Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
IHF Periodic Report from the OSCE Region: Bulgaria

Local elections were held in Bulgaria on 16 October 1999. The pre-election campaign turned violent in certain areas, with physical attacks on mayoral candidates, threats, bombings and one killing.

Turnout in the elections was, at 45 percent, the lowest since democratic changes began in 1989. Sociologists interpreted this as a punitive vote for power-holders.

Voters in nearly 200 out of 262 Bulgarian municipalities had to go for a second ballot since none of the mayoral candidates received more than 50 per cent of the valid votes. Run-off elections were held in 17 large cities. In the first election round, mayors were elected in 10 out of 28 regional centers - six from the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and independents and four from the ruling United Democratic Forces (UtDF). The UtDF and its coalition got a little over 30 percent of the vote on a national scale.

Kurdjali, a city with large ethnic Turkish population - and believed to be a stronghold of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) - broke the pattern which usually gave the MRF the lead. The MRF mayoral candidate, Rassim Moussa, running for a second term of office, lost in the run-off elections to Rumen Dimitrov, an independent candidate backed by UtDF.

The Municipal Council of the MRF in Kurdjali challenged Resolution No. 130 of 17 October 1999 of the Municipal Electoral Commission on the election of municipal counselors claiming that the resolution was unlawful and should be cancelled. The council protested the large number of ballot papers declared invalid, which were valid according to the MRF. An expert examination of the actual number of ballot papers was ordered and proved that the 2,466 contested ballot papers were indeed invalid.

The elections were declared fair and democratic by international observers from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and the Council of Europe. Throughout the voting, some 10,000 observers from local NGOs also monitored possible violations.

The elections were the first in which the United Macedonian Organisation "Ilinden" - PIRIN participated. UMO "Ilinden" - PIRIN is the party of Bulgarians with ethnic Macedonian self-identification. The party won two mayor seats in the villages of Musomishte and Lyaski, and three seats for municipal counselors.

The party's constitutionality is being challenged by a group of MPs before the Constitutional Court (see 4th IHF Periodic Report for events of September 1999). The first court hearing was held on 25 November, during which new evidence was introduced. The court proceedings were continuing as of mid-January 2000.

Source: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC)

For further information please contact BHC, Desislava Simeonova, phone +359-2-951 62 95, E-mail