Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections: Notebook, May 14

A commentator on media coverage of the campaign ahead of Bulgaria’s May 25 2014 European Parliament elections said that the succession of public holidays had drained energy from the contest – but early in the morning of May 14, someone decided to add a bit of spark, of an unwelcome variety.

An office in Sofia of Bulgaria Without Censorship, the political party formed around former television talk show host Nikolai Barekov, was damaged by a hurled paving stone and a Molotov cocktail in a 3am incident.

Barekov’s party said that the incident was an “attempt to intimidate, aimed at neutralising the growing popularity of the party in Nadezhda (the location of the office).”

With 11 days to go to the vote, more jottings from The Sofia Globe’s daily notebook on the election campaign.

* Maya Manolova, the Bulgarian Socialist Party MP who had the job of driving the redrafted election law through the National Assembly before the European Parliament elections, denied earlier allegations that it would be possible to identify how someone had voted, saying that ballots would have no number or any other form of identification.

Manolova was responding to claims that comparisons of the unique serial numbers on ballots, an innovation in the new election law, with voters’ rolls would make it possible to check how someone had voted. Reports have alleged that political parties were registering observers with precisely this task. Earlier, a Central Election Commission official said that detecting how someone had voted might theoretically be possible, but only by someone with excellent mathematical skills.
* Svetoslav Malinov, second on the MEP candidate list of the centre-right Reformist Bloc, sent a letter to the Bulgarian Socialist Party posing seven questions that the bloc believed that Bulgarian taxpayers deserved the answers to regarding Russian influence over Bulgarian legislation on the South Stream gas pipeline project. He said that not only had the BSP declined to respond, but also to participate in debates already agreed.

Malinov said that it was unacceptable that Bulgarians, in one of the poorest countries in the European Union, paid the highest prices for energy consumption.

Last week, the Reformist Bloc alleged that it had documents showing that amendments to Bulgaria’s Energy Act affecting South Stream had been entirely dictated by Moscow.

* Ivailo Kalfin, head of the list of Georgi Purvanov’s ABC movement, set up in opposition to the current leadership of the BSP, said that South Stream was an important project that the previous (GERB) government had neglected and which the current government neglected to do anything about.

Kalfin said that the more energy passing through Bulgaria, the better, because of Bulgaria’s energy resources.

“South Stream is not a project for Bulgaria – this is gas which passes through the country and goes to Europe. Instead of passing through Ukraine, it will pass through Bulgaria. Ukraine will be unstable for years on end and we ourselves could be the first ones affected by this,” Kalfin said.

* GERB and the Reformist Bloc agreed at talks in Sofia on May 14 that the upcoming no-confidence vote that GERB said it would table in Parliament against the BSP government on the grounds of energy policy would be a test for the “pro-European” Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

GERB leader Boiko Borissov said that the motion of no confidence in the cabinet would be tabled in the National Assembly on May 16 and he invited representatives of the Reformist Bloc (an alliance of centre-right and right-wing parties currently without seats in Parliament) to attend the debates.

Reformist Bloc spokesperson Radan Kanev, leader of the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, said that one of the important characteristics of the voting would be the behaviour of the MRF and its stated pro-European stance. Borissov said that if the MRF did not support the no-confidence motion, it would mean that party had something to hide.

* Sergei Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and of the Party of European Socialists and also the BSP list leader in the May 25 elections, said that the problems everywhere in Bulgaria and in Europe were the same.

In order for Bulgaria to pursue a coherent policy, to support economic development and job creation, social engagement, it was important to go in one direction with Brussels, Stanishev told a meeting of party supporters in Sandanski.

He said that people everywhere were excited about the prospect of work, improved income levels, how to help their parents, about the education of the children. Stanishev said with some common European policies, these issues could be more effectively addressed, and it was important for people to vote in the upcoming elections.

Stanishev said that a major commitment of PES, important to Bulgaria, was the party’s various policies focussing on employment.

“So far, we have launched a programme for youth employment . After two years of effort, it is real and six billion leva have been allocated to it throughout the EU, of which 100 million leva was to Bulgaria. The youth guarantee scheme is already running – this year, youth unemployment is 7000 less.” He said that the party was committed to continuing to develop the programme.

* The Central Election Commission has ordered a stop to the broadcasting of an election campaign video by far-right ultra-nationalists Ataka which contrasts the party’s “Orthodox values” with what it says are “Euro-Atlantic values” – paedophilia, gay marriage and incest.

The Ataka video presented the world as divided into two, the “corrupt” Euro-Atlantic values, depicted in blue, on the right, Orthodox values, coloured red. Among the images was one associating Nato with “intervention” against a backdrop of the Kremlin.

Ataka, campaigning desperately against a backdrop of polls showing it as having scant to no chance of winning European Parliament seats in 2014, already had been embroiled in controversy over another video, in which images from the church wedding of a Bulgarian couple were used without their permission. The couple have said that they were considering court action for embarrassment caused, underlining that they were not Ataka supporters, were not members of any political party, with the husband adding, “Personally, I don’t support any of the political parties”.

* The anti-government Protest Network, not a contestant in the election campaign, has issued a statement on the May 9 incident in which a European Union flag was burnt at Sofia’s Soviet Army monument.

The statement said, in part: “On May 9 2014, supporters of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the Government, formed by BSP and the ALDE member party Movement for Rights and Freedom with the support of the xenophobic party Ataka, celebrated the “Victory Day” in front of the Soviet Army Monument in downtown Sofia.

The programme climaxed in the evening with a gathering organised by an informal organisation named Civic Initiative “Bulgaria supports the politics of Russia”.

The statement said that some of the organisations participating “such as ‘Bulgaria supports Russian politics’ were formed right after the beginning of the aggressive Russian interference in Ukraine. Sergey Stanishev, leader of BSP and PES (Party of European Socialists), together with the other leading left wing politicians and members of parliament attended the event in front of the Soviet Army Monument prior to the crowd burning the EU flag.

“The disturbing fact is that none of the socialist leaders condemned the act of the burning of the EU flag, thus giving tacit support for the anti-EU and anti-NATO rhetoric that is marking the European Parliament elections campaign in Bulgaria.

“The tacit condoning of such an event by the Socialist leadership is a very disturbing trend that seems to suggest that Bulgaria is de-facto led by an anti-European political power, covertly serving as an agent of Putin’s foreign policy in the European Union,” the statement said.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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