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Bulgarian Election Overcomes Challenges

Updated: Jun 7

(Sofia, Bulgaria) Bulgarians voted in local elections yesterday across the country to elect municipal councils and mayors. Turnout was low at 37.5 percent, but consistent with historical trends in the country. Despite some late changes involving the removal of voting machines, the election commissions met the challenges to conduct an effectively administered election. As a result, the Committee for Open Democracy congratulates Bulgaria on holding their local elections in line with democratic standards and international norms.

Due to a late legal challenge, voters were not able to use voting machines on Election Day according to the law and had only the option of paper ballots. Because of the nuances of Bulgarian Electoral Law, there are numerous ways in which a paper ballot can be invalidated. Whereas the typical invalidation rate is less than 2 percent, during the vote count, some polling stations had more than 10 percent of the ballots invalidated. Such mass invalidation of ballots thwarts the will of the voters. Bulgaria should return to the use of voting machines immediately so this problem will not be repeated in future elections.


Election commissions largely consisted of experienced election workers who received sufficient training and materials from the Municipal Election Commissions, and overall, the counting process was orderly. In several cases observed by COD, the election commissioners diligently worked to rectify minor discrepancies in the totals until they successfully resolved them. In addition, in a situation where a local election station (SEC) refused to allow entry of international observers, the municipal election commission (MEC) quickly resolved the problem to allow the international observers entry per the Bulgarian electoral code.

The pre-election environment was vibrant and a wide range of candidates from various parties participated. Television and media time was allotted according to Bulgarian law and additional media was available for purchase to candidates. Violations were generally technical in nature and not systemic.

The Committee for Open Democracy (COD) was officially accredited by the Central Election Commission of Bulgaria and fielded 19 international observers. The observers represented seven countries including Canada, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Romania, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States. Close to 100 polling stations were monitored and this is the second time that COD has observed elections in Bulgaria with the first being the 2013 parliamentary elections. This is the 27th election observed by COD since its founding in 2010. COD is a US based not for profit organization that observes international elections previously in Albania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine.

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