Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections: Notebook, May 20

Written by on May 20, 2014 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections: Notebook, May 20

Money is the fuel on which election campaigns are run, and in Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections, there appear to be donors willing to keep supplies pumping abundantly – and some beneficiaries particularly well-oiled.

According to National Audit Office records, in the lead for donations received is Bulgaria Without Censorship (BWC), the party formed in the past few months around former talk show host Nikolai Barekov.

The records say that BWC has received donations from 16 individuals, most to the maximum 10 000 leva allowed by law. So far, BWC has declared 113 000 leva in donations.

As to the stated sources of the money given to BWC, most of those recorded as donors said that they contributed the money from personal savings or their salaries. Only one, named as Diana Mladenova, said that she had borrowed money from a bank to give to the Barekov party.

Similarly well-fuelled is Georgi Purvanov’s ABC, but from 240 donors, the highest sums also within the statutory limit.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party’s Coalition for Bulgaria, which Purvanov led more than a decade ago before his estrangement from the BSP in the past two years, declared a relatively modest 39 500 leva from donors.

On May 20, daily Sega said that the donations to BWC added up only to a “symbolic” sum within the larger amounts being spent on the Barekov campaign. A day earlier, monitoring group “Open Parliament” said that, going by available contracts, BWC had spent 735 000 leva on media advertising.

Taking in other election campaign activities, offices, promotional materials and other costs, the Barekov campaign has used up at least a million leva, the report said, adding that the political “stubbornly refused to answer Sega’s questions where he got the money”.

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* If centre-right party GERB was hoping for a public platform in Parliament for an eve-of-election event, these hopes are likely to be dashed.

Former prime minister Boiko Borissov’s party has tabled in the National Assembly a motion of no confidence in the Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet on the grounds of its energy sector policies.

By the rules of the National Assembly, debate on the motion has to be held within a week of it being tabled, and socialist Speaker of Parliament Mihail Mikov named May 23 as the date of debate – which by the same rules, which require a vote on such a motion to be held no earlier than 24 hours after the conclusion of debate, would mean that the vote woudl be held only after the European Parliament elections.

However, it is doubtful that even the May 23 debate will happen. Reports on May 20 said that the parliamentary caucuses of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms intended not attending Parliament on Friday, scuppering proceedings by denying the House a quorum.

Vexed issues in the energy sector have been a recurring theme in the elections campaign and it appeared that GERB was hoping to use the National Assembly as a stage to underline the government’s failings.

* Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov has denied that there were any political motives in the actions of the Prosecutor’s office in initiating an inquiry into President Rossen Plevneliev’s meeting in Austria with top leadership of electricity distribution company EVN.

Since February 2013, the three foreign-owned companies that distribute electricity in Bulgaria have been under sustained campaign attacks from “cost-of-living” protesters, from the parties of the current ruling axis, Ataka and Nikolai Barekov’s BWC. Similarly, for the anti-GERB parties, Plevneliev is a hated figure that they want to bring down.

At the meeting, Plevneliev discussed the moves by Bulgaria’s energy regulator in which it threatened to revoke the licences of the three electricity distribution companies, he confirmed.

Unconfirmed reports in Bulgarian-language media said that a criminal complaint against Plevneliev of treason was submitted to the State Agency for National Security (SANS) by BWC leader Barekov.

SANS sent a letter to the Presidential administration about the investigation, including questions, and on May 15, the Presidential administration contacted the Prosecutor’s office about the case.

The supervising prosecutor, whose name has not been diclosed, had ordered an investigation, including questioning of Barekov about whatever evidence he could offer.

However, on May 16, the Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office ordered a halt to the investigation, saying that it was impermissible under Bulgarian law.

* On the campaign trail, Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev said that about 250 000 leva from the pay of MPs and MEPs from his party would go to supporting students. The idea is that the money be set aside in a fund to support talented Bulgarian students. Stanishev said that the funds would be distributed on a competitive basis.

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* Regardless of the attempts to demonise the image of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, it will keep on developing as the most European-oriented party in Bulgaria, the Movement’s leader, Lyutvi Mestan, said before thousands of local residents of Dzhebel and guests from Turkey, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

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* Stanishev is a leader that will save himself in Brussels with a five-year term and immunity from prosecution, GERB leader Boiko Borissov told reporters in Radnevo. He said that economy and energy minister Dragomir Stoynev had said that there was no South Stream contract and a contract would be signed with the European Commission giving it power-of-attorney to represent Bulgaria.

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“He has no right to sign contracts, on top of that power-of-attorney. Suddenly, when he heard that we would fight to transit Bulgarian gas in these pipes, he said that there already was a signed contract. At the same time, he hides from MPs, which by law he has no right to do. This is outrageous trickery and behaviour. We have never had such a thing,” Borissov said.

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