With just a day left to campaigning ahead of Bulgaria’s March 26 parliamentary elections, political party leaders were making their final grabs for the headlines, not least including final exchanges of insults and a new announcement of court action for defamation.
By law, campaigning must end by midnight on March 24. Saturday is a “day of contemplation” on which no canvassing is allowed. Between 7am and 8pm on Sunday, the question of into whose hands the government of Bulgaria will pass will be decided.
If the results of a poll released by Alpha Research on March 23 are accurate, the race for first place will be a tight one between Boiko Borissov’s GERB and Kornelia Ninova’s BSP. The same poll suggests a similarly tight race to be the 44th National Assembly’s third-largest group – between the nationalist United Patriots and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. Vesselin Mareshki’s Volya party is in fifth place, according to the poll.
A few days after Mareshki said that the BSP’s policies had the most in common with his, BSP leader Ninova said in a March 23 television interview that the nationalist “Patriots” had the platform closest to that of her own party.
Ninova was adamant that there would be no BSP-GERB coalition government. As to Mareshki, she said that she had not met him, “and we have not enjoyed his support”.
The BSP leader, who has said previously that she would be Prime Minister if her party gains the most votes, said: “I am certain of victory, I cannot imagine visually sitting in the Cabinet office, but I have three plans”.
“I have three teams, with whom we know, to the day and hour, what we have to do on March 27. Victory is that we are the first political force,” Ninova said.
She said that if the BSP formed a government, the first things that would happen would be to cancel a decree on the settlement of refugees in Bulgarian municipalities, terminating the procedure to put Sofia Airport out on concession, and withdrawing the government’s court appeal against a ruling overturning the increase in price of road tax stickers.
The breakfast television interview resulted in GERB’s press centre saying that Borissov was taking court action against Ninova for calling him a “thief”.
GERB said that the court action, for “harming the honour and dignity of Boiko Borissov and breaking the law” would be lodged in the Sofia City Court by the end of the day. The damages that Borissov would win would be donated to charity, his party said.
On the campaign trail in Veliko Turnovo, GERB campaign chief Tsvetan Tsvetanov described Lyutvi Mestan’s DOST party – which has been at the centre of allegations of support from the Turkish state – as a “threat to national security”.
Tsvetanov, formerly interior minister in Borissov’s first government from 2009 to 2013, said that the security services, the executive and President Roumen Radev should ensure that the elections outside the country, in particular in Turkey, should be conducted fairly and democratically.
The GERB campaign chief said that during his tours and meetings with people in various parts in the country, he had encountered severe confrontation among people in ethnically-mixed areas in the Rhodope mountains. Tsvetanov said that he had sometimes had noticed open aggression and attempts to cause tension.
In a future government, GERB would not allow one party – whichever party that may be – “to mediate in the good neighbourly relations between Turkey and Bulgaria”.
Tsvetanov also had some words for the BSP, accusing Ninova’s party of using online trolls and discrediting tactics, while making populist statements about issues such as revenues and employment. At the same time, it was only GERB that offered real solutions on these issues, he said.
On the Facebook page of the nationalist United Patriots, a rather poignant photo was posted of Ataka leader Volen Siderov sitting all by himself at a green plastic table in a town square.
An accompanying note to the post said that the leaders of the candidate lists of GERB and the BSP in a Yambol voting district had refused to debate with Siderov, who heads the United Patriots’ ticket in that district. According to Siderov, the fact that the debate did not happen showed that not only Yambol, but Bulgaria should change course.
For the Reformist Bloc-Glas Naroden coalition, Meglena Kouneva – who leads one of the coalition’s parties but is not an MP candidate – called for “a strong rebuff to populism and nationalism because a strong and united Europe is a good prospect for all European citizens, especially for those like us who are on the southern border of the EU”.
Bulgaria, if alone, without Europe, would not be able to cope with terrorist threats and migration flows “because these processes are complex, require the resources of more than one country and a political agreement on several topics”.
Konstantin Prodanov, co-leader of the ABC-Movement 21 electoral coalition, was asked with which political forces his party was ready for post-election co-operation.
“It’s easier for me to say with which ones we would not coalesce,” Prodanov said in an interview posted in the Bulgarian-language media. He dismissed GERB as “populists and charlatans”. As to others, his party would not compromise its values and principles for the sake of taking part in government.
“The added value to society of meaningful critical parliamentary opposition is no small thing,” according to Prodanov. Whether his party will get over the threshold to win seats in the next National Assembly is a matter on which various opinion polls are divided.
New Republic coalition leader Radan Kanev, also asked with which possible coalition partners his party could work if it won seats, said “let’s see who gets there”.
“I am sure it will look very different from what the pollsters tell us, and it seems the picture of Bulgarian politics is pretty bleak at the moment,” Kanev said.
According to the New Republic leader, “derivatives of the Bulgarian Communist Party and its services dominate” – the BSP, GERB, the MRF and what he referred to as the “fake patriots”. Kanev went on to say that there was talk that the end of the Borissov era was coming.
Facebook featured a happy-looking cluster of New Republic’s Petar Slavov, Traicho Traikov and Martin Dimitrov, celebrating the winning of court action against the Finance Ministry to compel the ministry to say “who” controls excise warehouses at fuel depots. The group said that a short while before, they had been assured by the caretaker finance minister that this information would be made public “in the fastest possible way”.
Mestan’s DOST, meanwhile, made public a letter to President Radev, caretaker Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov, Interior Minister Plamen Uzunov and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The open letter said that March 22, DOST had held a rally in the village of Sveta Petka in Velingrad municipality, with the participation of Mestan. The rally had been led by Ibrahim Ömer, representing the DOST candidate list in the municipality.
Today, the police had arrested Ömer and village mayor Ahmed Dvoyakov (originally backed by the MRF in 2015, before DOST existed) on charges of vote-buying, the letter said. DOST went on to allege that the Interior Ministry in the Pazardzhik region was involved in the “repression” of citizens through these charges, and to allege that public authorities were serving the MRF. The letter noted that the MRF candidate list in the Pazardzhik region was headed by Delyan Peevski.
DOST called for the immediate release of Ömer and Dvoyakov.
Notable events remaining in the final 24 hours or so of the March 2017 election campaigns include a March 23 evening interview with Ninova on one of Bulgaria’s most-watched TV channels. On March 24 at 6pm, she closes the BSP election campaign at an event in Sofia’s North Park. Borissov closes GERB’s campaign at the Velodrome in Plovdiv on March 24 at 5pm and will appear in an interview on the same channel on Friday evening.
For the full results of Bulgaria’s March 26 2017 parliamentary elections, please follow us on Twitter at TheSofiaGlobe and via our sofiaglobe.com homepage and Facebook page. A timeline of key political events in Bulgaria from 2007 to 2017 is available on The Sofia Globe’s special page.
To see all of The Sofia Globe’s elections 2017 coverage so far, please click here.
German-language coverage of the elections is on The Sofia Globe Deutsch page.