Exeposé News Issue 629, Page 5 (27 October 2014) and Exeposé News online (28 October 2014)
Bulgarian students and citizens across the South West were able to vote in Bulgaria’s recent General Elections, thanks to the work of University of Exeter student Pavel Kondov.
Kondov, a second year International Relations student and Bulgarian national, worked with a team of Social Science students to mobilise 70 Bulgarians across the region to apply to vote in the UK – nearly double the number of applications needed to open a voting station.
Liaising with the Bulgarian Embassy in London and recruiting an electoral committee, Kondov and the team secured the opening of a voting station in Exeter’s Jury’s Inn – the first ever to be opened in the city.
Over 100 votes were cast during voting day on 5 October, meaning a station will open for all Bulgarian national elections in the next five years.
When asked why he decided to launch the project, Kondov answered: “Civic duty, if you’ll forgive the cliché. I don’t feel like I deserve any of my democratic rights if I’ve not fulfilled my single democratic obligation.”
He noted that the most startling aspect had been “the number of people who actually turned up to vote.” He commented: “The fact that 177 people travelled from all around Devon, gave up their time and effort on a Sunday, to cast their vote – that was both the most surprising and gratifying.”
Kondov described the day as “a celebration,” with citizens from across the region voting alongside students.
And was there anything he would have done differently? “I would have tried to engage more with the non-student Bulgarian community in the South West,” Kondov said. “They turned out to be very enthusiastic to vote – some of them hadn’t had the chance to do so for a decade!”
The opening of the voting station was this year’s first project to be completed as part of the Students as Change Agents initiative – which aims to support students running projects to change the student experience.
While noting that his engagement with SACA came later in the process, Kondov remarked that it had been a “huge help in publicising the fact that the elections happened., adding: “I sincerely hope we can build up on this and, hopefully, inspire students to seek their political voice more.”
Will Page, Student Engagement Officer at the University of Exeter, commented: “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.”
Matt Bate, VP Activities said: “Pavel’s work is a wonderful example of students taking an active role in society and leading democracy. Congratulations to Pavel on facilitating this valuable opportunity for so many of his fellow Bulgarian nationals.”