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Open letter by Transparency International – Bulgaria regarding the discussions of a new Election Code

12.02.2014 г.
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Transparency International – Bulgaria voices once again its strong concern about the apparent inability of the political parties, represented in the 42nd National Assembly, to reach a consensus on the adoption of new electoral process rules. Also worrisome are the serious violations of the principles of transparency and the attempted discussion and adoption of Election Code amendments in a piecemeal fashion and “on the go”, without offering a final draft of the discussed proposals.

Our assessment is that the selected approach compromises the initial idea for public discussion, aiming to reach a broad consensus on key issues. There is a real danger of not achieving substantial amendment of the current electoral legislation, thus failing to bring true change of the manner in which elections in Bulgaria were held in the past years.

Although the discussion of the discussions for elaboration of a new Election Code lasted 8 months, we find ourselves in a situation without clarity regarding fundamental rules under which the elections for Members of the European Parliament will be held.

Furthermore, the discussions in the National Assembly from the last few days indicate that the members of parliament are not capable of giving an adequate response to serious issues and address the problems in the electoral legislation in their entirety.

The fragmented approach for adoption of the electoral rules, without complete concept of the legislation and its philosophy, is unacceptable. It also shows that the concerns expressed in an open letter by Transparency International – Bulgaria in October 2013 are coming true. The time for adoption of new Election Code and creation of new electoral administration before the elections for European Parliament in May 2014 has run out.

Our position is that the electoral rules should be ready and clear for the citizens, candidates and institutions in a sufficiently long period of time (at least 6 months) before the date of the elections. This position is also shared by leading international organizations, and exists in the practice of the European Court of Human Rights.

We believe that the new Election Code should be implemented after the elections for Members of the European Parliament in May 2014.

Some of the adopted rules as part of the second deliberation of the legislation mark a retreat from previously reached broad consensus for solution of key problems of the electoral process – politically impartial and professional CEC, preferential voting with low threshold, fair media coverage of candidates’ campaigns.

We call on the parliamentary represented parties to overcome their narrow party interests by complying with the demands of the Bulgarian citizens, as well as with the recommendations of the Bulgarian and international civil organizations.

 Transparency International – Bulgaria stands firmly behind its recommendations, sent to the National Assembly on October 29, 2013:

1)  Establishment of CEC on the basis of professionalism, with guaranteed publicity and transparency in the nomination and selection procedures of CEC members with distinctive expert capacity and functioning training unit as part of the CEC.   

2)  Change of the approach for preparation of electoral rolls – electoral register, based on the current address data of the voters, which allows electoral rolls update and exclusion of non-existing voters.

3)  Fair and equal access of registered candidates to the media, which would allow the Bulgarian citizens to make their informed choice – free access to public media; possibility for free access to commercial media; clear identification of paid media broadcasts.    

4)  Introduction of preferential voting, with low threshold of (5%), which would allow real voter influence over party proposals for list of candidates.

5)  Definition of clear procedures for control and responsibility of institutions in the process of designing, printing and storing of ballots and other election papers/documentation.

6)  Implementation of Regional Ballot-counting Centers as a model for transparent reporting of voting results, limiting the possibilities for controlled vote and ballot counting rigging.

7)  Effective control over pre-election campaign financing, based on clearly defined powers of the National Audit Office for compliance review of received and expended funding, as well as measures for control during the pre-election campaign.

We believe that the discussion of new Election Code should continue in a calm environment in order to provide adequate response to the considerable problems in the electoral process.

Sofia, 12 February 2014

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL BULGARIA