Bulgaria’s 2013 elections: Parties close campaigns

A reflection of the uncertainty about the outcome of Bulgaria’s parliamentary election on May 12 was in Boiko Borissov’s breakfast television interview in which he did not rule out his party ending up in opposition.

Borissov appeared in a lengthy interview on May 10 as political parties wound up their campaigns ahead of the Saturday “day of contemplation” on which campaigning and canvassing are banned.

While most of the questions dwelt on the controversy about alleged illegal eavesdropping that has dominated the past month, the official campaign period, Borissov also addressed the question of possible post-election coalitions.

He was speaking against a background of a number of polls that claimed that the gap between his party and its rival, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, was too close to call. These polls see four to five parties entering the 42nd National Assembly, in a combination that – on the face of it – is more likely to result in a socialist-led coalition than in GERB being able to form a government.

Borissov said that if there were centre-right parties that got into the National Assembly “and we have an opportunity to form a government with them, we will”.

But, he added, he did not really want a coalition because a political party got state subsidies as an independent party.

Borissov said that he was ready to be in opposition. In previous years he did want to be simply an MP, he said, because he had clear goals. However, according to Borissov, after four difficult years, the coming years would be very bad.

Boiko Borissov. Photo: GERB

He would congratulate anyone who took on the political responsibility of governing the country, with the exception of BSP leader and former prime minister Sergei Stanishev, who had shirked his responsibility by saying that former tripartite coalition finance minister Plamen Oresharski would be prime minister should the socialists win.

Borissov said that for any political party taking on the task of government in the next four years, it would mean suicide.

Separately, also on May 10, Borissov reiterated that his party was ready to govern but also ready to be in opposition. The campaign had been very dirty and no issues had been debated, he said.

One of GERB's events on May 10, 'Kings of Strength', starring Bulgarian wrestling champion and candidate MP for Borissov's party, Stanka Zlateva. Photo: GERB

Meanwhile, the BSP leader – for weeks repeating calls for the withdrawal from politics of GERB campaign chief Tsvetan Tsvetanov, former interior minister, because of the alleged illegal wiretapping while Tsvetanov was in office (Tsvetanov denies these allegations), found himself on the receiving end of a serious allegation – from Tsvetanov. Stanishev had been voted leader of the EU-level Party of European Socialists because of a bribe of millions, Tsvetanov said.

The allegation led to a denial by Stanishev, who said that he was willing to renounce his immunity from prosecution as a parliamentary candidate, and to do so by the end of May 10, calling on Tsvetanov to do the same so that the former interior minister also could face prosecution. This was a reference to prosecutors announcing earlier that they had sufficient evidence to proceed against Tsvetanov in the eavesdropping controversy, to which Tsvetanov responded that he would give up his immunity after the May 12 elections were over. Stanishev said that he would take court action against Tsvetanov for slander.

Stanishev, in his own breakfast television interview, said that his party’s priorities were poverty and people’s incomes, mothers, pensioners and children: “these will be at the centre of the first steps to be taken”. The BSP, he said, was the party that could start a recovery process.

Stanishev took issue with one of GERB’s major selling points, the Borissov administration’s achievements in building motorways. Stanishev, who was prime minister at the head of a three-party coalition from 2005 to 2009, said that while GERB had built 112km of motorways between 2009 and 2013, his government had built 133km.

The BSP leader said that recent opinion polls showing declining support for GERB proved that people had realised that Borissov’s party had been lying in claiming that life in Bulgaria had improved during the GERB administration.

The third-most significant party in the elections, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – a party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish origin – was holding its event in the party stronghold of Kurdjali, a town not far from the Turkish border. Leader Lyutvi Mestan was due to speak at a public event outside a local restaurant, a press notice said.

While GERB is seen by all polls as having a slight lead over the BSP, it is an open question whether Borissov will be able to form a workable coalition after the elections. Should he fail, the mandate to form a government would go to the second-largest party, the BSP. Earlier this week, MRF leader Mestan said that it was important to have a coalition that would keep GERB out of power, a firmer position than the MRF leader’s statement a few weeks ago not ruling out a coalition with GERB.

Voting in Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections closes at 8pm on May 12. Provisional estimates of results based on exit polls, with seven parties accredited to the election process, are expected within a few hours after voting ends.

(Main photo: BSP leader Stanishev at a campaign concert with veteran Bulgarian pop star Lili Ivanova: bsp.bg)




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 amazon.com, 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.