Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections: Notebook, May 22

Bulgaria’s political parties have until midnight brings May 23 to an end to make their final moves to win votes in Sunday’s European Parliament election, in which the country will be choosing 17 MEPs.

As the campaigns head to a close, some entries from The Sofia Globe’s May 22 election campaign notebook:

* Bulgarian National Television announced that it was declining to broadcast a campaign video by the Glas Naroden party because it caricatured rival politicians including Sergei Stanishev, Ahmed Dogan, Boiko Borissov and Volen Siderov.

Public broadcaster BNT said that the video violated the Election Act, which prohibits abusive materials against rival parties. The party said that BNT’s decision was a “farce” and a denial of the party’s right to appear on national television.

The decision gives ultra-nationalist party Ataka some company, after it ran into trouble when it broke the rules on video campaigning and also has annoyed a motor vehicle distribution company by copying a three-old-advertisement, adapting it – without permission – for Ataka’s use.

* The Reformist Bloc has cried foul after a poster emerged of one of its candidates, Korman Ismailov, with text in Turkish – a violation of the Election Act that requires campaigning to be done only in Bulgarian.

Ismailov denied that he or the coalition had anything to do with the poster and said that it was clear that someone was using his image without his consent.

“There are parties that make policy based on anti-Turkish and anti-minority discourse and apparently they want to portray us as violating the law, and campaign on our backs,” he said.

* “My position would be clear – a move away from a two-speed Europe,” Tomislav Donchev, number one on the MEP candidate list of centre-right party GERB, said. He said that a two-speed Europe was an act of cowardice and a failure of normal development.

He said that he knew that in some EU member states, there were such sentiments, resulting not from decisions of principle but from the traumas of the crisis. “The fact is that during the crisis, some countries were trying to shrink into themselves, we saw signs of protectionism, reduced faith in Europe.”

Donchev said that a genuine post-crisis period was already dominant in Europe, unlike in Bulgaria, and such sentiments would disappear and there would be a return to the principle of “united we are stronger”.

* GERB leader Boiko Borissov said that currently there was “monstrous vote-buying going on and everyone knows that this is the BSP”.

Borissov told a meeting in Haskovo on May 21 that a year ago, on the day of contemplation (the day on which no canvassing is allowed) before the 2013 national parliamentary elections, “the sacred law of reflection, by the law and the constitution” was broken.

The GERB leader was referring to an incident in which ballot papers were found at a printing house in Kostinbrod on the day before the parliamentary election. The incident was broadcast live on television by Nikolai Barekov, then with TV7 and now head of the Bulgaria Without Censorship party, and was followed by comments from various political parties.

“All the television stations and the media came up with a headline that in Kostinbrod, GERB was doing something wrong. A year after that, for which I thank the Prosecutor-General, it turned out that it was not.”

Now, he said, there were reports about alleged vote-buying in Bobov Dol, but the party allegedly involved was not named publicly.

* The belief of the socialists in Bulgaria and Europe is that all citizens of Bulgaria and across the EU have equal rights – to a decent life, normal infrastructure, the right to work, Sergei Stanishev – leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Party of European Socialists and BSP ticket leader – said.

“These rights are not given once and for all, but to implement them requires a daily struggle, including a political one,” Stanishev said.

“Today, Europe is in trouble, and hence all of us Bulgarians are in trouble. In the past five years of crisis, Europe has abandoned its citizens.

“The EU is run by the right-wing and they put to all countries the same recipe for fighting the crisis, which boils down to the word restriction – restrictions, cuts and layoffs. They cut budget expenditures that are important for the people and the communities and countries. Therefore, in the richest continent in the world, there are 27 million unemployed, including six million young people without a livelihood,” Stanishev said.

He said that every one of the hundreds of millions of poor and unemployed in the EU wants change.

“This change is only a few days away – May 25,” Stanishev said.

The BSP leader said the elections this time were particularly important because each person, with their vote, would decide who will be the head of the European government, what policy will be conducted and how it will affect Bulgaria.

* “Why did Mr Stanishev, who is the list leader of the BSP and the chairman of PES, not appear in any debate in the campaign? Why stand as leader of the list – to keep silent?” That was the question from Meglena Kouneva, list leader of the Reformist Bloc.

“The behaviour of the leader of the BSP is understandable, because it may be difficult to explain what use South Stream is to Bulgarian interests, after amendments to the Energy Act were made by the BSP MPs at the dictation of a Russian company, nor to explain 420 000 unemployed although the BSP promised 250 000 new jobs,” Kouneva said.

* Daniel Georgiev, the GERB MP who spent just more than a day oscillating on an odyssey between that party and Barekov’s BWC (See The Sofia Globe’s Election Notebook, May 21), was on May 22 expelled by GERB  for undermining the authority and prestige of the party. GERB called on Georgiev also to resign as an MP.

* A poll by Alpha Research, the results of which were reported on May 22, said that the most probable outcome of Bulgaria’s May 25 European Parliament elections was that, of Bulgaria’s 17 MEP seats, GERB would get six, the BSP five, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms three, Bulgaria Without Censorship two and the Reformist Bloc one.

This would mean seven for the EU-wide European People’s Party group, five for the Party of European Socialists, three for the liberal ALDE and two not aligned to any current political group in the European Parliament, according to the poll, which was commissioned by local Bulgarian-language website Dnevnik.

On May 22, an Exacta poll said that GERB was set for six seats, the BSP five, MRF two to three, BWC two to three, the Reformist Bloc one and Georgi Purvanov’s ABC, either zero or one.

* With the day of contemplation of May 24 approaching, parties are officially wrapping up their election campaigns. The MRF already closed their campaign on May 20 in Rudozem, while Georgi Purvanov’s ABC was due to hold its closing event at Alexander Nevsky Square in Sofia on May 22 at 6pm while Barekov’s BWC was holding its end-of-campaign event in Varna on May 22 at 6.30pm.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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