Protests and price hikes cost Borissov and Bulgaria’s leaders popularity – poll
Disenchantment with Bulgaria’s centre-right GERB Government and its leader, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, after the Forestry Act amendments controversy and a swathe of electricity, natural gas and other price hikes is evident in a new poll which shows the ruling party as having shed 4.5 per cent of its electoral support in the past month.
The poll, by the National Centre for the Study of Public Opinion, was released on July 11 2012, the same day as a further round of public protests against utility price hikes was due to be held.
It comes after large-scale public protests against Forestry Act amendments, perceived as favouring the interests of a select group of developers against the interests of nature conservation, filled parts of central Sofia and led to outrage against some Government figures.
According to the poll, GERB has 26.6 per cent of electoral support, about a year from the next national parliamentary elections, the weakest showing in the popularity stakes since Borissov came to power in the July 2009 elections.
The largest opposition party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, has however made no significant gains and remains at about 18 per cent.
Borissov’s personal popularity is down by six per cent, to just more than 44 per cent, as is that of President Rossen Plevneliev – who took office as head of state in January 2012 after his victory on a GERB ticket – and even the customarily popular European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva has shed some public support.
The party of Meglena Kouneva, the former European Commissioner who was eliminated in the first round of the 2011 presidential elections, has made gains. In the previous two months, most polls gave Kouneva’s Citizens forBulgariaabout five per cent but according to the poll released on July 11, this has risen to 7.5 per cent. Kouneva has the stated ambition of a 15 per cent share of the 2013 parliamentary vote.
Ironically, even though Kouneva has placed her party as a liberal-centre-right force, most of those ready to vote for her personally come mainly from people who previously voted for the left, while the party itself is attracting centrist and right-wing voters.
Ahmed Dogan’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms has 6.4 per cent.
On the right-hand-side of the spectrum, neither the Union of Democratic Forces – currently in the throes of choosing a new leader after Martin Dimitrov stepped down over the abandonment of the party’s partnership with Ivan Kostov’s Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB) nor the DSB individually would get into Parliament.
However, according to the poll, should the UDF-DSB combination in the Blue Coalition be revived, the coalition together could win enough votes to return to the National Assembly.
The spiralling decline of Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalist Ataka continues, with the party said to have 2.5 per cent, below the threshold for seats in Parliament.
From May to late June, almost all state institutions lost support – and at that from a low base. The approval ratings of the courts, prosecutors, police and Parliament all were down, between three and four per cent.
Overall, ruling party GERB retains 70 per cent of those who voted for it in 2009. Borissov’s popularity remains the most solid among Bulgarians aged 40 to 49, relatively well-off and living in one of the country’s major cities.
The most popular minister currently is Regional Development and Public Works Minister Lilyana Pavlova, followed by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Agriculture and Food Minister Miroslav Naidenov, Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov and Culture Minister Veshdi Rashidov.
At the bottom of the approval stakes are Justice Minister Diana Kovacheva and Transport Minister Ivailo Moskovski. Public disapproval of the work of the finance and social policy ministries remains constant, according to the poll.
In Sofia, mayor Yordanka Fandukova – re-elected in 2011 to a second term with a first-round victory – had lost five per cent support in the past month, to a current 56.2 per cent, the poll said.
(Photo: European People’s Party)