Bulgaria closes door on election monitors

Last week hundreds of Bulgarians protested in front of the Parliament, with some of them throwing tomatoes at the building of the legislature and calling for the end of corruption and “political hypocrisy”.  Reuters and the Financial Times quickly asked if this was a “tomato revolution against corruption”:

“Nikolay Kolev, better known as ‘Bosiya’ (Barefoot), was arrested in Sofia on Tuesday after he threw a single tomato at the wall of Bulgaria’s parliament. It was a protest, so he said, against rampant official corruption.”

The event can be seen as an indicator of the growing public outcry towards the failure of the government to tackle widespread corruption and build accountable public institutions that would create safeguards against impunity.

Bulgaria languishes second-last (after Greece) among EU countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012, published yesterday, despite hard work to burnish anti-corruption credentials required to join the European Union in 2007.


Earlier this year, a Transparency International Bulgaria report warned that not enough has been done,

“the continuing reforms aimed at tackling corruption have not brought back the trust of the people in institutions.”

So the government should be taking every opportunity create a more accountable democracy. Fair and clean elections should be high on the list, since the report warned of an “increasing number of reports/evidence of vote buying” .

However, it seems to be heading in the opposite direction.

In late November the Bulgarian parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee proposed changes to the country’s election code that would restrict the registration of Bulgarian NGOs as election observers, which provoked a strong reaction in the civil society. Currently TI Bulgaria and other NGOs working in the area are making efforts to stop the adoption of this legal provision.

Corruption Perceptions Index’s 2012 results

If the changes are approved by parliament, NGOs would only be allowed to register only a small number of its own members as election observers, without being able to take on extra volunteers.

If passed, these amendments could seriously curtail the ability of the civil society to monitor elections, something that Transparency International Bulgaria has been doing actively for the last years.

In late 2011, they mobilised and trained 615 volunteers to monitor the presidential and the local election and set up a hotline for reporting irregularities identified throughout the country.

Monitoring has uncovered various violations and electoral malpractices, including the attempts of vote buying, pressure on the voters and other irregularities. The reports from the hotline were immediately forwarded to the authorities to be acted upon grave cases of violations. If the electoral law amendments are passed in the current form, such monitoring will no longer be possible.

Such change could only be understood as placing restrictions for the independent monitors something that becomes particularly alarming in the context where vote buying practices seem to be widespread and independent reporting of these cases is so much needed.

Far too many people think it acceptable to sell their vote, according to a survey carried out by Transparency International for the 2011 presidential and local elections.

This is aggravated by the fact that, over the last years the quality of the administration of the electoral process seems to have deteriorated.

It is all too difficult to understand why the Bulgarian government would introduce the amendments restricting domestic election observers. It leaves one wondering how those measures could address the existing challenges, nor how they would be compliant to the internationally established standards of elections in a representative democracy.

Guaranteeing meaningful independent monitoring of elections is a factor that can assure voters, representative of political parties and the international community of the legitimacy of the election process.

If the Bulgarian government is serious about having clean elections in the country and allowing meaningful civic participation, it should withdraw the amendments from consideration and instead try to institute measures, that would facilitate transparency of the electoral process and help to strengthen electoral integrity in the country.

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Tinatin Ninua

About Tinatin Ninua

Tinatin Ninua is the Regional Coordinator for South East Europe at Transparency International.

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4 Responses to Bulgaria closes door on election monitors

  1. Johnathan Woodgate 6 December 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Excellent blog post, very informative. Wish Miss Ninua wrote in her blog more frequently!

  2. Катя Вълчева 14 December 2012 at 10:27 am #

    They bureaucrats in Bulgaria for more than 22 years, trying to dominate and operate on a “thief says: Keep thief” …. reply quote: “.. Yes, yes …. but not”
    Те, бюрократите в България, вече над 22 години, се опитват да властват и действат на принципа ” Крадеца казва : Дръжте крадеца “….отговор цитат : “..Да, да….ама, не “

  3. Катя Вълчева 14 December 2012 at 10:32 am #

    Most sincerely, I wish success and making good decisions and measures of the conference. To peace and security in the world (the Earth) 🙂
    Most sincerely, I wish success and making good decisions and measures of the conference. To peace and security in the world (the Earth) 🙂
    Money is an issue, because it allowed overproduction and over-industrialization. Not properly
    planned supply over demand.
    Also capitalism, even social capitalism prevents excessive parasitic public administration and its share is higher than 10% of this administration, compared with private sector employees. (Such a comparison can be made with the idler gears, other comparisons)
    This is why inflation occurs. And then? … 🙂 What will make adjustments? There is a “cure”: Shortening of employees in the public sector, retraining and turning them into entrepreneurs with creative thinking.
    Other measures ………….
    Policy of Ronald Reagan to agree, it is based primarily on the advice of economist Milton Friedman and his work “The Economics of mankind.”
    Other measures ………….
    With best wishes: Katya Valcheva and other nationals, remained at least some sense …..
    Най-искрено, аз желая успех и вземане на полезни решения и мерки, на конференцията. За мира и сигурността в целия свят ( цялата Земя ) 🙂
    парите са проблем, защото е допуснато свръх производство и свръх индустриализация. Не правилно
    планирано предлагане, свръх предлагане.
    Също така капитализмът, дори и социалният капитализъм, не допуска свръх паразитната публична администрация и нейния дял, да бъде по-висок от 10% на тази администрация, съпоставено със заетите в частния сектор.( подобно сравнение може да се направи с паразитните зъбни колела, други сравнения )
    Ето защо настъпва инфлация. А после ?…:) какво ще я регулира ? Има ” лечение ” : Съкращаване на заетите служители в публичния сектор, тяхната преквалификация и превръщането им в предприемачи, с по-креативно мислене.
    Други мерки………….
    Относно политиката на Роналд Рейгън, да съгласна съм, тя е основана предимно на съветите на икономиста Милтън Фридмън и неговия труд ” Икономика за човечеството “…Други мерки……
    С най-добри пожелания: Катя Вълчева и други граждани, с останал поне малко разум…..


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