Bulgarian lawmakers passed so many changes to its election laws in the last couple of weeks that protesters sounded a bit unsure which new rule to slam first. In a rush to go on holiday, they gave the thumbs up on compulsory voting, introduced restrictions to voting abroad (but dropped some of them later), rejected the creation of a “foreign” constituency representing hundreds of thousands of Bulgarian nationals living outside the country, delayed the introduction of online voting, and set a higher preference threshold for the election of mayors and “local parliament” members. They also tried to shorten the election campaign to 21, down from 30 days and to ban the announcement of any opinion poll results within the time, two moves where they backtracked. As these lines are being typed, it is not yet clear whether the version adopted after long political bargaining is final in any way, with the President possibly vetoing some texts or the Constitutional court overturning others, or both.
What is worth remembering while in limbo was that every party that is somewhat involved in the government or inherently crucial to governance got something and lost something. Political leaders made sure anyone’s gain were tantamount their allies or opponents’ loss. A classical zero-sum game.
Compulsory voting was introduced simply because nationalists from the Patriotic Front, a coalition that backs the government, argued it would reduce the influence that the DPS, a liberal and ethnic Turk-dominated party, has on the political system through its “disciplined” electorate.