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Elections 14.11.2021: Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the organization of 760 polling stations - more than any regional election commission in Bulgaria

22 October 2021 News

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as before, is doing everything possible to ensure the constitutional right to vote of all Bulgarian voters abroad when organizing elections abroad. At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs faces a number of challenges in preparing for the vote for President, Vice President and National Assembly on 14th November 2021 abroad, the biggest of which is the sending of ballots, electoral documentation and machines for a possible second round.

This was stated by the heads of the Working Group "Elections" at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ivan Kondov and Kalin Anastasov at a press briefing.

"We are working on the organization of these elections with the same team with which we organized the elections in April and July. We have gained serious experience. Every time we face new and much bigger challenges, I hope this time we will overcome them without any problems," said Ivan Kondov, Chairman of the Work Group "Elections" and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The biggest challenge for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now is the possible holding of a second round for the presidential election - after the change of the Electoral Code and the increase in the number of polling stations, ballots and possibly new machines will have to be sent again in a very short time. According to the ministry's analyses, if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not receive the machines and the ballots by the morning of 16th November, their delivery on time and everywhere will be very difficult.

Forecasts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that in the elections of 14 November 2021 our compatriots abroad will be able to vote in 760 polling stations in 68 countries - 296 polling stations more than the elections in April 2021 and 22 less than in July.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the organization of about 760 polling stations - more than any other district election commission in Bulgaria. Our territory of responsibility is from New Zealand to San Francisco in the United States, from Buenos Aires in Argentina to Tromsø in Norway, through Abuja in Nigeria, and for the first time we are opening a polling station in Bahrain for this election," said Kalin Anastasov, Deputy Chairman of the Working group "Elections" and Ambassador of Bulgaria to Armenia.

Among other possible difficulties in organizing the vote abroad is the formation of the Polling Electoral Committees, related to the deadline for the appointment of members at the suggestion of political parties. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has requested the CEC (Central Electoral Committee) to appoint these representatives as early as possible, so that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has time to react in case there are refusals among those appointed. In connection with the better organization of the work of PECs abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs proposes to provide a technical platform for conducting distance learning to PEC members by the Central Election Commission.

The management of the WG "Elections" once again expressed gratitude to the Bulgarian communities abroad and their volunteer networks for their activity and assistance in organizing the vote. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has received proposals from Bulgarian organizations abroad to improve the process of organizing elections abroad. Among them are proposals for creating more effective communication systems on the night of the elections, which the Foreign Ministry supports, Ivan Kondov stressed. For better communication, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also proposed to organize in the CEC a permanent call centre for communication with the PEC abroad on the Saturday before the elections, on the Sunday and on the Monday after the vote.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also appealed to the CEC in connection with the interpretation of the Declaration under Article 33 of the Electoral Code to issue a decision on where the declaration can be filled in at least one day before the elections. Also, the Ministry is in talks with the CEC to publish the methodological instructions as soon as possible and to describe qualitatively and in detail the whole process of conducting the elections. 

In order to improve the efficiency of the election process abroad, the leadership of the WG "Elections" also recalled the recommendations of the OSCE observers in the previous elections in July, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also shared.

„Organizing elections abroad is extremely energy-intensive and expensive. Given the changes in the Electoral code and the huge number of polling stations abroad, which, unfortunately, did not lead to an increase in the number of voters, our view is that it is time to move to remote voting by mail, which is the practice of the vast majority of EU countries and around the world, " said the chairman of the WG Elections“.

What do the forecast data of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs show, on which the logistical and financial plans for the organization of the vote abroad are based?

-           It is expected that 760 polling stations will be opened abroad, of which 649 outside the diplomatic and consular missions, and 111 sections will be located on the territory of our missions. 

-           In about 200 polling stations, machine voting will take place, and it is estimated that about 300 machines abroad will be needed.

-           9 polling stations will be formed in countries where Bulgaria does not have diplomatic and consular missions - in Luxembourg, Malta and New Zealand 2 stations will be opened in each place, and in Iceland, Singapore and Bahrain - 1 station each.

-           In countries with large Bulgarian communities, the expected number of stations is as follows:

-           Great Britain - 136 stations, Germany - 85, Turkey - 125 stations, USA - 55 sections, Spain - 69, Greece – 32

-           Estimated number of PEC members seconded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – 400

-           Estimated number of representatives of our overseas missions for PEC members – 250

-           Estimated number of representatives of the Bulgarian communities members of the PEC – 2 800

Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received the ballots for voting abroad - 1,400,000 ballots, and on Monday, 25th October, the ballot papers are expected to be received. All documents are expected to be sent abroad by the end of next week.

The management of the WG "Elections" expressed hope that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will receive the machines as soon as possible, as the organization for their sending is much more complicated.

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