“Making Direct Democracy Work in Bulgaria” Conference Held in Sofia

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The Bulgarian Association for the Promotion of Citizens Initiative brought together initiative committees of local and national referendums and petitions, civil rights activists, constitutionalists and politicians from Bulgaria, Switzerland and Germany at a conference entitled “Making Direct Democracy Work in Bulgaria” on February 26 in Sofia.

“The introduction of a working system of direct decision-making by the citizens is a major part of the reformation of the political model in Bulgaria. Referendums and initiatives are one of the constitutional mechanisms to create balance and control of governance,” said Daniela Bozhinova, conference organizer and chairperson of the Bulgarian Association for the Promotion of Citizens Initiative.

The aim of the Conference was twofold: informative – to make the best practices in direct participation popular, and pragmatic – to evaluate the experience gained at local and national referendums and initiatives in Bulgaria, formulate and reach consent regarding citizens’ proposals for reformation of the rules for direct participation in Bulgaria.

The Conference participants included Yanaki Stoilov, Vice-President of the 43rd National Assembly; Svetoslav Malinov, MEP, European People’s Party; Toshko Yordanov and Victoria Vasileva from the national referendum campaign of Slavi’s Show; Veselin Mareshki, Chairman of the Referendum 2016 Initiative Committee; Angel Jilanov, Mayor of Gorna Malina; members of the Vote Without Borders Initiative Committee and local initiatives from Burgas, Varna, Gorna Malina, Ruse, Radomir, Plovdiv, Samokov, Yambol, etc.

Daniel Schily, Democracy International CEO, presented the experience of the international direct democracy coalition in supporting the civil initiatives and changes in legislation in Europe and beyond. In 2013 the organization sent the first international observers at a Bulgarian national referendum. Uwe Serdült and Corina Fuhrer from the Center for Research on Direct Democracy–Aarau presented the Swiss system for direct democracy emphasizing the mandatory (automatic) referendums and the obligation of the government to provide information about upcoming referendums by sending a “referendum booklet” to every Swiss household.

The participants instituted a National Citizens’ Initiative “Participation, Not Predestination!” to bring about some pressing changes in the Law on Direct Participation of the Citizens in National and Local Governance.

The event was organized in implementation of the “Strengthening Direct Democracy Legal Instruments Through Bulgarian-Swiss Partnership” project, managed by the Bulgarian Association for the Promotion of Citizens Initiative in partnership with the Centre for Democracy Studies of the University of Zurich within the framework of the Bulgarian-Swiss Cooperation Programme.

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