Bulgarians appear to have taken to preferential voting with a passion, with more than third who voted in the country’s October 5 elections using their right to re-arrange the order of candidates of the party of their choice. Going by provisional figures released by the Central Election Commission, about 34 per cent of those who voted exercised preferential voting – more than 1.1 million people. Preferential voting was brought into Bulgarian law by the rewritten Election Act that was approved in March 2014. Voters’ first chance to use it was in Bulgaria’s May 2014 European Parliament elections, with the most celebrated case involving the Bulgarian Socialist Party. In the May vote, then-party leader Sergei Stanishev was shoved down the list to be replaced by the candidate who was 15th on the list. Momchil Nekov, hitherto obscure, became the toast of those amused by the BSP’s misfortunes.
Because the BSP’s ballot number in the May EP elections was 15, the party at the time sought to ascribe the phenomenon to voter confusion about how to use the system, implying that people had a mistake marking “15” twice only because they wanted to make it clear they were voting BSP. This led it to be known as the “15/15 phenomenon”.
However, whatever the truth of the BSP claims, in another case in May, it seemed that no mistake was involved. On the Reformist Bloc ballot, voters for the centre-right alliance of five parties displaced the number one candidate on the ticket, Meglena Kouneva, replacing her with Svetoslav Malinov, who had been second on the list. With the bloc winning only one MEP seat, it went to Malinov.