Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

MFA: There are 271 polling stations abroad but the Bulgarian immigrants want more

Adelina Marini, July 1, 2009

In 2001 for the parliamentary elections in Bulgaria 158 polling stations were opened abroad and now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has opened 271. This is what the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Ivaylo Kalfin explained, responding to the criticism, by his words - from the party of Ivan Kostov (an opposition leader and ex-prime minister 1997-2001) - that this year the Ministry has opened less polling stations abroad. And for the parliamentary elections in 2005 the polling stations were 344 but there were "exotic" places around the world where only 1 or 2 people voted, which, according to Mr. Kalfin, is not reasonable: "I respect every Bulgarian abroad and every single vote, but it is too expensive to guarantee a situation like in Bulgaria - people to be able to vote in the nearby school. This can happen only for communities that have the will and the readiness to do it".

He reminded that the law is the same as in 2006 for the presidential elections. And regarding the large number of polling stations in Turkey Mr. Ivaylo Kalfin said that there 44,000 applications were filed requesting to vote. Beside this the MFA has decided not to repeat the situation in 2006 when in 1 polling station 3,000 people voted in Turkey, and the law permits only 1,000 people to vote in one station. But this was the decision of the Central Election Commission. The Commission also decided then to prolong the election day so that everyone could vote. In Turkey 55,911 voted at the presidential elections and the total number of Bulgarians that vote abroad varies between 70,000 and 77,00, added the Bulgarian foreign minister.

In response the Facebook group "Voting without borders" said that this year at least 142,000 Bulgarians will vote abroad. They also claim that they are not focusing on the voters in Turkey (the main electorate of the DPS - the Movement for Rights and Freedoms of Ahmed Dogan) but on who will count toe votes there. According to Antoni de La Rea who is the creator of the group and a local coordinator of the efforts of the Bulgarians abroad, the biggest threat at the parliamentary elections on the 5th of July is for fraud in Belgium and Turkey. The main danger comes from the fact that in Benelux it is not a problem in 7 hours one person to be able to vote in all polling stations in the region, Mr. de La Rea explained. There is no way the authorities to check right away whether one person had already voted somewhere else.

But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs transferred the problem to the political parties by reporting that GERB (the Movement for the European Development of Bulgaria of the mayor of Sofia Boyko Borisov) have registered 13 members of polling stations abroad and 1 observer, the Coalition for Bulgaria (in which the main party is the Bulgarian Socialist Party of the prime minister Sergey Stanishev) have registered 42 members, ATAKA (the nationalist party) has 27 with 5 reserves, the Blue coalition has 26 members and the DPS has 131 members and 131 reserves.

The members of "Voting without borders" continue to fear that the problem is in the unwillingness of the MFA, as representing the ruling parties, because Bulgarians in many parts of the world complain that the consulates or embassies deny them whatever cooperation they might need. The also quote a letter from Yulia Tserova from the Bulgarian consulate in Los Angeles, saying: "Thank you for the readiness you express to participate in the organisation of the elections. The General consul asked me to tell you that, unfortunately, at this time, it is impossible to open a polling station in San Diego. The number and the places of the polling stations on the US territory has already been approved by the embassy in Washington and the Institutional Election Commission".

The Bulgarians abroad also blame the MFA that it had published the full list of polling stations too late. In spite that, from the initially approved 259 stations, of which 123 in Turkey, the stations now are 271 and more are expected to be opened before the Election day. But the Ministry insists that it is not right to open a station where less than 3 people would vote. "Voting without borders" did not agree and said that they would insist polling stations to be opened in Minsk, Belarus (where 1 person has applied for voting), in Pert, Australia; Sidney, Tarragona, Spain; Sarasota, Florida; Houston, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Dubai.

During the briefing of "Voting without borders" the leader of a party, that claims to be formed by Bulgarian immigrants, Bozhidar Tomalevski appeared. He tried several times to attract the Facebook group to his party but they refused.

The Deputy prime minister and foreign minister Ivaylo Kalfin reported the achievements of his 4-year term for which you can read on euinside later.