Direct democracy fell victim to partisan haggling in the National Assembly

Daniela Bozhinova

The prepared democratic changes in the referendum law fell victims to the offensive tactic of the political party of GERB for raising a parliamentary majority for changes in the judicial system. Said majority relies on some close frienships with the party of DPS and that party being “the guarantor of our European orientation” do not like referendums. Well, in extreme cases they can, but all Bulgarian citizens should sign the petition for a referendum or “let it be on us”  – at least 800 thousand people …Just to be sure though we would keep the current requirement for recognition of the polls – turnout in referendums must be as much as the previous elections, not more. With these kinds of “rules” is difficult to obtain valid referendums, but also means that the parties fully control the process. And when it comes to parties and control, we would  always talk about the party of DPS. In this the party of DPS is currently on the lookout for upcoming plebiscite on electoral reform …

However, to  keep our objectivity we have to admit to the following fact – the described quorum participation is an unique contribution of the Bulgarian political thought to the development of world democracy. Expert studies show that no other country would even think about to introduce such a requirement (however we haven’t studied North Korea.)

Maintaining the problematic requirement for voter turnout in referendums happened after the final second reading of the law where the party of GERB gave up (without reasons) of their proposals for lowering the thresholds. GERB hardly had a problem taking that decision – they just showed a natural reflex of power to get rid of  the ballast (and what else is the law on referendums in terms of government?) in their ship.

The refusal to reform the law on direct participation was a disgraceful end to a series of public and expert discussions in the parliament and outside of it, a fire of hope for positive change. Never before in the National Assembly was there such a large number of bills to reduce the thresholds for referendums – six projects submitted by the four parties. Between first and the second readings the Legal Affairs Committee considered and voted on more than ten new proposals and wrote a summary report to democratize the conditions for referendums. As a working part of the Commission for cooperation with NGOs in the parliament, the Civic Council also came up with recommendations. Platform and statements were also filed by NGOs with experience in the field of direct participation. The considerable help of Switzerland taxpayers by the Bulgarian-Swiss Partnership Fund was involved to provide advice and good models for the development of direct democracy in Bulgaria. The refusal of GERB to simplify the referendums crossed in one fell swoop all public efforts and the efforts of legislators and citizens.

This development of the situation with the direct participation reminds us that a long time has elapsed from the street protests in the winter of 2013, with the raised slogans for civil control and direct democracy. The comfort of the Governors is restored and they can afford to trample citizens’ constitutional right for direct decision-making in Bulgaria. But soon the political parties and their candidates will seek our support for the forthcoming local elections, which is to provide them with important fund-allocation and fund-digesting positions in certain places. When the time comes for us to vote, let us live up to the proverb: “Whatever calls, same would answer.”

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply