This article will be updated several times throughout 26 May.
Polling sections open at 7:00 am and work until 19:00. (Time zone CET+1) However, the Central Electoral Commission may extend the election day as necessary. If there is a queue in front of a constituency at 19:00, the Electoral Administration is obliged to continue accepting ballots until all voters vote.
The first results of the exit polls may be announced at 18:30, and then data from the parallel counting of ballots will also begin to appear. The CEC will announce the final results a few days after the vote after all protocols have been processed.
In Bulgaria, the sections are 11 897, while Bulgarian nationals will be able to vote in 191 polling stations in 64 countries.
Bulgarians will vote to elect 17 MEPs. The main stake is which force, Boyko Borissov’s GERB (EPP-affiliated), or the socialist opposition BSP (PES-affiliated), will emerge as the winner.
Three parties are assured of electing MEPs, the aforementioned GERB and BSP, and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms DPS (ALDE-affiliated).
A big question is will there be other forces capable of passing the 5.88% threshold. According to opinion polls, such a chance could have the nationalist VMRO party (until now its only MEP was sitting with ECR), and the populist Volya party (ally to Marine Le Pen’s National Rally).
Another issue is the impact of the preferential vote and if some candidates could get a boost and get elected thanks to their personal popularity. It is however unlikely that this question could be answered during election night.
The exit polls:
In Bulgaria, exit poll results should not be announced before the end of the election day. However, media find a way to announce exit poll results as soon as they become available, using an easy to understand code. Such codes are music charts or most successful films, or as the results of zebra races with different colors.
6:00 Brussels time: Election sections open.
9.00 Machine voting is introduced in some sections, a novelty in Bulgaria. However, there are several reports about machine malfunction. Anyway, voters have the option to vote in the usual way.
9.05 The leader of the BSP list Elena Yoncheva voted and called for as many as possible to cast a vote.
10:00 The prosecution works on twelve pre-trial proceedings for vote-buying. The announcement was made personally by Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov shortly after he voted in Plovdiv. He then explained that he had voted for “Europe in its authentic form,” which he said was “a Europe of citizens, not Brussels’ bureaucrats.”
10:05 The leader of the GERB list Mariya Gabriel voted. Also voted Krassimir Karakachanov, leader of the VMRO party, the historic leader of DPS – the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – Ahmed Dogan, as well as the number 2 in the DPS list Delyan Peevski, who doesn’t appear in public often, to say the least. Karakachanov made a statement, slamming those Bulgarian MEPs who do not fight for Bulgarian interests.
10:40 Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev voted, said these elections were as important as national elections, called for the people to vote. In his words, only a massive vote is able to win over a “corporative vote” and give the chance for reform and press freedom.
11:00 Five hours after the vote, highest turnout reported in Kadzhali, 19%, and the lowest in Varna, 5%.
12:00 Exit poll at 12:00 Bulgaria time, at 10% turnout:
GERB 30%, BSP 26%, DPS 14%, VMRO 7%, Democratic Bulgaria 4%, Volya 3%
15:00 An exit polls confirm GERB in the lead, at 30%, trailed by BSP at 25.3%, DPS at 11, VMRO at 7.8%, Democratic Bulgaria at 5% (closer to 5.88% threshold), Volya 3.4%. Another exit poll gives similar results.
16:30 Exit poll at 16:00 gives chance to Democratic Bulgaria to have an MEP, and confirms that VMRO are among the winners. GERB – 30,6%, BSP – 25,1%, DPS – 11,4%, Democratic Bulgaria – 8,3%,, Volya – 3,8 %, independent Dessilava Ivancheva – 1,8%, Ataka – 1,7%, the Patriots of Valeri Simeonov – 1,6%, Vazrajdane (who want to kill journalists) – 1,5%.
17:50 Data about the turnout: at 13:00 Bulgarian time (six hours after opening of booths) it was 15%, lower than the previous EU elections. At 16:00 it’s 26%, six percent lower than at the previous EU elections. In comparison, at the same time in France today the turnout is 44%.
18:15 Alpha Research polling agency: The coalition around the ruling party GERB won the European elections with nearly 33% of the vote. BSP remains second with 23%. The third place is for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms with 13.2%. The nationalist VMRO gets 6.8% and Democratic Bulgaria 5.9%. Consequently GERB would have 7 MEPs, BSP – 5, DPS – 3, VMRO and Democratic Bulgaria – one each. The party Volya of Vesselin Mareski, the partner of Marine Le Pen, stands no chance to elect an MEP.
19:00 Minister of finance said the elections were won by Boyko Borissov. What he means is that in the last week, Borissov started campaigning very strongly and indeed has a big personal contribution for GERB’s success.
20:00 Turnout at 19:00 at 29.5%
22:00 It was announced that 50% of voters have made use of the preferential vote. (This figure was later corrected at 37%.)