Bulgaria votes for new parliament

On Sunday, Bulgaria is holding its first regular parliamentary elections since 2009. Balloting is conducted amidst an unprecedented epidemic emergency, which leaves its imprint on all aspects of the process. The polls opened at 7.00am and will close at 8.00pm. By exception, if voters are still waiting outside the polling site at 8.00pm, voting may continue until 9.00pm.

A total of 6,985 candidates (6,893 nominated by 22 parties and 8 coalitions of parties, and two independents) are contesting the 240 seats in the next, 45th Ordinary National Assembly. To have candidates elected, parties and coalitions must gain at least 4% of the valid votes in Bulgaria and abroad. The tentative electoral rolls list 6,732,316 eligible voters.

Voting is compulsory by law, but the voting obligation is practically unenforceable. Balloting is taking place in 11,983 voting sections, 88 sections at hospitals and 185 mobile sections in Bulgaria, which service permanently disabled voters and those quarantined at their permanent address as Covid-19 infected or contacts.

For Bulgarians abroad, there are 465 voting sections in 69 countries. Most overseas voting sections, 61, have been opened in Germany. There are 53 sections in Spain, 24 in Italy, 20 in Greece and 18 in France. The UK, Turkey and the US have 35 sections each, the maximum permissible for non-EU countries.

For the first time at these national parliamentary elections, full-scale machine voting is available as an equivalent alternative to the use of paper ballots at all 9,389 domestic sections with at least 300 voters.

At the polling sites, voters are required to wear facemasks and maintain distance. Twenty-eight Bulgarian non-governmental organisations and six international and foreign organisations are monitoring Sunday's elections. Five sociological agencies have registered to conduct exit polls on polling day. Five foreign media outlets are covering the balloting in Bulgaria. Over 20,000 policemen are enforcing law and order on 4 April.

Exit poll results may not be made public and commented on by politicians, pollsters and journalists before 8.00pm on polling day.

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