Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court refers case of Siderov vs BNT back to election commission

The Supreme Administrative Court has referred back to the Central Election Commission the commission’s refusal to oblige public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television to provide Ataka leader Volen Siderov access to the station’s pre-election programmes.

This is a sequel to the row that broke out between the ultra-nationalist party leader, a candidate to be mayor of Sofia, and BNT after Siderov disrupted a live television talk show in which he was participating.

Siderov’s behaviour caused widespread condemnation and BNT announced that it was barring him from further participation its programmes ahead of Bulgaria’s autumn 2019 mayoral and municipal elections, though it would allow the party to be represented by someone else.

Siderov led protests by Ataka at BNT’s San Stefano Street headquarters. He lodged a complaint with the Central Election Commission against BNT’s ban on him, but the CEC rejected the complaint, saying that the director-general of BNT could refuse to broadcast election material on legal and moral grounds.

The Ataka leader took the CEC decision to the Supreme Administrative Court, on the basis of the agreement signed by BNT with political parties on equal participation on the air.

The court ruled, in a decision that is final and not subject to appeal, that the CEC had not sufficiently set out the factual and legal basis for its refusal.

“The decision of the Central Election Commission is unlawful and should be annulled and the file returned for adjudication in compliance with the mandatory instructions of the court about the interpretation and application of the law,” the Supreme Administrative Court said.

Bulgaria goes to the polls in scheduled mayoral and municipal elections on October 27. In places where no candidate mayor wins a decisive victory, a second round will be held on November 3. In Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia, Siderov is one of 20 mayoral candidates.

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