Bulgaria’s 2014 European Parliament elections: Notebook, May 5

While opinion polls are divided on the question of how many Bulgarians will vote in the May 25 European Parliament elections, it again has been suggested that some of the electorate are so motivated that they may intend going to vote in spite of being dead.

The zombie vote may or may not be a significant constituency. Meanwhile, the contest continued to see which parties and candidate MEPs would emerge as among either the survivors on May 26, or would be among the politically undead. Some notes from The Sofia’s Globe’s election notebook:

* If Bulgaria wants to return to the path of European development, the only alternative is GERB and the European People’s Party, according to Maria Gabriel, a sitting GERB MEP and candidate in the 2014 elections. Visiting Belitsa, she said that a high turnout would show the attitude of Bulgaria’s citizens and “only in this way can we fight populism”.

According to Gabriel, voting for GERB in this election is ” a vote for the future of Bulgaria in Europe. This means European funds , modern education, more funding for small and medium businesses , the development of new technologies”.

* Iliyana Yotova got a warm welcome, so her Bulgarian Socialist Party said, when she met vegetable growers in Ignatievo to respond to their complaint that they lacked access to their greenhouses.

According to the BSP, the saga of the greenhouse began a few years ago, when the head of the regional directorate of the Agriculture Ministry at the time of the GERB government forced growers to sign a lease with his mother, who owned the land. Before that, they had a contract with an agricultural co-operative, which in turn owned the greenhouses. A court judgment in the dispute is pending, but in the meantime a bailiff is preventing people accessing their greenhouses, according to the BSP.

Yotova, who intervened in the issue after a previous visit to the area, said that litigation and administrative tricks were being used by the “owner” and this prevented people being registered as farmers and, in turn, meant that they could not get EU subsidies.

She said that instead of producing quality Bulgarian vegetables, fertile land was being turned into new giant shopping malls and parking areas. In the seventh year of Bulgaria’s EU membership, there was talk about how EU funds were used, but the question was not asked whether the conditions had been created for all Bulgarian citizens to benefit from them.

“Conferences and seminars do not work when Bulgarian growers cannot use farmland to produce,” Yotova said .

* Recent months have seen a thinly disguised attempt by the government to offset the “foreign insolvency” of prime minister Plamen Oresharski – meaning, the lack of interest among foreign governments in meeting him – by holding cabinet meetings in various parts of the country, according to Roumen Petkov, of Georgi Purvanov’s ABC.

Petkov, a former interior minister in a previous BSP government and a close ally of Purvanov in the splinter movement from the BSP, said that he had lodged an access to information application to find out how much the cabinet meetings away from Sofia had cost.

He lavished scorn on Oresharski’s brief trip to Vietnam, where Oresharski attended an opening of a Bulgarian restaurant. “If they don’t want Oresharski abroad, it does not mean that they should waste taxpayers’ money. This landmark success in the field of foreign relations, the opening of a Bulgarian restaurant in Vietnam, will no doubt remain unbeaten for decades,” Petkov said.

* Having served sausages at a recent event, Bulgaria Without Censorship (BWC) chief Nikolai Barekov will serving traditional thick lamb soup in Sofia on May 6, St George’s Day. BWC attendants will be enjoying traditional thick lamb soup in nine cities in the country that day.

* Professor Petar Ivanov of the Centre for Demographic Policy, appearing on Nova Televizia on May 5, compared figures held by the National Statistical Institute and Central Election Commission to conclude that 850 000 people were enrolled to vote in spite of being dead.

CEC spokesman Tsvetozar Tomov said that the first problem was that the voters’ roll had much fewer names than in previous elections, because in the European Parliament elections, not all Bulgarians – for example, those living in Turkey – had the right to vote.

“The issue of dead people has been discussed for 20 years. The main reason that there is so much difference between the actual number of people who live in Bulgaria, and the people who appear on the list of the registry, is that there is a large number of Bulgarians who have addresses in Bulgaria and the registry has no information about their address outside the country.”

Tomov said that that this did not mean that there was a threat to the credibility of the elections.

(Photo: OSCE)



The Sofia Globe staff

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