Bulgaria’s political parties entered the home straight on May 6, with four days left to campaign ahead of the May 12 national parliamentary elections – and with a prediction from GERB leader Boiko Borissov that his party will be the target of further scandal-mongering before the fight is finished.
In recent weeks, the campaign has been dominated by the eavesdropping controversy, which deepened as prosecutors said that they had sufficient evidence to proceed against GERB campaign chief and former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov in connection with illegal wiretapping.
Media reports said that four officials at the Interior Ministry had told investigators that when in office, Tsvetanov had given oral orders to them to conduct unlawful surveillance.
Tsvetanov has denied wrongdoing, and currently is shielded from prosecution because of the statutory immunity he has as a candidate for Parliament. Should he be elected, as is highly likely, it is probable that the Prosecutor-General will approach the new Parliament to approve the lifting of Tsvetanov’s immunity as an MP.
GERB continues to insist that the eavesdropping controversy is not resonating with the electorate, who have other, more pressing concerns, in the view of the former ruling party.
In a television interview on May 5, Borissov said that he expected that once the six-day holidays were over, rival parties would “hit us even harder”.
But, he said, people in the streets did not ask him about the wiretapping issue “because at this point they do not care”.
People had taken to the streets not because of eavesdropping or the political system, but because of high bills and low incomes. Instead of parties explaining what they would do to overcome these problems, they had passed that whole debate by, according to Borissov.
The GERB leader, who was prime minister from 2009 from 2013 with Tsvetanov as his deputy, and before that was mayor of Sofia with Tsvetanov as his deputy, emphasised his unconditional trust in him.
He said that whoever took power after the May 12 would be a “political corpse” after a year. Should the next government not maintain the same financial discipline as had his party, within a year and a half Bulgaria would follow the fate of Greece and Cyprus, according to Borissov, who said that further hard times lay ahead of Europe, noting that the European Commission had cut its growth forecast.
Meanwhile, for part of the six-day weekend, Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev was on the campaign trail, emphasising his party’s promises of job creation and social support.
In Stara Zagora on May 4, Stanishev said that Bulgaria needed a 10-year programme for reindustrialization, with serious undertakings in each area of the country to create large-scale skilled employment.
Stanishev said that his party, when in government (as it was between 2005 and 2009) had taken steps against firms that had won privatisation deals but did not fulfil their obligations. According to the socialist leader, this had brought in 350 million leva which had gone into the pension fund.
Elsewhere the same day, he said that the state should support each first-grader with 310 leva “so that a child can prepare for school and go with confidence to the first day of school”.
GERB, Stanishev said, had preferred to spend “millions” on eavesdropping and bonuses instead of on pensioners and “mothers with children”. During Borissov’s term in office as prime minister, Bulgaria had lost 400 000 jobs, Stanishev said.
He said that the leaked eavesdropped conversation between Borissov, then-Sofia city prosecutor Nikolai Kokinov and former agriculture minister Miroslav Naidenov was like “scenes from Don Corleone in the Godfather”.
The campaigns of GERB, the BSP and all of the 38 parties and seven coalitions in the field in Bulgaria’s national parliamentary elections will wrap up on May 10 at the latest. May 11 is a “day of contemplation” on which campaigning is forbidden by law.
About 6.9 million Bulgarians are eligible to vote. Polling stations also will be open in 56 countries abroad. Polls open at 7am and close at 8pm, local time in Bulgaria and in accordance with the time zones of the countries abroad.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation are among entities deploying election observers.