New Election Harassment for Bulgarians Abroad

Letters from municipalities that Bulgarians abroad must re-register at the request of GRAO have no legal basis

If you live abroad and get a startling letter that you have 14 days to appear in the municipality to re-register and pay 2.5 levs, throw it in the trashcan.

This work of fiction of the Directorate General of Civil Registration and Administrative Service (GRAO), for which municipalities are wasting money to send letters, is absolutely illegal. Bulgarians living abroad cannot be asked to declare a current address there and to submit documents to verify it. Article 94 of the Civil Registration Act specifies that in case there is an address abroad, only the name of the State should be indicated.

A conversation with a municipal employee made it clear that the letter was in connection with the elections. The intention is also clear – to remove from voter lists Bulgarians who do not reside permanently in the country and have no right to vote in local elections.

According to her, the letter, however, was simply informative and there is no penalty if the person fails to appear. Nevertheless, if you decide to appear, you will be penalized with a fee of 2.5 levs.

Thus, the implementation of the idea is turning into a typical “Bulgarian job” and a demonstration of the deeply rooted reflex of the administration to treat citizens as serfs. They are, both, harassed to declare things that are unnecessary and pay money for it. Something like the Tooth Tax during the times of the Ottoman Empire.

The address abroad is declared upon issuance of identity documents by the Interior Ministry. Precisely from this declaration GRAO can find out that a person has a current address abroad. And according to the E-Government Act, Article 2, Paragraph 1, data administrators may not ask anyone to declare what they have already declared before another administrator. They must obtain it through official channels.

If GRAO wants to clear the lists from “dead souls”, it should obtain the data of all who have declared an address abroad from the Ministry of Interior or create a site where Bulgarians abroad can identify themselves and declare that they will not vote in local elections.

The question who will bear the responsibility for the expenditures related to the preparation of the huge number of letters and their mailing remains. And who will pay for the stress, the conversations with relatives and the wasted valuable time of the largest investor in this unfortunate territory – the Bulgarians living abroad?

Updated at 5:15 pm, March 31, 2015

After the publication, the press office of the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works sent a message, which insists that the municipality had used a creative approach in the interpretation of a letter from GRAO. GRAO, which is under the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, has given only a recommendation to municipalities to use the appropriate time and invite Bulgarian expats to declare their current address so that they can be removed from voting lists if they live abroad. The Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works confirms that there are no sanctions involved. “The decision of Sofia’s Serdika municipality to send letters was taken solely and this is a single-handed decision, exceeding the rights of the administration of the district town hall, without being required in any way by GRAO,” the Ministry specified. However, it remains unclear why GRAO has engaged municipalities to search for the addresses of Bulgarians abroad since they have already declared the country in which they live and GRAO has access to official data.




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