September 16 (BTA) – Voters can choose between voting by paper ballot or via machine ballot, MPs finally decided on Wednesday by adopting a second reading of amendments to the Election Code. Only paper ballots will be used in sections with less than 300 voters.
The decision was taken after lengthy debates, with 109 votes in favour, 84 votes against and no abstentions.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) accused the GERB party and the United Patriots coalition of not actually wanting machine voting, but of inciting wrong protocols, invalid ballots and low turnout. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) argued that Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was preparing to falsify the next elections and called on him to withdraw the draft amendments. According to the opposition, mixing paper ballots and machines will lead to chaos.
GERB and the United Patriots noted that they want people to have a choice whether to vote with machines or with paper ballots.
National Assembly Chair Tsveta Karayancheva stressed that GERB is not against machine voting. Moreover, the government has voted to allocate 70 million leva to the endeavour. She explained that they provided the option for a paper ballot in case the machines malfunction. The paper ballot also reassures some citizens that they can exercise their vote, Karayancheva said.
The ruling party and the opposition began quarreling as early as discussing the title of the Election Code draft amendments and exchanged sharp remarks for hours.
Parliament extended the sitting until the adoption of the second reading of Election Code amendments, but subsequently, at the suggestion of GERB, the MPs terminated the discussion. In the course of the debates, the MRF had repeatedly insisted on postponing them.
Krassimir Tsipov (GERB) suggested that the MPs continue the discussion on Thursday as the first item on the agenda. His proposal was accepted.
In a statement from the parliamentary rostrum, the BSP demanded that Veselin Mareshki be removed from his position as Deputy Chief of the National Assembly because of an effective four-year sentence for racketeering and extortion he received at second instance on Monday. The statement, read by Christian Vigenin, said that “The sentencing of GERB’s associate Mareshki is another confirmation of the political coma in which this National Assembly has fallen. In any case, this sentence is a stain on the National Assembly institution.”
In her reaction, the deputy chairwoman of the Volya-Bulgarian Patriots parliamentary group, Krastina Taskova, called the BSP “a puppet master of the National Assembly cartel for many years now”.