26 March, 2023
Interview with the First Secretary of the Political Section of the Bulgarian Embassy in Romania about the preparations for the upcoming elections and the voting attitude of Bulgarians in Romania
The entrance to the embassy during the 2 October 2022 parliamentary elections (source: Vladimir Mitev)

Vladimir Mitev, Radio Bulgaria

This interview was conducted on 3 March 2023. It appeared in shorter form on the site of Radio Bulgaria

Mr. Iliev, how are the preparations for the April 2, 2023 elections going at the Bulgarian Embassy in Bucharest, where the only polling station in Romania is located?

Let me first of all congratulate all Bulgarians on the occasion of the National Day, wishing that we remember to be proud of our freedom, which was won and defended by our ancestors, and wishing that we can be worthy of it at least as much as they were. 

The preparation of early parliamentary elections, scheduled to take place on April 2, 2023, is one of the many activities that the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Bucharest is in charge of. So far, we have not encountered any difficulties, as interaction with the Romanian authorities is well established within the framework of the mission’s long experience in organising elections. Bulgarian citizens residing in Romania on a permanent or permanent basis can register on the Central Electoral Commission’s website and declare their wish to vote at the Embassy in Bucharest. The page will be active until 7 March 2023. Even if they have not registered, Bulgarian citizens will be able to exercise their right to vote by filling in a declaration at the polling station on election day. 

How do the recent changes to the electoral law, for example regarding paper ballots and mechanical voting, affect the preparations for the elections? 

Regarding the recent changes in the electoral rules and the introduction of paper ballots and machine voting, there is no change for the polling station at the Bulgarian Embassy, as machine voting has not been implemented so far due to the low number of applications and the lack of need to use machines. 

To what extent is the polling station team in Bucharest prepared for election day, counting and reporting of votes in terms of the latest Central Electoral Commission guidelines? 

At the moment, we cannot talk about the preparedness of the polling station team as the polling station itself has not yet been formed. Its composition in previous election cycles has always been different, but despite this, no problems or shortcomings in its work have been reported. We do not expect the situation to be any different on 2 April. Traditionally, voting at the polling station in Bucharest has been very peaceful and without provocation or conflict. 

How many people generally vote in Bucharest and what are the particularities of voting in Romania? To what extent does the Romanian state contribute to the organisation of elections in Bucharest?

Traditionally, the Romanian state gives permission to open a polling station in the Embassy building in Bucharest. Although there is an honorary Bulgarian consulate in Timisoara, elections are not traditionally held there, as the main concentration of Bulgarians with the right to vote is in southern Romania. A clarification should be made. According to the latest Romanian population census (2022), there are almost 6000 Bulgarians living in Romania. Of course, most of them do not have the right to vote, as they are Romanian citizens.

It is important to underline that our Romanian hosts and friends take care of the security and peace of mind of the polling station and the Bulgarians voting, and for this purpose security is always provided by the local Gendarmerie. 

The turnout at the polling station in Bucharest observed in recent years has been constant and without sudden changes. Traditionally, around 200 people vote and in the last early parliamentary elections in October 2022 we had 235 ballots cast. This was also due to the fact that, on the very day of the elections, an international airline plane was diverted to Bucharest, resulting in more than 100 Bulgarian citizens having to land in the Romanian capital. However, their right to vote as Bulgarian citizens was protected by the embassy, and some of them took advantage of this opportunity and exercised their right at the polling station in Bucharest. They took the opportunity to vote at the polling station at 5 Rabat Street. 

Approximately how many people are Bulgarian citizens in Bucharest? What are their professions or fields of activity?

How many Bulgarian citizens there are in Bucharest is very difficult to answer for several reasons. Bulgarian citizens do not have the obligation and the self-consciousness to inform about the fact that they have chosen Bucharest or Romania as their place of residence or work. At the initiative of the Embassy, informal meetings are regularly held with the “new” diaspora in the Romanian capital, which includes representatives of the Bulgarian business, scientific, cultural and sports communities. As a result, it can be said that the number of Bulgarians in Bucharest and in Romania is constantly growing. The reason for this is the rediscovery of the two peoples, which finds its numerical expression in the constant growth of trade between Bulgaria and Romania, which in 2022 will reach the level of about 7.5 billion euros. Despite the presence of a large number of Bulgarian citizens, voter turnout is usually low, which, unfortunately, is a traditional trend for Bulgaria.

Photo: The court of the Bulgarian embassy in Bucharest (source: Vladimir Mitev)

Subscribe to the channel of the blog “The Bridge of Friendship” in YouTube, where a number of video and audio interviews are published! The blog can also be followed in Facebook and TwitterIts Telegram channel is here. And here is its Substack account.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: