Bulgaria’s president on Wednesday proposed a referendum on voting rules to try to restore public trust in the Balkan country’s politicians after years of instability and scandals. The referendum, which if approved would be held alongside local elections in late October, would ask voters to choose whether they want to elect some lawmakers directly rather than from party lists, whether to make voting compulsory and whether to allow electronic voting. Voter frustration, especially with rampant corruption and organised crime, erupted in months of street protests in 2013. The country has had five governments in two years, and the last election, held in October, drew the lowest turnout in 25 years and a particularly fractured parliament. A recent poll by Gallup International showed a small improvement in trust in public institutions since the centre-right GERB government took office. Nevertheless, more than two-thirds of respondents said they do not trust parliament.
“Unfortunately we are witnesses of a progressive drop of public trust in the institutions and the political parties,” Rosen Plevneliev said in the proposal he tendered in the parliament. “It is important to overcome this apathy. We can do it by convincing the citizens that their voice matters at setting the rules.”
“The more people express their will, the more legitimate the election results will be and the institutions (will be) more stable.”
The previous parliament, dominated by the Socialists and ethnic Turkish MRF party, blocked the referendum proposal last year, but lawmakers across the political spectrum now support the proposal. The GERB party says compulsory voting would boost the legitimacy of election results and limit the opportunity for buying votes.