Bulgarian police seize 350,000 'fake' ballots

Authorities storm printing house ahead of polls as opposition accuses ruling party of fraud.

    Bulgarian authorities have stormed a printing house and seized 350,000 illegally printed ballots just hours before the start of parliamentary elections. 

    The seizure on Saturday sparked accusations of fraud by the opposition against the former ruling party of ex-premier
    Boyko Borisov.

    Socialist party leader Sergey Stanishev said that the discovery was preparation  for total falsification of Sunday's elections, which he said corresponded to 10 percent of the expected turnout and ensure about 25 politicians' seats.

    "This is a scandal unseen in Bulgaria so far," Stanishev fumed, as he directly accused the conservative GERB party of Borisov and the ex-premier's campaign manager, former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

    The papers in Kostinbrod, 15km north-west of Sofia, exceeded the number that the privately owned printing company Multiprint was under contract to print.

    Denial of wrongdoings

    "The ballots found on the night of May 10 were outside the ordered amounts," prosecutors said in a written statement.

    The government confirmed that it had received the whole order of 8,343,000 ballots from Multiprint on Wednesday, May 8.

    The owner of Multiprint denied any wrongdoing and said that the extra papers were due to be thrown away.

    However, prosecutors said that the ballots were packed up and ready to be dispatched.

    The operation overnight was carried out by agents of Bulgaria's State Agency for National Security (DANS) and prosecutors, the statement said.

    Bulgaria's state BNR radio said that Multiprint's owner was close to one of Bulgaria's key political parties, and that the interior ministry was deliberately excluded from the operation.

    Embroiled in scandal

    Private BGNES news agency named the party as Borisov's GERB, whose deputy leader Tsvetanov headed the interior ministry until GERB's ousting from power in end-February.

    The prosecution did not comment on this information.

    The allegations come at an awkward time for Tsvetanov, already embroiled in late April in a scandal about alleged illegal wiretapping of the party's opponents and businesspeople.

    The opposition reactions came despite a call from interim technocrat Prime Minister Marin Raykov to the campaigning ban on the eve of polling day.

    He urged parties "to not use this case to break the silence of what should be a day of reflection."

    Lyutvi Mestan, the leader of the Turkish minority MRF party expected to come third in the election, said: "This is a coup attempt, for a forceful usurpation of power."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And Agencies


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