Bulgaria’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) faced more public backlash on October 26 after slow processing of ballots required intervention by emergency services. A total of 25 people required first aid, while 10 people, including two pregnant women, had to be taken to hospital. An earlier report that claimed one person died was later denied. Under Bulgarian law, election officials from polling stations are held responsible for all ballot papers until officially signing them into the custody of the municipal electoral committee. In Sofia, the process was so slow that some people spent, reportedly, more than 20 hours waiting for their turn at the Arena Armeec sports hall, which caused several people to faint.
Reports in Bulgarian media, quoting rank-and-file election officials, claimed that the hall’s entrances were locked to prevent people from leaving. News website Mediapool.bg said that papers from about 400 of Sofia’s 1500 polling stations had been processed by late morning.
CEC has sole authority over the election process, but the country’s government weighed in on the topic, asking the commission to issue a ruling that would allow for the secure storage of ballots and releasing the election officials from the Arena Armeec in order to minimise health risks.