Election fraud: prevalence and impact in Bulgaria. Part II - Presidential election 2016. European Parliament Election, 2019

You can download the analysis here.

The theories concerning the origin and functioning of democratic regimes are almost as diverse as the number of systems claiming to be democratic in their nature. Irrespective of their approach (prescriptive or descriptive), they are all in agreement that one of the cornerstones of democracy is a political system based on fair elections. For instance, Dahl1 talks about effective participation and vote equality as means of ensuring political equality and reinventing the political system.

Sartori, on another hand, brings forward selective polyarchy as a system for electing competing elective minorities in the process of formulating their concept of democracy. Many international organizations, among which Transparency International and OSCE, also recognize the importance of fair elections enabling real political competition.

In the Bulgarian political context, however, there is a general feeling — reinforced by abundant evidence — that the election process is manipulated. Effective counteraction and the empowerment of the institutions responsible for combating this negative phenomenon are the main goals of the team behind the “Broken Legitimacy. Vote Purchasing and Manipulation in Bulgaria. Prevalence and Impact” project.

On the basis of quantitative analysis of the results of parliamentary elections, local elections, European Parliament elections, and presidential elections, held in Bulgaria in the period 2013 – 2021, the Anti-corruption Fund Foundation, in collaboration with the criminologist Dr Maria Karayotova, developed a methodology for identifying polling stations at risk of vote purchasing and manipulation.

This analysis presents the main conclusions and tendencies drawn from the 2016 presidential election and the 2019 European Parliament election in Bulgaria.

The polling stations at risk were identified on the basis of the following criteria:

  • For the presidential election, these are polling stations that are outliers in terms of at least two of the following criteria: unusually high voter turnout in the polling station compared to the overall voter turnout within the municipality (first or second round); unusually high number of votes for the leading candidate in the polling station compared to the overall number of votes for the candidate within the municipality (first or second round); unusually high number of invalid ballots and votes in the polling station (first or second round); and/or polling stations exhibiting an abrupt increase or decline in the votes for a particular candidate between the two election rounds, measured against that candidate’s score within the municipality, coupled with an unusually high number of votes for a candidate in the respective polling station compared to the overall votes for that candidate within the municipality (first or second round). The number of polling stations at risk is identified in accordance with high and low outlier thresholds, whereby the high outlier threshold is determined by the criteria specified above, and the low outlier threshold is determined by the same criteria, coupled with exhibited risk behavior at previous elections by the respective polling station.
  • For the European election, these are polling stations with an unusually high voter turnout compared to the overall voter turnout within the municipality and/or with an unusually high number of votes for the leading party compared to the overall number of votes for the party within the municipality. Once again, the polling stations at risk are identified based on high and low outlier thresholds, whereby the former is determined by deviations from the mentioned criteria, and the latter — by a combination of the criteria and exhibited risk behavior at previous elections.

 

Presidential and European elections_EN_WEB

An ACF analysis shows which political parties received the most paid and controlled votes in the last Bulgarian parliamentary election in April

 

  • 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.

 

Broken Legitimacy: prevalence and impact of controlled and purchased voting in Bulgaria, Parliamentary elections 2013, 2014, 2017.

summary analysis_ENweb

You can download the summary of the analysis from here.

You can download the analysis from here.

Election fraud in Bulgaria_web

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