The start of the campaign in Bulgaria’s early parliamentary elections coincided with the latest floods to hit part of the country, and politicians have not missed the opportunity to be seen getting their hands dirty – with shovels and buckets.
Apparently learning a lesson from the decisive Hurricane Sandy moment in the 2012 US presidential election, politicians in Bulgaria have not let the grass grow under their feet but have headed for the nearest heaps of mud.
The photo opportunities have not passed without a note of cynicism. “People believe that if there were no forthcoming elections, they (the politicians) would not be so helpful,” a report on Nova Televizia said on September 9.
Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB managed the largest deployment, sending all of its candidate MPs to flood-hit regions.
Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Mihail Mikov called on all political parties to pay something out of their own pockets, while populist Bulgaria Without Censorship leader Nikolai Barekov said that he was giving 2000 leva (about 1000 euro) of his own money to help those left destitute by the floods.
“I am very happy and filled with joy at all my colleagues who joined the initiative to assist the flood-affected people (in the country”,” GERB leader Borissov said in a Facebook post.
Borissov said that the initiative had three benefits. These were the aid given to the victims, second that it encouraged people to join in volunteering, would unite people and help the regions recover faster, and third, was to the benefit of the candidate MPs because they were becoming closely acquainted with the tragedy and would enable them to write better laws on dealing with natural and man-made disasters.
Ivailo Moskovski, a minister in the 2009/13 Borissov cabinet and again a candidate MP, said that the party was to organise a donation campaign to assist flood-affected municipalities.
But BSP leader Mikov, whose troubled party is seen as set to run a poor second in the coming parliamentary elections, looked on all of this with scorn.
Mikov said that on September 7, GERB had spent 500 000 leva on its October 5 parliamentary election campaign launch event in Sofia, and only after that deployed its brigade of volunteers.
“Let people judge for themselves,” said Mikov, adding these things should be done “a little more quietly”.
Barekov’s party, seen by the more reliable pollsters as having a chance of making it over the threshold into the next Parliament, posted on its website its own photos and statement, saying that while the GERB candidates “pose for campaign photos with shovels in the flooded areas and their leader Boiko Borissov praises them on Facebook while at home in Bankya, Bulgaria Without Censorship sent a tractor and front-end loader to clear the tons of mud in which houses in Stransko were caught”.
BWC also hit out at the “grandiose” launch of the GERB campaign, saying that Borissov had spent “millions” on the event and on hiring 300 buses to fill the huge hall and then had come up with “cheap PR” by sending all GERB candidates to help with the work of assisting flood victims.
GERB, apparently undeterred by the political mud-slinging, meanwhile entered its third day on September 10 of its 450 volunteers, including candidate MPs, working at flood-hit sites around the country.