Bulgarian elections given a platform in Exeter thanks to student involvement
A University of Exeter student enabled citizens and students from Bulgaria living in the South West to vote in the recent Bulgarian General Elections by creating a voting station in Exeter. Pavel Kondov, a Bulgarian national in his second year studying International Relations brought together a group of Social Science students to help run the vote.
For a voting station to be opened abroad (outside of Bulgaria) a minimum of 40 people need to submit a registration form expressing their wish to vote elsewhere. Pavel and his team mobilised Bulgarians, both citizens and students, living in Devon and Cornwall to participate and secured 70 applications. This enabled a voting station to be opened in Devon.
As the local co-ordinator Pavel liaised with the Bulgarian Embassy in London in order to secure a venue and find people willing to be members of the electoral committee. Five people were recruited, four of whom were University of Exeter students (Chair: Pavel Kondov, Vice Chair: Doroteya Kodzhanova, Secretary: Mila Cherneva and Emil Sokolov) and an Embassy official who travelled to Exeter from London. The electoral committee’s role was to ensure that the voting process went according to all legal regulations. Voting took place on the 5th of October in a hotel conference room in the centre of Exeter.
Pavel Kondov explained:“On voting day, we had an impressive turnout of 177 voters, a result we are delighted with as we thought even optimistically we might get around 95 people. In addition to the majority of the students who go to the University of Exeter, we had a large number of voters who work in Exeter and the region. A lot of them shared with us how happy they were that they had the opportunity to vote in the elections. Many thanked us for the initiative. Despite the common disillusionment with the political realities in Bulgaria, the election day was a celebration.”
This is the first time that a Bulgarian voting station has been opened in Exeter and therefore a historic moment. The initiative leaves a legacy - since more than 100 people voted, a voting station will be opened automatically for all national elections in the following 5 years.
Professor Andrew Massey, Head of Politics at the University of Exeter said:"I am both impressed and delighted with the initiative shown by Pavel Kondov and his colleagues at the University of Exeter. For those of us born and raised in the United Kingdom, scepticism with politics and politicians can all too often slide into cynicism. It is important to remember that genuine democracy is often hard to win and even harder to nurture.”
He added:“The commitment and effective organisation of Pavel has contributed to that process of nurturing and helped ensure the deepening of democracy and civil society within our common European inheritance."
This initiative was created as part of the Students as Change Agents project, a University wide initiative which supports students who want to run projects which change the student experience. It is the first Students as Change Agents project to be completed this year.
Will Page, Student Engagement Officer at the University of Exeter said:“This is another fantastic example of our students identifying a solution to a problem and having a positive impact on the University and the community. The skills displayed by Pavel, along with his fellow students, demonstrate imagination, leadership, active global citizenship and are exactly what the Students as Change Agents initiative looks to support.”
Note: Billboard image from Shutterstock.com
Date: 16 October 2014