A new political scandal is about to start in Bulgaria, leading to further erosion of public confidence in the Bulgarian Parliament. The ruling party GERB claims that the European elections could be conducted by an unlawful election commission. The mandate of the Central Election Commission (CEC) in Bulgaria ends in the end of March and the elections will be in May.
The opposition – BSP, insists that the parliament should elect new members of the CEC who will administer the vote. This thesis is supported by some of the nationalists in the ruling coalition.
The scandal with the CEC will certainly be one of the main plots in the upcoming months in Bulgaria where there is always a suspicion of manipulation during election times.
On Monday (11 February), the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation published a report in which the Balkan state was put in the last place in terms of rule of law in the EU. The foundation’s experts said once again that Bulgaria had not reacted with regard to many of the criticisms of the international community about the way in which elections are held.
Bulgarian elections are rated relatively free, but the system has many faults. International observers have pointed out as problems the reports on party funding, the media usage during elections, the vote buying, the controlled voting, and the limitation only Bulgarian language to be used during the campaign. The problem with the illegal Central election commission now will be added to these problems.
BSP MP Pencho Milkov said that the current CEC staff was convenient to the ruling party GERB.
“BSP is formally well represented in the current CEC. The specific members of the commission do not matter. It is important for us the elections rules to be followed. The ruling party cannot give arguments why they should not follow the rules in the eve of the election campaigns this year. And then to insist that citizens should follow the rules”, Milkov said.
According to the law parties that have no MPs in the Bulgarian parliament but have MEPs have the right to appoint CEC members.
“The ruling party’s aim is to preserve these members of CEC till the European elections in order to get another configuration and some parties to lose their representatives in the election commission,” Milkov said. Svetoslav Malinov from Democrats from DSB and Nikolay Barekov from „Bulgaria without censorship” are currently MEPs. These two parties are not represented in the National Assembly.
VMRO nationalists also insist that the electoral rules must be followed.
“There must be enough serious reasons in order to postpone the election of the new members of the CEC. The law must be respected. We do not see a serious reason to break the law and postpone the election of CEC members”, said Iskren Veselinov, who is a VMRO MP.
GERB have not given clear political arguments why they insist that these members of CEC should conduct the European elections. Danail Kirilov (GERB) said only that the end of the mandate of the commission did not make the elections illegal.
The position of the ruling party is also criticized by the Bulgarian office of “Transparency international”. Vanya Nusheva from Transparency says that if the commission is not replaced, it will give rise to scandals between the parties and undermine the trust in the election process.