Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission (CEC) and the Interior Ministry have agreed that traditional May 24 parades celebrating Saints Cyril and Methodius and the traditions of Cyrillic script can go ahead even though the eve-of-election date is a “day of contemplation” before the May 25 European Parliament elections.
But as to the question of prom parties, an issue that has vexed young school-leavers worried that the election will interfere with their party plans, the matter is being left up to regional inspectorates of education, school heads and local police to sort out.
Education minister Anelia Klisarova earlier raised the question of May 24 parades with the CEC, concerned by the possibility of political canvassing on a day when it is outlawed.
After a meeting between representatives of the CEC, the association of municipalities and the police, the education ministry said that the parades would go ahead, with police and schools agreeing on the routes.
“There will be processions everywhere, as is tradition. A celebration for all Bulgarians will not be disrupted,” Klisarova said.
Access to schools will be limited after 1pm on May 24 because schools will be used as polling stations on European Parliament election day.
Education authorities will decide where and at what time school-leavers may gather for prom celebrations. These arrangements will be co-ordinated with local police, the education ministry said.
* Meanwhile, still on the national celebration front, May 6 – the day of St George and the Bulgarian military – there will be Russian fighter aircraft over Sofia; but at least they will be Bulgarian Air Force fighters.
This will be the first time for several years that Bulgaria’s Russian-made MiG-21s and MiG-29s will take part in a flypast at the time of the traditional May 6 military parade.
At the time of the centre-right GERB government, May 6 parades were cut back in scale, omitting the participation of fighter aircraft, tanks and other armoured vehicles as an austerity measure.
With the Bulgarian Socialist Party back in government, the Defence Ministry has decided to treat the public to a flypast of jet fighters as well as military helicopters, a treat that will cost taxpayers about 250 000 leva (about 125 000 euro) of the total 500 000 leva budget for the parade.
Reporting the plan, news website Mediapool said that the tanks, however, would not be back this year.
Flights by Bulgaria’s MiG aircraft have been in the headlines because the air force aircraft have been scrambled an unusually high number of times to respond to Russian reconnaissance aircraft at the edge of Bulgarian airspace at the Black Sea.
These Russian air force flights, in turn, are taking place against the background of Moscow’s expansionism in Ukraine, across the Black Sea from Nato member Bulgaria.
President Rossen Plevneliev has suggested publicly that the additional flights by the Russian-made Bulgarian air force jets are being provoked deliberately by those with an interest in the aircraft getting worn out and needing repairs and maintenance.
Several governments ago, a deal was concluded for Russia to conduct maintenance on the aircraft that became part of Bulgaria’s military aviation at the time of the Soviet Union.
Government figures have, in the past week, signalled that the country may go ahead with the purchase of new aircraft for the air force rather than upgrading the existing Russian stock.
The price tag for this purchase is estimated at 700 million leva, going by previous government estimates.
Whether the acquisition will involve new fighters, as offered by SAAB Gripen, or buying second-hand F-16s or Eurofighters, remains to be seen – as it has done for several years.
(Main photo: Saints Cyril and Methodius, Basilica di San Clemente, Rome)