Organized transporting of voters, suspicious voting with voting attendants, and threats to members of polling station commissions – this is what an interview published today by the Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF) shows. It is an eyewitness account of the election day in the polling station No 014400012 in the village of Dolno Osenovo, municipality of Simitli, where the candidate for MP from GERB-SDS, Stefan Apostolov, was elected with more than 90% preference. Three days ago, ACF published another interview with a representative of a section commission in the same municipality, with very similar testimonies.
The interview with Ina Maslyankova, a member of the section commission, reveals serious violations such as attempts to vote with ID cards of other people, instructing voters to vote in favor of Stefan Apostolov, and others.
“A person gives me two ID cards and honestly does not understand why he cannot vote with both. In a way, that makes it clear to me that this has happened before. Besides, throughout the day, I was urged to go for coffee and lunch; it was clear why,” says Maslyarska about election day. In addition, she received almost direct threats to her health. All the practices continued after the police and media came because of the reports.
The interview points to a lean organization of the electoral process and an established system for moving voters to the polling station and escorting them to the voting machine, often under pretenses of medical or other problems. According to her account, voters said they could not see, so an attendant could come with them and then took out glasses to sign. This is just one example of false reasons for accompanying voters to the machine.
Stefan Apostolov is a former football referee and the son of the mayor of Simitli, Apostol Apostolov-Poli, who is now in his fifth term as head of the municipality. In the elections of 2017 and 2021, Stefan Apostolov overturned the electoral lists for MPs of GERB-CSD in the Blagoevgrad district, receiving a very high number of preferences. In 2021 he became the absolute champion in preferences with over 9000 votes. An ACF report shows that in the 2 October 2022 elections, over 90% of the votes cast for GERB-SDS in the municipality of Simitli went to Apostolov.
Mario Rusinov, a political analyst on the ACF team, says: “The new evidence provides a further explanation for this unusual vote structure in the context of low turnout across the country.” “We appeal to the Ministry of Interior and the Prosecutor’s Office to pay attention to the evidence we and the media have reported about this electoral ‘phenomenon’ in the municipality of Simitli.”
“We believe that the testimonies about violations of the electoral process reported by us no longer suggest but require a thorough investigation. It should establish whether there is an entire criminal organized group behind the falsification and manipulation of the electoral process,” said Boyko Stankushev, director of the Anti-Corruption Fund.