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Bulgaria Fears Election Tourism from Turkey for MEPs Vote

Date: 17.12.2006

Bulgaria's parliament approved at first reading two draft laws for electing the country's first representatives at the European Parliament.

The right of Bulgarians, living in countries outside the European Union and Turkey in particular, to cast a ballot in the elections turned into the apple of discord during the parliamentary debate.

The right-wing opposition and the nationalists took a firm stand against allowing Bulgarians in Turkey to determine the outcome of the vote. In their words these may bring "Trojan horses" to the European Parliament.

The bill that was moved by the previous government, headed by the former king Simeon Saxe-Coburg, does not envisage ethnic Bulgarians in Turkey to have a say in electing Bulgaria's MEPs.

The bill provides only for people, who have lived in Bulgaria during the last three months, to have the right to a vote.

Last week the leaders of Bulgaria's ruling coalition decided to hold the country's first elections for members of the European Parliament until the middle of May, 2007. Socialist PM Sergey Stanishev, centrist Simeon Saxe-Coburg and the leader of the ethnic Turkish party Ahmed Dogan, settled ondifferent ballots for each party.

The draft envisages independent candidates to be able to take part in the elections on a par with parties and coalitions.

Currently Bulgaria has 18 - and Romania 35 - MP observers to the European Parliament. They represent the two aspiring states respectively, attend sessions and body meetings, but are deprived of the right to vote.

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