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President Roumen Radev schedules parliamentary elections for April 4

Ruling GERB is against mail-in voting, e-voting and video surveillance of ballot counting

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Consultations between GERB representatives and President Roumen Radev on conducting the elections during a pandemic

The next parliamentary elections in Bulgaria will be held on April 4, President Roumen Radev decreed.

Radev initially announced he would set the elections at the earliest possible date, March 28. He said he reconsidered and decided on pushing the elections a week back because the "activities, which the [health and other relative] authorities must undertake to prepare for these elections demands time and full mobilization."

GERB finally tabled its bill to provide people under quarantine with a way to vote to Parliament on Friday. But it is still not entirely clear how GERB plans to ensure the safety of voters and election workers on election day. The question of guaranteeing Bulgarians’ right to vote, who reside in countries under lockdown is still open.

Bulgarian law does not allow for mail voting. If Parliament does not adopt emergency legislation to overcome this problem, Bulgarians in lockdown abroad will not have a way to vote.

President Roumen Radev called for lawmakers to adopt amendments to the Elections Act to allow for mail voting as well as for video surveillance of counting and processing the votes, in addition to other similar measures, like mobile election booths for people in quarantine.

"I expect the legislature to review and approve other, every bit of important, proposals like voting via mail for Bulgarians abroad, video surveillance on the day of elections and online ballot counting and revoking the by-hand counting of machine ballots," the president said.

After some harsh criticism by the president a week ago regarding the government’s handling of the situation, representatives of the ruling GERB and the president met to discuss his proposals.

GERB will not allow for votes by mail for Bulgarians abroad, nor is it willing to organize online voting for these citizens. GERB is willing, however, to introduce amendments to allow for mobile election booths to collect ballots by people under mandatory quarantine.

GERB are also firmly against having video surveillance of the ballot counting process. The measure, along with mail-in voting and online voting are the ones the non-parliamentary pro-European and anti-corruption opposition, Democratic Bulgaria has been incising on for the past month. In also proposed a detailed plan of how to implement the measures but the parliamentary parties have largely ignored the proposals.

The president insisted the government unveil its sanitary and other health related measures to hold the elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. Radev also criticized the government and legislature that although "it has been clear for a long time that these elections will take place during a pandemic, none of the institutions responsible started adequate legislative and organizational procedures to prepare for the elections under such circumstances," he said.

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