Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

OSCE sends a limited observer mission to Bulgaria, but mainly in the capital

Adelina Marini, June 11, 2009

The OSCE (the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) at the end will send a small mission of observers for the parliamentary elections in Bulgaria on the 5th of July. This is part of the conclusions in the report of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), which actually organizes and holds the observer missions. In the beginning of the month the ODIHR sent a Needs Assessment Mission to Sofia and in their report the following conclusions are important:

The Central Election Commission (CEC) initially rejected a major opposition party coalition’s registration, a decision later overturned by the Supreme Administrative Court, thus exercising effective checks and balances. Although the decision of the CEC raised doubts about its impartiality, the OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors expressed confidence in the way elections are administered.

In spite the mass buying of media by people close to the ruling coalition, the NAM interlocutors have found out that there is a diverse media landscape in Bulgaria, allowing for a broad range of political views. The Election Law, however, stipulates that the election campaign can be broadcast in only three types of programs - special election chronicles, campaign clips and election debates.
Furthermore, electoral participants must pay for all the campaign programs aired, including
debates and those on public broadcast channels.

The experts of the OSCE who hold numerous observer missions in many countries from the Third world, and not only, and have great experience have also found out that in Bulgaria there is an active civil society which is greatly respected by the political parties in the country. A Civil Society Coalition was formed to observe the upcoming elections with a particular view to monitoring instances of vote buying. In addition a significant number of political party agents will observe election day proceedings. These initiatives will further enhance the level of transparency.

In conclusion the Observer Mission of the OSCE to Bulgaria points out that on the 5th of July Bulgaria will hold its first parliamentary elections since joining the EU which makes them very important. The observers generally express trust in the conduct of democratic elections and in effective checks and balances in Bulgaria, but some concerns regarding these elections were raised, related more to the pre-election period and the heated political environment than to possible election day irregularities. That is why all interlocutors felt that the process could benefit from the presence of the OSCE/ODIHR. The mission will be limited and its core will be based in the capital Sofia. Particular attention will be paid to assessing the election campaign, new legal provisions and the electoral environment in the regions populated by national minorities.