A week is a long time in politics, and the runup to Bulgaria’s second-round presidential elections on November 13 is going to be a long one indeed.
Monday November 7 saw, among other things, the scramble for support for the respective GERB and Bulgarian Socialist Party candidacies in the runoff, Tsetska Tsacheva and Roumen Radev.
Tsacheva, second in the first-round vote, sought the backing of the Reformist Bloc, a minority partner in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s coalition government.
The early-afternoon meeting was typical for the bloc, with only senior figures supporting the Borissov government present and Radan Kanev and his Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, in opposition, absent.
Ahead of the meeting, Kanev had said that should the Reformist Bloc endorse Tsacheva, he would formally pull out his party from the five-party centre-right coalition group.
Tsacheva also made a public appeal to Reformist Bloc presidential candidate Traicho Traikov for his endorsement, asking if he wanted a “red general” (Radev, formerly the general commanding Bulgaria’s Air Force) to become President. After the exit polls emerged on November 6, Traikov had said he would be issuing no endorsements.
Whether the Reformist Bloc electorate actually would follow the call of its leadership remains to be seen this coming Sunday. That electorate hardly made the same choices on November 6 2016 that it had in the parliamentary elections of October 5 2014.
Another question mark was the other minority partner in Borissov’s coalition deal, the Patriotic Front, which in the presidential elections participated as part of the wider United Patriots ticket. The “Patriots” have refrained from an endorsement, saying little more than that its electorate would make its choice on November 13 depending on the candidates’ stances on issues close to them, such as militant opposition to illegal migration.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party has the support of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms in backing Radev, hardly a surprise, while Radev’s vice-presidential running mate Iliyana Yotova claimed that other parties and groups, including the “Patriots” might be expected to back Radev this coming Sunday.
Among tickets that also fell out of the race, ABC leader Georgi Purvanov, whose candidate Ivailo Kalfin did not even get four per cent, said that “local structures” would be consulted about whom to back at the second round. ABC was reluctant to support GERB’s Tsacheva, but the BSP was not doing anything to secure ABC’s support, Purvanov said.
Borissov, who in the first minutes of November 7 said that his government would resign if Tsacheva loses on November 13, later in the day described his party’s ticket’s natural supporters as “all opponents of the totalitarian communist left”, which he said continued to be reborn in “backstage oligarchic circles, pulling the strings, including of this leftist candidate”.
GERB’s public appeal ahead of the second round was for voters to see the second round as a choice, between two futures, one of international isolation, the freezing of EU funds, corruption, partisanship, poverty and all the ills caused to Bulgaria every time the BSP is in power, and the other future was for Bulgaria to remain in the family of developed European countries, becoming stronger, more stable and prosperous.
Tsacheva, meanwhile, challenged Radev to a debate, on the date and time of his choosing, and on any one of Bulgaria’s three major television channels. She wanted an answer by the end of the day, a GERB statement said.
Tsacheva did not have to wait until the end of the day. Mid-afternoon, Radev told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio that he accepted her challenge.