(DF) Parliament’s Legal Committee Takes Up Changes in Election Legislation, Draft Moratorium on Outgoing Government’s Decisions

April 21 (BTA) – At its first meeting here on Wednesday, the legal committee of the new Bulgarian Parliament took up proposed changes in the election legislation – a total of six bills – and a draft moratorium on some decisions made by the outgoing government. After voting on the six bills, the committee adopted only the proposed changes to the Election Code by Parliament Chair Iva Rupcheva of There Is Such a People (TISP). The MPs abstained from voting on most of the other bills. TISP’s bill includes proposals to switch to distance electronic voting in the presidential elections this year, to establish a separate constituency for voters abroad, to introduce changes related to the members of the Central Election Commission (CEC), video surveillance of vote counting, and machine voting. The draft revisions to the election rules have been tabled by the three newcomers to Parliament – TISP, Democratic Bulgaria, Rise Up! Thugs Out!, and the formerly ruling GERB party. They seek scrapping the limit on the number of overseas voting sections in non-EU countries (35); establishing a special constituency for overseas voters; allowing video monitoring of vote counting on election day; introducing mail-in voting; and changing the election administration. GERB want the proportional representation system with majoritarian voting, which is what TISP has been campaigning for, but now say it is not the time. There is a near-consensus for establishing a constituency for overseas voters and making it possible to increase the voting sections in non-EU countries, which is supported by most parties, and these two are likely to go through. Having more than 35 overseas voting sections across the world will mostly benefit Turkey, the UK and the US, all of which are home to large communities of Bulgarian migrants, who are currently faced with long waits if they want to vote in Bulgarian elections. Only GERB is willing to keep the cap on voting sections, according to the news media. GERB also tend to oppose the idea of video monitoring of vote counting, but that idea has the strong support of all newcomers to Parliament. Desislava Atanasova of GERB-UDF said they do not support voting by mail or the revisions related to the election of CEC members. All parties support introducing active voter registration. They are divided on whether and when the election administration should be changed: TISP want a new Central Election Commission as soon as possible, but most others say such changes need to be made in calmer times and GERB warned that it would bring chaos in the election process. Rupcheva said that TISP supports GERB’s bill related to the majoritarian system, with the caveat that an election system is not adopted overnight, as there are international standards to meet. The draft moratorium on the Borissov government’s decisions The draft moratorium proposed by Ninova for some decision of the outgoing government concerning the awarding of concessions, privatizations of state-owned and municipal hospitals and appointments in the management of regulators and companies with over 50 per cent state-owned interest. In media appearances the previous day, the Socialist leader warned that outgoing Prime Minister Boyko Borissov “was cementing his positions in the energy sector for another five years” by making key managerial appointments. “Extraordinary meetings appointed new boards in the [state-owned] energy companies, general meetings were held, tens of documents were collected, the Energy Ministry came up with an opinion and all this was submitted to the Registry Agency within 24 hours – something that normally takes weeks,” said Ninova. She specified that this was the case with the Bulgarian Energy Holding, the Kozloduy N-plant and Minproekt, among others. The Legal Committee did not adopt on first reading TISP’s proposed amendments to the Political Parties Act, providing for lowering party subsidies from 8 leva to 1 lev per vote secured. Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee adopted the two bills for deciding to impose a moratorium on the Council of Ministers’ actions. One of the bills was tabled by Maya Manolova and the other one by Kornelia Ninova. The MPs voted item by item which Government actions will be included in the moratorium and how, so they can shape up a general piece of draft legislation to be put to the vote in plenary. The general bill will include a moratorium on the awarding of concessions, including the setting of concession fees, as well as the issuance of permits for prospecting for mineral resources. There are demands to ban the taking and provision of state loans as per the Public Debt Act, dispositions involving the property of State-owned hospitals, among others. The MPs rejected to include in the moratorium preventing Cabinet to sign new contracts under the Public Procurements Act worth over 1,000,000 leva. RI/LN,MT, MY /МЙ/