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Smooth organization and low voter turnout mark polling day in Christchurch, New Zealand

Denitsa Stoeva: Voters were more enthusiastic at last year’s elections

a polling station in Christchurch, New Zealand
Photo: BGNES

Polling day in New Zealand’s second largest city Christchurch is proceeding normally. Voter turnout is lower as compared to the previous Parliamentary elections. 19 people have cast their ballots, whereas 29 people voted at this polling station at the previous general elections, Denitsa Stoeva, a member of the election commission in Christchurch said in an interview for Radio Bulgaria.

“Some people say they are tired, dispirited and do not know who to vote for. After all, we are far from Bulgaria and it is difficult to follow the developments in Bulgaria’s policy. On the other hand, there are objective factors. Currently, many people are travelling after two and a half years of Covid-19 isolation. Many Bulgarians use this moment to return to their home country where they will cast their ballots. On the other hand, elections coincide with the school holiday in New Zealand and many families have already planned their holidays and trips.”

Denitsa Stoeva has been living with her family in New Zealand for fifteen years now. So far, she has organized four elections. One year ago, she was faced with a problem at the presidential election run-off, because the ballot papers had not arrived and new ones had to be printed. In her words, today’s elections have been one of the easiest for her and her colleagues.  

“Our polling station in the region of Canterbury is small. There are around 250 Bulgarians, including children. Many people who are willing to cast their ballot do not possess valid Bulgarian documents. That is why they cannot exercise their right to vote. During the previous elections, the validity of passports was expended and more people benefitted from this opportunity. Today, Bulgarians whose documents have expired in the past three years, have not been able to vote.”

You may be wondering how these Bulgarians stay legally in New Zealand. In Denitsa Stoeva’s words, people who possess a residence document can use it to legitimize themselves, if they have not left the country.

 It is extremely difficult to renew our documents, because there is no Bulgarian embassy in New Zealand. The consulate does not accept renewal applications due to the lack of a portable biometric device. There are two people in the Bulgarian Consulate in Canberra. Canberra is also far away and travelling to this city takes a lot of time and is very expensive. That is why Bulgarians with dual citizenship do not renew their documents until they return home. For us, Bulgarians in Australia and New Zealand, access to Bulgarian administrative services is extremely difficult and limited”, said Denitsa.

Bulgarians are also able to vote at today’s elections with temporary passports. “However, this decision was adopted a few days before the elections and practically no one was able to benefit from this opportunity”, explains Denitsa. Those who have cast their ballots in Christchurch today believe that policy-making and decision-making are based on human values, not on private interests.

 “I myself am slightly confused and have no inner conviction what will happen after October 2. Hopefully, there will be some predictability, security and positive development”, concludes Denitsa Stoeva.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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