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With 154 votes, parliament overrides presidential veto on changes to electoral law

With 154 votes, parliament overrides presidential veto on changes to electoral law

6 March 2019 | 11:48 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. Unanimously, with 154 votes, the Parliament rejected the presidential veto on the amendments to the Electoral Code, Focus News Agency reports. The MPs voted in the absence of the main opposition party.
The president returned the amendments on February 25 with the argument that they undermine the mechanisms that ensure fair elections. He vetoed the higher threshold in preferential voting and the limitation of machine voting. The veto was also imposed on the texts that narrow the range of CEC (Central Election Commission) decisions that could be challenged before the Supreme Administrative Court. The president also returned the amendments allowing CEC and local election committees to take a new decision by a simple instead of a two-thirds majority when a previous decision was annulled by the Supreme Administrative Court.
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Veto on Electoral Code to be considered by MPs, plenary session starts with quorum of 124

Veto on Electoral Code to be considered by MPs, plenary session starts with quorum of 124

6 March 2019 | 09:49 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. The plenary session at the National Assembly has begun with a quorum of 124 MPs, Focus News Agency reports. At least 121 MPs are required for a quorum to convene the session. For the third week in a row the parliamentary group of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) does not take part in the sessions. According to the schedule, the MPs should consider the presidential veto on the Electoral Code that was the reason for the opposition BSP to quit parliament.
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Parliament’s legal committee will discuss presidential veto on electoral law

Parliament’s legal committee will discuss presidential veto on electoral law

5 March 2019 | 08:32 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. The Committee on Legal Affairs will consider President Rumen Radev’s veto on some of the latest amendments to the Electoral Code, according to the agenda for its meeting today. According to President Radev, the amendments undermine the mechanisms that ensure fair elections. He vetoed the higher threshold for preferential voting and the limitation of machine voting. The veto was also imposed on the texts that narrow the range of CEC (Central Election Commission) decisions that could be challenged before the Supreme Administrative Court. The president also returned the amendments allowing CEC and local election committees to take a new decision by a simple instead of a two-thirds majority in the event of a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court against a previous decision.
The ruling coalition between GERB and United Patriots took a joint decision to vote against the presidential veto, rejecting Rumen Radev’s argument about judicial control being disabled.
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GERB and UP will vote against presidential veto on electoral code

GERB and UP will vote against presidential veto on electoral code

28 February 2019 | 13:57 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. The ruling coalition between GERB and United Patriots made a joint decision to reject the presidential veto on the amendments to the Electoral Code, saying that President Rumen Radev’s argument about a lack of court sanction was not true.
GERB’s group chair Tsvetan Tsvetanov argued the proposed amendments would even enhance control by the court because the cases would no longer be resolved by one judge in the Supreme Administrative Court but by a three-member bench of the Administrative Court, whose rulings could be challenged before the Supreme Administrative Court. The ruling party keeps its opinion in favour of a 7% threshold for preferential voting, he declared.
Ataka leader Volen Siderov said the arguments set out in the veto needed refinement. “Since there is no way to correct a veto, we will correct it in a parliamentary way,” he stated. He went on to say that far from confrontation, it was a synchronisation with the presidential institution.
VMRO deputy leader Iskren Veselinov said their initial position in support of the veto had been declared before the party came to know the President’s arguments.
NFSB said it would make own proposals for the threshold between first and second reading.
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President Rumen Radev vetoes changes to the Electoral Code

President Rumen Radev vetoes changes to the Electoral Code

25 February 2019 | 16:21 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has vetoed the changes to the Electoral Code on the grounds that these amendments weaken the mechanisms for ensuring fair elections. The president did not return the entire bill for a new debate, but only a part of the provisions. Radev has vetoed the increase in the preference threshold, as well as the limitation of the machine vote. He also vetoed the provisions, according to which not all, but only some of the decisions of the Central Election Committee (CEC) can be appealed before the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC). and also the amendments, which stipulate that if SAC revokes a decision made by CEC, or a municipal or a district committee, they will make a new decision not by a two-thirds majority, but by a simple majority of half plus one of its members.
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Antony Galabov, political scientist: BSP deepens its isolationism, reducing own legitimacy

Antony Galabov, political scientist: BSP deepens its isolationism, reducing own legitimacy

22 February 2019 | 10:28 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. The isolationism by BSP is deepening – every additional day and step by the leftist party in this direction reduces its legitimacy. This is what political scientist Prof. Antony Galabov said in an interview with Focus Radio. He said the opposition had to take part in Parliament debates, deliver criticism and solutions, argue, in general terms participate in the political process. BSP’s non-participation means they have nothing to offer and fully delegate government to the majority, he explained. He added that BSP’s refusal to nominate deputy parliament speaker, the withdrawal of their mayors from the board of the national association of municipalities, and now their withdrawal from Parliament sittings were irresponsible and inadequate behaviour showing poor political capacity. Before withdrawing from Parliament, a party must first convince people that the cause is worth it, whereas machine voting and the amendments to the Electoral Code cannot justify such a move, he said.
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Tsvetan Tsvetanov, GERB: In case of a veto on the electoral law, we will only agree about preferential voting

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, GERB: In case of a veto on the electoral law, we will only agree about preferential voting

21 February 2019 | 11:17 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. In the event of a presidential veto on the electoral law, GERB will only agree to revise the amendments concerning preferential voting, the party’s group chair in Parliament and deputy leader, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, told BTV. GERB have only changed their position in regard to the threshold for preferential voting, he emphasised. He argued that their initial motion to raise the preference threshold did not violate electoral rights and that politics was the art of achieving balance and consensus.
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Parliamentary legal committee postpones voting on 7% threshold for preferential voting

Parliamentary legal committee postpones voting on 7% threshold for preferential voting

20 February 2019 | 16:05 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. The parliamentary legal committee postponed its vote to restore the 7% threshold for preferential voting in elections, Focus News Agency reports. The proposal came from GERB MP and committee chairman Danail Kirilov. He said the committee should wait for the opinion of the President’s administration. BSP MPs did not attend the meeting.
Focus recalls: On February 14, after 12 hours of debate, the Parliament adopted amendments to the Electoral Code, setting the national electoral quota as threshold for preferential voting in European elections and the regional quota in parliamentary elections, thus eliminating the previous threshold of at least 7% for the preference to be valid. A few days later, on February 18, GERB leader and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov called an urgent meeting of the party leadership and they announced that they would restore the preferences and would open a procedure for the renewal of the Election Commission.
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Parvan Simeonov, political analyst: GERB underestimated the situation with electoral law, BSP overestimated it and risk self-isolation

Parvan Simeonov, political analyst: GERB underestimated the situation with electoral law, BSP overestimated it and risk self-isolation

20 February 2019 | 14:05 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. The GERB underestimated the situation with the Electoral Code, the BSP overestimated it and risks self-isolation, political scientist Parvan Simeonov said in Focus Radio’s morning show. He explained that acting together with MRF and as part of daily political bargaining, GERB underestimated the potential public response. “They generally tend to sometimes overlook public pulse, imagining that many things can be tolerated. The BSP has the opposite problem, they have overestimated the situation, believing that there is some emergency situation in the country and the people, at the edge of patience, would overthrow those in power. There is nothing like that,” Parvan Simeonov said. With their extreme positions, BSP sometimes scare rather than unite, he said, contrary to their current goal to create a united front with allies, even rivals who cannot tolerate GERB’s government model. Bulgarians dislike the idea of absence from work and BSP’s decision not to attend parliament sittings will be difficult for people to understand, he commented, adding that the U-turn on electoral legislation was a win for the left.
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Yuri Aslanov, sociologist: Machine voting would help overcome 2/3 of vicious practices

Yuri Aslanov, sociologist: Machine voting would help overcome 2/3 of vicious practices

19 February 2019 | 15:06 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. Machine voting will not stop 100% of vicious practices, but it will help overcome 2/3 of them, according to sociologist Yuri Aslanov. Speaking to Focus Radio this morning, he stressed the state had enough time over the last five years to implement machine voting as required by law. Even now it is possible, he argued, provided that the Parliament amends the law on public procurement, as there is not enough time for such a procedure before the European election. It has long been practiced in other countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark, he said in response to comments against machine voting.
Still, it is not a matter of principle but a major deal, political scientist Rumyana Kolarova said. “The big question is which company would be ready for this major order, which company has strategically prepared for its launch,” she argued. She said public procurement was a painful topic in Bulgaria and companies linked to different political parties had benefited in the past. In her opinion, machine voting is a wide subject involving public interest at stake, related to the election board members, because that order could hardly be shared, she said.
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Kornelia Ninova, BSP: We have informed the Venice Commission of electoral legislation – the risk of falsification is not over

Kornelia Ninova, BSP: We have informed the Venice Commission of electoral legislation – the risk of falsification is not over

18 February 2019 | 16:07 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. We have sent the alert on the electoral law to the Venice Commission – the risk of falsification of the election is not over. This is what BSP leader Kornelia Ninova told a press conference, Focus News Agency reports. She said her party would start meetings with other parties and civic organisations to form a ‘common front for fair elections’. It will also have a meeting with all EU ambassadors to discuss electoral legislation on the eve of the European elections. “We will wait for the president to see if, when and which legal texts he will veto,” Ninova added.
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PM Boyko Borissov: This CEC and this electoral law were created by BSP and they are now arrogant to distort things

PM Boyko Borissov: This CEC and this electoral law were created by BSP and they are now arrogant to distort things

18 February 2019 | 13:41 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. This Central Election Commission (CEC) and this electoral law were created by the BSP, and they are now arrogant to distort things, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told a press conference after a GERB leadership meeting in connection with the latest amendments to the Electoral Code, Focus News Agency reports. He said the term of the previous CEC had been terminated earlier while GERB were in opposition. “This CEC and this electoral law were then fully promoted by Ms. Maya Manolova, during the term of BSP and MRF,” he said. Since the election board’s term has expired, there will be a procedure to elect a new CEC, he added.
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Ombudsman: Parliament has diminished the rights of Bulgarian citizens with the latest amendments to the Electoral Code, preferential voting is now imitation and deception

Ombudsman: Parliament has diminished the rights of Bulgarian citizens with the latest amendments to the Electoral Code, preferential voting is now imitation and deception

18 February 2019 | 12:12 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. With the latest amendments to the Electoral Code, the Parliament has nullified rights that were previously granted to Bulgarian citizens, Ombudsman Maya Manolova told Focus Radio’s morning show. She said the elimination of real preferential voting was a violation of electoral rights and party headquarters would retain full control through their party lists. She stressed that over 1.5 million voters used to cast preferential votes in recent years and MPs now owed them an explanation. Preferential voting that enabled people to vote for their favourite candidate and rearrange the lists is now merely imitation and deception, she said. The ombudsman is preparing a constitutional challenge over preferential voting and the amendments concerning appeals against decisions of election commissions and the election administration.
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Election board members can remain in office after the end of their term, says spokesperson

Election board members can remain in office after the end of their term, says spokesperson

7 February 2019 | 14:46 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. The law allows the incumbent Central Election Commission (CEC) members to continue to exercise their powers after the expiry of their term, CEC Spokesperson Kamelia Neykova said to reporters, quoted by Focus News Agency. She noted that the appointment of board members was within the powers of the Parliament. “I cannot say if the term of the incumbent members will be extended. But it is permissible, pursuant to the Election Code, for those members to exercise their powers after the expiration of their term,” she said.
As for proposed changes to the Election Code, Neykova commented that they should be done earlier so that all institutions involved in the election process could have enough time to prepare the elections.
She ruled out electronic voting in the May election, noting that the deadline for introducing electronic identification had been changed.
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Krum Zarkov, BSP: By law CEC must be renewed, the debate is absurd

Krum Zarkov, BSP: By law CEC must be renewed, the debate is absurd

7 February 2019 | 09:27 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. By law, the Central Election Commission must be renewed, the debate is absurd, BSP MP Krum Zarkov told BTV this morning. The law stipulates that new CEC members have to be elected by February 21 because the term of the current ones ends on March 21, he explained. “There is no room for interpretation,” he said.
“We had to take the initiative because obviously the ruling majority are dragging their heels. The procedure could have begun already in December. Now the explanation that the new CEC would not have time to get to work is inadequate,” Zarkov added. He thinks there is enough time and GERB are intentionally delaying the procedure for unknown reasons.
“We have identified two major problems in the election law. One is linked to voter lists. There is a discrepancy about how many people live in the country and how many of them have the right to vote,” the MP said.
He added that in December GERB MPs had proposed key amendments to the Electoral Code with no discussion about it.
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BSP submits draft decision for new election board, says parliament must comply with law

BSP submits draft decision for new election board, says parliament must comply with law

6 February 2019 | 12:12 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. The BSP has submitted a draft decision for the election of new members to the Central Election Commission and does not accept yesterday’s arguments of the ruling majority, MP and deputy chair of BSP’s group in Parliament Krum Zarkov said at a briefing, Focus News Agency reports. “Everyone saw that after our announcement yesterday there were many unacceptable and scandalous explanations of how the Parliament could afford not to comply with the law. These explanations will run into our firm opposition,” Zarkov said. The party insists that the draft decision must be on the agenda next week.
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BSP reject changes to electoral code and want new election board

BSP reject changes to electoral code and want new election board

5 February 2019 | 15:02 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. The BSP will notify the Venice Commission of GERB’s amendments to the Electoral Code and will insist on their withdrawal along with a new Central Election Commission, party leader Kornelia Ninova told a press conference about the proposals from GERB MP Anna Aleksandrova, Focus News Agency reports. She said the amendments, proposed between first and second reading, would revise the rules for decision-making within the election commissions from a two-thirds majority, which implies the participation of all political parties, to a simple majority. She further said that GERB was proposing disregarding the need for new elections in the event of detected falsification. “Worried about the results, their potential defeat in the elections, they legitimise election falsification through the Electoral Code,” Ninova said. The BSP will also insist on voting machines.
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PICTURE OF THE DAY
In memoriam: Krasimir Uzunov
In memoriam: Krasimir Uzunov

VIDEO OF THE DAY
Focus Agency was distinguished at the fifth edition of Company of the Year;
Focus Agency was distinguished at the fifth edition of Company of the Year;
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