With about nine months to go to Bulgaria’s summer 2013 national parliamentary elections, the country’s centre-right Cabinet, ruling party and opposition socialists have been dealt a slap by voters disillusioned with their performances, going by the results of an Alpha Research poll.
The downturn in approval for Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB government and ruling party, which came to power in July 2009, made headlines after the poll showed that every second Bulgarian disapproved of the government’s performance and that Borissov himself had a credibility deficit.
For all that, GERB still has the largest share of votes – but no reason for complacency, as it may be extrapolated that boasting about building highways is hardly resonating with an electorate, in a country that ranks close to bottom of the European Union’s individual income stakes, unhappy about current economic policy.
Bulgaria’s current government makes a point of underlining its continuing fiscal discipline and stability, which its leaders repeatedly contrast favourably with the woes of countries elsewhere inEurope, but with Budget season underway, the government also has been on the receiving end of demands from various sectors struggling to make ends meet.
In recent days and weeks, there have been public exchanges as, among others, the police and the military have demanded better pay. Teachers reportedly are set for a small pay rise, while pensioners – who have gone for about three years without an increase – will get more money in spring 2013, with the increase either compensating for inflation or not, depending on to whom you listen.
According to Alpha Research, 70 per cent of those polled were unhappy with the government’s economic, social, health and incomes policies.
But the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the former government and current largest opposition party, is making no gains. On the contrary, it has lost support. The elevation of BSP leader, Sergei Stanishev, who earlier in 2012 won out against former president Georgi Purvanov to retain the chieftainship of the socialists, to the leadership of the Party of European Socialists and vice presidency of Socialist International appears to have caused a minor flutter of excitement among the left’s hard-core but has resonated nowhere else.
Another unpleasant message for Stanishev’s socialists is that, according to Alpha Research, support for building the Belene nuclear power station – a topic on which the socialists appear to have succeeded the country toward a referendum in the next few months – is consistently going down.
At the same time, the number of people who intend to vote in the 2013 parliamentary elections is going down.
In line with several polls by various agencies in recent months, next year’s elections is unlikely to see a number of minority parties currently represented in Parliament returning. Among those seen as set for eclipse are the centre-right Union of Democratic Forces, right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, ultra-nationalists Ataka and Yane Yanev’s minuscule Order Law and Justice party.
Going by the Alpha Research poll, the only hope of seats in Parliament for any of these small parties is a low voter turnout and a protest vote boosting them over the threshold.
In the past three months, support for GERB has dropped from 22.3 per cent to 21.4 per cent, for the socialists from 18.4 per cent to 16.1 per cent, while former European Commissioner Meglena Kouneva’s Bulgaria for Citizens has gained slightly from 5.5 per cent to 6.4 per cent.
That last figure puts Kouneva’s party, a newcomer to Bulgaria’s political scene after the 2011 failed presidential candidate finally and formally abandoned Simeon Saxe Coburg’s party, a long way from the 15 per cent that she has said she wants her party to get in 2013.
At that, according to Alpha Research, Kouneva’s voters show the least commitment. Getting out the vote in 2013 will be the main challenge for Kouneva, the pollsters said.
For the record, Ahmed Dogan’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent, gets its customary five per cent in the Alpha Research poll.
As to the Cabinet, approval ratings are down across the board, the only exception being Regional Development and Public Works Minister Lilyana Pavlova (perhaps the highways thing does work to an extent, then – Pavlova was a ubiquitous figure on television screens this past summer, scissoring ribbons on a regular basis).
The only two other ministers whose approval ratings were in positive territory, and even then having lost ground, were Nikolai Mladenov (Foreign Affairs) and Tomislav Donchev (EU funds).
The biggest losers in the approval stakes were Simeon Dyankov (Finance, down 14 per cent), Desislava Atanasova (Health, down 10 per cent), Tsvetan Tsvetanov (Interior, down seven per cent) and Totyu Mladenov (Labour and Social Policy, down five per cent).
The study was conducted between September 20 to 28 among 1021 adult citizens across the country who were interviewed in their homes in standardised interviews.