Referendums - The Voice of the People or Political Flirtations
Consultations with the people on issues important to the state have never been a favorite form of communication between Bulgarian authorities and citizens.
Only six referendums have been held since the Liberation, three of them in the last supposedly democratic 30 years. Which, among other things, shows the fear of those in power of the sovereign’s will.
It is indicative how in 2004, on the occasion of the requests for a plebiscite on Bulgaria's membership in the EU, Solomon Passy - at the time Minister of Foreign Affairs, brazenly stated that the Bulgarian people were not "ripe" for referendums. Moreover, Passy said then that "a referendum is the best way for a nation to punish itself." Only a very bare-handed politician neglects the opinion of the citizens, distorts it or tries to speak on behalf of the people without knowing what they really think.
In fact, only one referendum was held in post-liberation Bulgaria. It was held on November 19, 1922 and was about the trial of the culprits for the three national catastrophes. 74.33% of the voters gave a positive answer.
The second referendum is for the proclamation of Bulgaria as a republic, for the convening of a Grand National Assembly and for the drafting of a new constitution. It took place on September 8, 1946, in an atmosphere of sharp confrontation between the communist-dominated government of the Patriotic Front and the opposition. However, both sides supported
the proclamation of Bulgaria as a republic.
A constitutional referendum was also held on May 16, 1971. Citizens were asked if they approved of the new, the so-called Zhivkov Constitution, whose Art. 1 determines the leading role of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The announced result is 99.6% "for", with a turnout of 99.7 percent.
Three referendums were held
in our recent history. The first was held on January 27, 2013 and the citizens had to vote on whether BG should develop nuclear energy by building a new nuclear power plant. Despite the winding wording, invented by the then legal "luminary" of GERB Iskra Fidosova, it was clear to everyone that it was about the continuation of the construction of the Belene NPP." But with 1,405,463 people voting - just over 20% turnout - and more than half saying yes, the question was returned to parliament, which then froze construction on the site of the ”pool”.
The next poll took place on October 25, 2015 at the initiative of President Rosen Plevneliev. It concerned remote electronic voting and took place at the same time as local government elections. 2,587,593 people participated in it, with a "yes" answer of 69.50 per cent.
In 2016, Slavi Trifonov managed to provoke a referendum, together with the scriptwriters of his show. The questions asked were six: should the MPs be elected by an absolute majority in two rounds; should the number of deputies be reduced to 120; whether to introduce compulsory voting in elections and referendums; should remote electronic voting be allowed; should the annual state subsidy allocated to finance political parties and coalitions become one LEV per actual vote received and should the directors of the regional directorates of the Ministry of Interior and the heads of the regional departments in the regional directorates of the Ministry of Interior be elected by an absolute majority in two rounds?
According to the legislation, in order for the proposal for a referendum to be mandatory for implementation by the National Assembly, no less than 400,000 real signatures must be submitted. The initiative committee set up then submitted 572,650 actual signatures, or almost 200,000 more than needed. Which gave rise to
anxiety among MPs and parties.
The Legal Parliamentary Committee urgently proposed amendments to the Electoral Code, which abolished the rule that referendums should be held on the same date as the elections if they are scheduled in the same year the consultations were initiated. This was also accepted in the plenary hall, as only the Reformist bloc was against.
In order to lower turnout, the government also launched the idea of the poll taking place in the summer and the most appropriate month was august.
Another change that was adopted by the National Assembly prevented Bulgarians from voting abroad - in the diplomatic missions of our country only, not in other sections specially opened for the elections.
The then President Plevneliev vetoed the renewed Electoral Code on the grounds that election rules create obstacles instead of motivating citizens.
But with the joint efforts of GERB, BSP, Patriotic Front, Ataka, BDC and some of the Reformers, the veto was rejected.
Either way, parliament has allowed Slavi's referendum to be held. However, Plevneliev referred the matter to the Constitutional Court to establish the unconstitutionality of three of thequestions. According to him, the reduction of the number of deputies was within the competence of the Grand National Assembly, a referendum on electronic voting took place last year at his request and as for question № 6, police chiefs are 'civil servants' and being in such capacity they cannot be appointed by election.
After all the fuss, it was decided that a referendum be held but with
three questions left from the original proposal:
Do you support the election of MPs by an absolute majority in two rounds, do you support the introduction of compulsory voting in elections and referendums and the annual state subsidy granted to finance political parties and coalitions to be one lev for one vote received in the last parliamentary elections?
The poll itself took place on November 6, 2016, along with the presidential and vice presidential elections. 3,488,558 people voted, with more than 2.5 million supporting the majority vote and the party subsidy to become 1 lev.
This shameful story does not end here. The fudge of those in power continued after receiving the result. Great efforts were made to keep the ballots short and to not accept the referendum as mandatory for implementation by the National Assembly. Not to mention that, referring precisely to this poll, Boyko Borisov has speculated as he wanted with both the subsidies and the majority vote.