May 9 brought Europe Day to Bulgaria, and the beginning of a special two-week recess that members of the National Assembly voted themselves to hit the campaign trail in support of their parties’ candidates in the May 25 2014 European Parliament elections.
Some items from The Sofia Globe’s election campaign notebook:
* Tomislav Donchev, the former EU funds minister who is top of the list of MEP candidates for centre-right party GERB, went to the traditional Friday market in Sevlievo to tell people that GERB had the best team of candidates, people with the knowledge, strength and skills to protect Bulgaria’s interests and ensure the European development of the country, while under the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, the country was going backwards, amassing debt instead of investing money, while unemployment was growing.
GERB leader Boiko Borissov said that BSP leader and number one MEP candidate Sergei Stanishev had pushed amendments to the Interior Ministry Act to deceive the police that they would get higher pay.
Borissov showed reporters a letter from the Finance Ministry to the head of the parliamentary commitee on internal security and public order saying that there was no money to implement the amendments.
* The BSP’s Stanishev, in turn, hit out at GERB, saying that “the 50 000 employees of the Interior Ministry” wanted to know who sabotaged the amendments to the Interior Ministry Act. Stanishev said that Borissov and Tsvetan Tsvetanov, interior minister in the GERB government, had “humiliated” police officers, turning them into a political tool and taking no care of them.
Stanishev also complained about GERB tabling a motion of no confidence in the cabinet on the issue of the energy sector and South Stream, saying that Borissov’s understanding of the work of the opposition was to get in the way: “I do not share this view, because I believe that the work of the opposition is to provide alternatives to people”.
* Lyutvi Mestan, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, was quoted by mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa as saying in an interview that the government programme would have to be revised after Bulgaria’s May 25 European Parliament elections.
“This will happen if the May 25 vote is positive for the parties that support the government – which I truly expect to happen. Then the government will have to shift from survival mode to effective government mode. Prime Minister (Plamen) Oresharski has our full support, including support for the team he works with,” Mestan said.
* Bulgaria Without Censorship (BWC) launched an initiative to protect Bulgarians from what the party called “racketeering” by debt collectors. BWC, which has three members in Parliament after they left other parties and coalitions, said that the three were going on leave to campaign, clarifying an earlier statement that might have been understood as them resigning from Parliament.
BWC chief Nikolai Barekov has been quoted earlier as saying that his MPs would quit the National Assembly after the European Parliament elections. He told Offnews on May 9 that the issue of resignation would be decided after the May 25 elections. “I hope that after the elections, all Mps would resign. I am convinced that by October at the latest, there will be new (national parliamentary) elections,” Barekov said.
* The Central Election Commission rejected a complaint by the anti-government Protest Network against Alfa TV billboards to which stickers showing the number 20 – the ballot number of far-right ultra-nationalist party Ataka, to which Alfa is closely aligned – had been affixed.
The Protest Network had said that the stickers on the billboards violated the law because they did not include, as election law requires, the words “buying and selling of votes is a crime”. The network included with its complaint a photograph taken on May 7 of an Alfa TV billboard.
The Central Election Commission said that reasonable evidence had not been offered, saying that the coincidence in the name of the television station, Alfa Ataka, and the Ataka political party did not mean that the billboard for Alfa Ataka was canvassing votes for a political party.
The commission said that the photo showed the billboard on which, besides advertising the television station, contained the number 20, “which coincides with the ballot number of the Ataka party” but said that it was unclear where it was placed. The complaint had failed to specify in sufficient detail where the billboard was, beyond the “very general” statement that it was next to Trakiya Motorway.
It cited an objection from Ataka to the complaint, which said that the Ataka party had contracted advertising services in October 2013 “and these billboards had nothing to do with the election of members of the European Parliament”.