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Votes by Bulgarian diaspora add value to elections in the country

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Photo: Facebook /Петър Якимов

A record number of polling stations abroad – 750 - are to be set up for the upcoming elections for parliament on 11 July. Though the Bulgarian community abroad have been casting their votes in other countries for 30 years this right of theirs still sparks controversy.

For Peter Yakimov, a political analyst living in London, such a confrontation has always seemed strange, because he believes that historically, the Bulgarian nation has always tended towards integrating not dividing.

“I suspect that this is a throwback to the communist regime when anyone leaving the country was branded “enemy of the people” and “nonreturner”. To my mind that is a bit strange because quite a lot of the Bulgarians living abroad pay taxes in Bulgaria. When we add to this the Bulgarian National Bank statistics that the biggest single foreign investor in Bulgaria is the diaspora abroad, this renders nonsensical the idea that people who don’t live in Bulgaria and don’t pay taxes shouldn’t have the right to vote.”

Peter Yakimov describes the notion that the votes by Bulgarians abroad significantly alters the election result in the country as one more myth.

“I have traced the election results back in time and the standard number of votes cast in other countries is around 120,000-130,000, which accounts for 3-4% of all votes, and there is absolutely no way they can affect the decisions by Bulgarians living inside Bulgaria. I believe that the elections are decided in Bulgaria, and that the votes cast abroad only add value to the results.”

Peter Yakimov expects approximately 200,000 Bulgarians to cast their vote abroad on 11 July, compared to the record-high – more than 170,000 – who voted at the elections in April. The data from the previous elections according to which the votes from abroad for parties were roughly comparable to their distribution inside the country were also disproved.

“The previous elections were really interesting because for the first time Bulgarians living abroad did not vote for the election winner. Before that Bulgarians living in other countries tended to follow the general trend of the things happening in Bulgaria. The percentage that is added to the votes for parties in Bulgaria is roughly 1%, i.e. there is no way for it to overturn the vote in Bulgaria, that has never happened, because the votes are scattered, they are not for one party only.”

At the elections in July, for the first time there will be more polling stations in Great Britain than in Turkey. Peter Yakimov says this may boost voter turnout a little bit, but that it is certain to make the job of the people at the polling stations easier.

“There is one thing about voting abroad – the threshold for setting up a polling station, this time there have to be 40 applications. But on election day anyone with a Bulgarian passport can go to the polling station and vote.”

Yakimov states further that the organization of the election abroad is made possible thanks to the enormous efforts of volunteers, of people living in the respective countries but that communication with the embassies is really important.

To Bulgarians abroad it does not matter whether they will vote by machine or paper ballot, Yakimov says and explains:

“The votes cast abroad are for parties only. There is no preferential voting for a given candidate. This makes things easier – with the voting and with the counting.”

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