Coalition question at forefront as election campaigns begin in Bulgaria

The first days of campaigning ahead of Bulgaria’s May 12 2013 national parliamentary elections saw the question of which parties will form a governing coalition after the elections at the forefront – with at least one conspiracy theory on offer.

Recent opinion polls from at least three different agencies all have suggested that while Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party appears set for the largest share of it votes, neither it nor its electoral rival, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, has any chance of a victory decisive enough to govern alone.

One scenario popular among pundits has Borissov’s party getting the largest share of votes but being unable to come up with a governing coalition, and having to cede the chance to rule to a coalition of the socialists, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Meglena Kouneva’s Bulgaria for Citizens party – the latter tripartite coalition emerging as a slightly revamped version of the socialist-led 2005 to 2009 government.

For the sake of political self-preservation, parties in Bulgaria generally are reticent about being anything less than equivocal about possible post-election coalition scenarios. But a few politicians have spoken on the topic.

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, a powerful figure in GERB and its campaign leader, has sent mixed messages in recent days.

On April 12, the day that the official campaign period started, Tsvetanov was reported as having said that on May 12 GERB would say whether it would enter a coalition with the MRF and Kouneva’s party. Soon before that, Tsvetanov had firmly rejected the notion that GERB might form a coalition government with the MRF, the socialists and ultra-nationalists Ataka, but then later, Tsvetanov said that if GERB could not form a government after May 12, it would seek a coalition with other political parties “in the name of Bulgaria”.

On April 14, Yane Yanev – leader of the miniscule Order Law and Justice party, which has had an on-off political relationship with Borissov’s GERB and is seen by pollsters as having less than scant chance of returning to parliament – said that President Rossen Plevneliev, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the MRF had held secret talks about putting forward Bulgaria’s European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva as prime minister.

This is in spite of the BSP having said that its candidate for prime minister would be Plamen Oresharski, finance minister in the Stanishev 2005-2009 governing coalition. Stanishev himself has said that he would not return to office as prime minister if his party won the election.

Yanev said that the talks had been held between Plevneliev, MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan and Stanishev about making Georgieva prime minister in an “expert” “non-party” government. Oresharski was nothing but a decoy, a duck to shoot at, Yanev said.

His claim was dismissed by the BSP as an “absolute lie”.

The MRF, which has a long record of forming working political relationships with the socialists, has said that it does not rule out supporting a GERB government after May 12, if the government’s programme coincides with the priorities of the MRF.

This message, sent earlier this past week, was repeated when MRF leader Mestan spoke in the party’s stronghold town of Kurdjali on April 13, saying that “we must revive the coalition form of government”.

Volen Siderov, leader of Ataka, has said that his party would not form a coalition with any other party. Ataka has had a significant boost in recent weeks amid national discontent and the most recent poll by Mediana showed Siderov’s party as outstripping the MRF in numbers of seats in the next National Assembly.

Meanwhile, major election events were held on April 13, with Borissov telling a GERB rally in Plovdiv – one of two places where he heads the candidates list – that the protesters of the past months had numbered 150 000 “but the Bulgarians who voted for us numbered 1.5 million and we are morally entitled to run this country”.

In several major cities in Bulgaria, GERB began handing out election campaign materials on April 13, including a booklet of infrastructure projects opened during Borissov’s time as prime minister, from 2009 to March 2013.

In Sofia, Stanishev told a rally in South Park, “We do not campaign for power and positions but for the clear cause that we are duty bound to bring down this pernicious government that mocked at people for three and a half years. Our only cause is to give Bulgaria back to the people”.

“Let me feel your energy, the desire for change,” Stanishev said.

A total of 7200 Bulgarians are candidates in the May 12 national parliamentary elections, and just 240 will make it into the National Assembly.

Who will become the members of the 42nd National Assembly will be determined by whoever turns out to vote from among the more than 6.9 million citizens eligible to vote in this country of 7.3 million.

As of April 12, the official campaigning period for the elections has begun, with 38 political parties and seven coalitions in the field. Of these, going by opinion polls, it is most realistic to expect that about five will make it into Parliament.

On April 12, polling agency Mediana said that its figures showed GERB currently getting 26.4 per cent support and the socialists 23.7 per cent, after a poll conducted among 1000 citizens between April 5 and 9. This was a narrowing of the gap of five to seven per cent between the two parties in last month’s poll.

Ataka had 6.2 per cent support and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms 5.8 percent. In March, Mediana’s poll showed the MRF at 7.9 per cent and Ataka at 4.3 per cent.

Kouneva’s party would get 4.5 per cent, according to Mediana.

Mediana’s Nikola Kolev said that GERB’s lead was so fragile that the party would be well-advised not to rely on it. “Practically, so far it seems there will be five parties in Parliament, with relative parity between the two major political forces. Woe to those who try to form a government in such a situation”.

(Photo: Rama)






Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.