Only a few hundred Bulgarian citizens registered to vote in the coming elections in Macedonia, which is raising questions in the Bulgarian press about the ambitious program to issue passports to Macedonian citizens.
It’s estimated that around 100,000 Macedonians have acquired Bulgarian passports, after declaring that they have Bulgarian origin. Proponents of this scheme in Bulgaria say that it is a helping hand given to the Bulgarian community in Macedonia, while critics note that most applicants are poor young people eager to use Bulgaria’s full access to the EU labour market who use the passports to move to Germany, Italy, France… Bulgaria has a similar policy in other neighboring countries, although at a lesser scale. In the end, only 328 people registered to vote in the Bulgarian Embassy in Macedonia, 172 in Serbia and 58 in Romania, reports the Bulgarian Sega news site.
The dual citizens of course have the option to travel to Bulgaria on election day and vote in their designated city. But most of them have received their citizenship through specialized legal offices, and share the same bogus address in Sofia, Kustendil or Blagoevgrad. Tens of thousands of people are reportedly registered at just one made up address in Kustendil which they listed as their residence while applying for the citizenship, and in the past few have used the option to vote in person. Considering the coronavirus test requirement to travel to Bulgaria and the recent fraud investigations into the practice of issuing dual passports, it’s unlikely this number will be significant in the April elections.
The nationalist VMRO-BND party has especially counted on the dual citizen vote and has courted it actively in the past, promising expansion of the scheme if the voters deliver. It has also faced investigations into profiting from the practice. This year, Karakacanov’s party is fighting for dear life as the polls show it will have difficulty crossing the electoral threshold and making it into the Parliament.