In a live stream today, the Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF) presented the results of its study of the outcome of the last parliamentary election in April 2021. The study subjects the official election results to statistical analysis to answer the following questions:
- What is the size of the controlled and paid vote?
- Where are the polling stations at the greatest risk of controlled and paid vote?
- Which political parties received the most votes in the polling stations at risk of controlled and paid vote?
The authors of the analysis are the criminologist Maria Karayotova and the political scientist Mario Rusinov from the ACF. The interactive maps that present the results of the analysis were developed by Dr. Nikola Tulechki from the Data for Good Association. The analysis was conducted as part of project Broken legitimacy: controlled and paid vote in Bulgaria, prevalence and impact, implemented with grant assistance from the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria.
The ACF experts monitored the outlier values of 4 indicators to identify sections at risk of paid and controlled vote in Bulgaria:
- Atypically high turnout in the polling station compared to the turnout across the municipality;
- An atypically high result for the winning party in the section compared to its results across the municipality;
- Sharp deviations in turnout at a given polling station in two consecutive elections;
- A sharp rise or fall in the vote for a political party in a given section in two consecutive elections.
The authors of the analysis have clarified that the models account for deviations in electoral behaviour in given polling stations, but do not guarantee that the controlled vote is the only cause of the outlier (extreme) values. There are also economic, social and political factors, such as the ethnicity of the population or the presence of a strong political representative in the community, that the models cannot account for at this time.
Despite these limitations, the statistical models used are sufficiently accurate to identify electoral districts across the country with persistently higher levels of risk of controlled and paid votes.
What is the size of the controlled and bought vote in the 2021 elections?
In 2021, between 1 491 and 2 101 polling stations were at risk of controlled and paid vote according to one or more survey indicators.
In other words, between 12 % and 17 % of all polling stations in Bulgaria were at risk of a controlled and paid vote. This represents an increase of 5 % compared to the previous parliamentary elections in 2017.
Between 283 650 and 409 865 of Bulgaria’s voters cast their ballots in these at-risk polling stations, accounting for between 9 % and 13 % of all votes cast in the country.
Where are the polling stations at risk of controlled and paid vote?
In 2021, the highest number of at-risk polling stations was in the Kardzhali district (between 31 % and 41 %). As many as 29 % of the votes in the province were cast in risk polling stations.
A high share of voters cast their ballots at polling stations at risk in the electoral districts of Montana (14 % to 22 %), Pazardzhik (14 % to 22 %), Sliven (16 % to 22 %), Targovishte (15 % to 21 %), Razgrad (16 % to 20 %), Shumen (15 % to 20 %) and Vratsa (15 % to 20 %).
Going down to the level of municipalities, the highest number of voters cast their ballots at polling stations at risk in the municipalities of Kirkovo (59 % to 75.4 %), Krivodol (51.8 %), Pavel Banya (50.4 % to 70.9 %), Septemvri (61.2 % to 76.1 %) and Tervel (61.5 % to 83.9 %).
The Burgas district had the highest weight in terms of the size of the controlled and paid voted in Bulgaria. It accounts for 8 % of all votes at risk in the country. Kardzhali district comes second with 7 %, followed by Pazardzhik and Blagoevgrad with 6 % each, and Stara Zagora with 5 %.
Which parties received the most votes in controlled and bought polling stations in the April 2021 general election?
In the parliamentary elections in April 2021, GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) and MRF (Movement for rights and freedoms, DPS) split a significant part of the votes cast in polling stations presenting a risk.
31 % of the votes in these polling stations went to GERB and 30 % were cast for MRF.
12 % of the votes cast in electoral districts at risk were for the BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party) and 7 % for ITN (There is such a People).
By way of comparison, in the 2017 parliamentary elections, the MRF received the highest percentage of votes cast at polling stations presenting a risk (26 %), followed by GERB (24 %) and BSP (19 %).
Distribution of voters at polling stations at risk by party, Parliamentary elections 2021
What is the weight of the risk vote in each party’s results?
In 2021, the highest weight of votes from at-risk election districts were those cast for the MRF —27 % of all that the Movement has won.
Republicans for Bulgaria came in second with 13 %.
GERB were in third place with 11 % of their votes were cast in at-risk polling stations.
In the case of the BSP, the share was approximately 7% of all votes cast.
Percentage of votes for a political party cast in at-risk polling stations, Parliamentary elections 2021
We have provided the results of our analysis to the law enforcement authorities and hope for more effective counteraction on their part. Most of all, we hope that greater public attention and the active stance of citizens and the media will have a more limited impact on the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections in July 2021, said Boyko Stankushev, Director of the ACF.
The full analysis of the controlled and paid vote in the April 2021 general election is available here.
You can also see the results of the analysis as an animated chart here.
The project Broken Legitimacy: the Controlled and Paid Vote in Bulgaria, Size and Influence is implemented by the Anti-Corruption Fund Foundation with financial support from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism (EEA Financial Mechanism) 2014-2021 in the total amount of 9 990 EUR.
The main objective of the project is to enhance public debate in Bulgarian society about the size and impact of the paid and controlled vote on electoral outcomes and identify high-risk polling stations to assist law enforcement authorities in their efforts to counter vote buying.