Election Resources on the Internet:
Elections to the Bulgarian National Assembly, Part I
by Manuel Álvarez-Rivera

Bulgaria held another early parliamentary election on Sunday, October 5, 2014, following the resignation of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's government last July. An overview of the proportional representation systems used since 1991 to choose members of the country's unicameral legislature - the National Assembly - is presented here; Bulgaria's party system will be reviewed in Part II of this presentation.

Bulgaria's Central Election Commission has detailed 2014 general election results in Bulgarian. Nationwide and (for 1994 to 2013) constituency-level results are available here for the following National Assembly elections:

      May 12, 2013      
      July 5, 2009      
      June 25, 2005      
      June 17, 2001      
      April 19, 1997      
      December 18, 1994      
      October 13, 1991      

The election statistics presented in this space come from reports and data files published by the Central Election Commission and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Mathematics and Informatics.

May 22-25, 2014 European election results are available here. In addition, Bulgaria's Central Election Commission has detailed results in Bulgarian of the 2014 European election in Bulgaria.

General Aspects of the Electoral System

The Parliament of the Republic of Bulgaria, the National Assembly, is composed of 240 members directly elected by universal adult suffrage for a four-year term of office. Members of Parliament represent not only their constituencies, but the entire nation.

Each one of Bulgaria's twenty-eight administrative regions is an electoral constituency, except for the city of Plovdiv, which is divided into two constituencies, and the capital city of Sofia, which is split into three constituencies, for a total of thirty-one constituencies. National Assembly seats are allocated among the constituencies in proportion to their population, but each constituency is guaranteed a minimum of four (previously three) seats.

Political parties and coalitions of parties present lists of candidates, but parties may only run in one single coalition in all constituencies. In addition, initiative committees may nominate independent candidates. Electors cast a ballot for a single list or an independent candidate. Lists were previously closed, and electors could not choose individual candidates in or alter the order of such lists; however, following the introduction of preferential voting in 2011, voters may indicate a preference for one candidate in one list.

From 1991 to 2005, National Assembly seats were apportioned at the nationwide level according to the largest average method of proportional representation (PR), conceived by the Belgian mathematician Victor D'Hondt in 1899. However, in order to participate in the distribution of National Assembly seats, a party or coalition had to obtain at least four percent of the nationwide vote. National Assembly mandates won by a party or coalition at the nationwide level were then allocated among its constituency lists according to the D'Hondt rule. Nonetheless, under this procedure some constituencies could end up with either vacant or excess seats. If this was the case, all unused D'Hondt quotients for qualifying parties and coalitions in constituencies with vacant seats - that is, quotients that were not used to allocate constituency seats - were sorted in descending order. Seats were then assigned to the largest quotients, but every time a mandate was assigned to a party (or coalition) in such manner, that party has a seat deducted in a constituency where it had won mandates and there remained excess seats; specifically, the deducted seat came from the constituency where the D'Hondt quotient used to allocate the mandate was lowest, relative to quotients for the same party in other constituencies with excess seats.

The previously described steps, which were designed to insure that seats are filled in all constituencies without changing the nationwide distribution of mandates, were repeated until there were no vacant constituency seats. Once all seats had been allocated in a constituency, its remaining unused D'Hondt quotients were disregarded for all qualifying parties and coalitions; unused D'Hondt quotients for a party or coalition were also disregarded for all constituencies with vacant mandates if it had no seats that could be deducted in constituencies with excess mandates. Moreover, no seats were deducted from a constituency once all its excess mandates had been subtracted.

Independent candidates who obtained at least as many votes as the constituency quota - the number of valid votes cast in the constituency divided by the number of constituency seats, rounded to the nearest whole number - were elected to the National Assembly. Mandates won by independent candidates were deducted from the number of seats allocated among parties and coalitions.

In April 2009, the Bulgarian National Assembly voted to introduce a mixed electoral system, under which 31 of 240 National Assembly seats were to be filled by majority voting in single-member constituencies, while the remaining 209 seats would be distributed by the Hare/Niemayer method of proportional representation among parties polling at least four percent of the vote and coalitions receiving at least eight percent of the vote. President Georgi Purvanov subsequently vetoed the legislation, specifically objecting to the eight percent threshold introduced for coalitions. The National Assembly went on to override the presidential veto, but the following May the Constitutional Court struck down the electoral law amendment that introduced the higher threshold.

However, the new electoral system was only used for the 2009 parliamentary election, as full proportionality was reinstated for National Assembly elections in 2011; nevertheless, the Hare/Niemayer method was retained for the allocation of parliamentary mandates.

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Copyright © 2009-2014 Manuel Álvarez-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.
Last update: October 25, 2014.