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National Assembly
of the Republic of Bulgaria
Members of the parliament adopt at first reading the Electons Code Bill
18 November 2010

Parliament passed the Election Code at first reading Thursday with 104 votes "for", 39 "against" and eight abstainees. The code was tabled by GERB Floor Leader Iskra Fidosova and a group of MPs. The Election Code was supported by the parliamentary groups of GERB and Ataka, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and the left were against, while the Blue Coalition abstained.

Under the new Elections Code Bill, 20 per cent of candidates for the National Assembly and 10 per cent of candidates for the European Parliament (15 per cent in the effective legislation) will be elected by preferential voting.

The president of Bulgaria, the vice-president and mayors will be elected according to the majority system, while municipal councilors will be elected according to the proportional representation system.The mayors of settlements with a population of more than 500 will be elected directly. It is proposed to reduce the number of municipal councilors by 20 per cent.

The Elections Code Bill introduces the principle of residence for local government elections; a voter is required to have lived for 12 months in the respective municipality to be able to vote for the local government. An exception is made for the local elections to be held in 2011, for which the length of residence is fixed at 10 months.

The transitional and conclusive provisions of the bill envisage the holding of the 2011 presidential and local elections on the same date.To participate in general, presidential and local elections, as well as in the elections for European Parliament, the parties and steering committees will have to pay an interest-free deposit of 10,000 leva each. Coalitions will not be required to pay a deposit for their registration by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) if Parliament decides that only parties already registered by the CEC can register coalitions (the so-called two-tier system).

As far as the deposit required from steering committees is concerned, the MPs decided that it should be paid on registering the respective independent candidate. The money paid as registration deposits will not be considered as expenditures of the parties or steering committees incurred during their election campaigns.Under the bill, there will be only one Central Electoral Commission in charge of all types of elections. At the same time, it is envisaged to set up mobile district, or "sectional" electoral commissions with portable ballot boxes.

The rules for voting abroad will be improved. Bulgarians living abroad should confirm through the internet whether they will vote at least three months prior to the elections indicating the place where it would be convenient for them to go and cast their votes. Failing to do this, Bulgarians living abroad may go to the polls and will be entered in the lists of voters on the polling day. It is proposed to try a pilot project for electronic voting at the next elections. As a guarantee against controlled voting, Bulgarian citizens can cancel their votes cast electronically and go to the respective polling station for a second vote.

Parliament adopted on principle amendments to the Social Insurance Code which reforms the Bulgarian pension model.
The amendments envisage staged increase of the pensionable service beginning in 2012 and increase of the retirement age beginning in 2021.

The amendments also concern early retirement for categorized workers in adverse work conditions.

From January 1 2012, the length of contributory service will start to increase by four months a year until it reaches 37 years for women and 40 years for men in 2021. From January 1, 2021, the retirement age will also begin to increase by six months a year until it reaches 63 years for women in 2026 and 65 years for men in 2024.

The ceiling on new pensions will be scrapped from January 1, 2014, and so is the ceiling on unemployment benefits and the supplement to pensions for people older than 75.
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