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Bulgarian President Vetoes Reforms to Voting Process

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev on Thursday vetoed recently adopted changes to the country’s election code.

He wielded his veto after parliament this week agreed to introduce a mixed system of traditional voting by ballots and machine voting for the next elections, with the ruling coalition of GERB and United Patriots, along with their independent partners, Volya, most keen on keeping the old model of voting as an option.

So far in elections in Bulgaria people have cast votes by paper ballots. The recent changes were about implementing machine voting instead. When parliament met on Wednesday, however, GERB, United Patriots and Volya settled on a compromise solution, whereby both voting machines and ballots will be available.

The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS, criticised the compromise, saying they showed Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was not serious about eradicating the practice of vote-buying.

President Radev then vetoed the changes, saying they would not curb limit illegal activities like buying votes, and that installing voting machines was too costly an exercise if they are not to be be the sole option.

Referencing EU grants to the country, he said: “Everyone wants money from Brussels to reach the people, not to fill Borissov’s drawer,” referencing leaked photos of PM Borissov sleeping next to a gun and stacks of money.

Repeating his recent constant attacks on the GERB-led government, he added: “We are yet to realize the scale of the damage that the current government is causing the state. And Europe is aware of it. There will be consequences.”

Radev also claimed that “Borissov’s sins”, and the foreign loans his government was getting to combat that economic tribulations of the pandemic, would be “paid for by the next governments and generations”.

Radev, who ran for head of state independently in 2016, but with the support of the opposition Socialist Party, again called on the current government to resign.

His latest comments were in line with his almost continuous clashes and tense relationships with Borissov and with Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev, whose nomination at the end of 2019 he vetoed citing fears of irregularities in the process.

Since the beginning of the current wave of anti-government protests, Radev has taken an even more clear opposition stance. Although not recognised by most protesters as a leading voice, he has actively supported the demonstrations, comparing the current cabinet to a mafia.

The next parliamentary elections are not scheduled until March 2021, however.

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