now "we have to wait for emotions to subside, to arm ourselves with patience, calmness and good sense, because our brothers from North Macedonia should be members of the European Union, but this should be a sustainable process, where the eradication of anti-Bulgarian rhetoric, of hate speech and the objective recognition of the historical truth will become an irreversible process and Bulgaria should stand by its rights."
Bulgaria has refused to support the framework for North Macedonia's EU accession talks for as long as Skopje fails to make progress on delivering on the commitments it made when it signed a 2017 Goodneighbourliness Treaty with Bulgaria.
President Radev answered to media questions after he and Vice President Iliana Iotova honored poet Nikola Vaptsarov at his monument in Sofia. LN/PP