Parliament votes Electoral Code second time

With an overwhelming majority, the National Assembly voted on Wednesday to reject President Rumen Radev's veto on amendments to the Electoral Code. In the absence of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) from the session, the MPs approved the bill once again with 154 votes in favour and no votes against or abstentions.

The amendments to the Electoral Code envision higher threshold for the preferential voting element, which was the main reason why the president vetoed them and returned the Code for another round of discussions in parliament. However, the veto turned out to be larger in scope, concerning not only the preferential voting element but also the use of electronic voting machines, challenging electoral commissions' decisions, and suability. The larger scope ultimately became the reason why the majority of MPs rejected the veto even though both GERB and a portion of the United Patriots want the current threshold for validity of preferential voting to remain as it still currently stands - 5% for the European Parliament election and 7% for local and general elections.

Once the bill is promulgated in the State Gazette, new amendments to the Electoral Code, entered a week ago by GERB and reinstating the lower preferential voting threshold, will be discussed. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) has already introduced to parliament its version of Code amendments once again, as the party vowed a day earlier - concerning increase in the preferential voting threshold, scrapping the minimum period of residing in a particular area required for voting eligibility there, campaigning in mother tongue, removing the restriction for the number of polling stations that can be opened abroad, and cameras in polling stations.

Meanwhile, the ruling party GERB presented the names of its candidates for the Central Election Commission (CEC). Stefka Stoeva, who has served as a judge in the Supreme Administrative Court and the Constitutional Court, has been nominated for CEC chairperson. The nominees for CEC members are Georgi Bahanov, member of the incumbent CEC and former deputy governor of Blagoevgrad, and Yordanka Gancheva, lawyer and member of the CEC since 2014.

Maria Boykinova and the current spokesperson for the CEC Alexander Andreev will remain on their positions to keep continuity in the commission's work. The nominations for new members are Miroslav Dzherov and Dimitar Dimitrov, whose name was put forward by the Association of Political Scientists in Bulgaria. GERB has already said that it will support BSP's nominees right away because the ruling party is prioritising setting up the new CEC as soon as possible.

The United Patriots proposed Assoc. Prof. Tanya Yosifova, a legal practitioner with vast experience in the profession and as a lecturer, for vice-chairperson of the CEC, and Boycho Arnaudov, who is presently a CEC member - for another term as member. The MRF opted for experience and professionalism by nominating Sevinch Solakova for CEC secretary and Erhan Chaushev for member.

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