Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party emerged from the second round of mayoral elections on November 1 proclaiming its high scores, but with Borissov clearly stung by the party’s loss in Pleven to its national coalition government partner the Reformist Bloc.
The Reformist Bloc described itself as having done “more than well” in the elections while also describing the mayoral and municipal votes as a win for the national coalition government and a reduction of the influence of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms in local government.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party, the largest opposition party in the National Assembly, conceded it had been defeated in the October 25-November 1 elections, which left it with no mayors in Bulgaria’s 10 largest cities and towns and hardly a scant few in other towns.
At a news conference on the night of November 1, at a point that clarity was still being awaited as to whether GERB had defeated the Patriotic Front in the second-round mayoral vote in Plovdiv, GERB deputy leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov said that the party had won 129 mayoral elections, including in 22 regional centres. He showed graphs illustrating the sharp rise in the party’s performance over the past three municipal elections.
Borissov dwelt on the theme of Pleven, where Georgi Spartanski, backed by the Reformist Bloc and the VMRO, defeated GERB mayoral candidate Dimitar Stoikov. Pleven is the seventh-largest city in Bulgaria and the only one in the top 10 largest cities not won by GERB.
He said that huge efforts had been made by GERB’s partners to defeat it in Pleven. He hit out at Naiden Zelenogorski, leader of one of the Reformist Bloc’s constituent parties, for alleging that GERB had been vote-buying in Pleven. Zelenogorski should prove his allegations or apologise, said Borissov.
Borissov said that the outcome of these elections showed that in the presidential elections (scheduled for autumn 2016) the GERB candidate would have very big chances. He indicated that he had no objection to Reformist Bloc co-leader Radan Kanev’s idea of holding primary elections for a joint presidential candidate.
Referring to Rossen Plevneliev, elected President of Bulgaria at the end of 2011 – and who under the constitution could be eligible for a second and final term as head of state – Borissov said, “we have a current President, to us he is alive and well. But the time will come when I will speak on this topic”.
In past months, Borissov has been opaque about who GERB’s candidate would be in 2016, some months ago saying that Bulgaria’s next President should be a woman – which Plevneliev quite plainly is not. Plevneliev, in turn, has made no clear public statement about whether he would want a second term.
Earlier, at a news conference at the coalition’s headquarters, the Reformist Bloc’s Kanev said that the bloc had performed “more than well” in the elections.
“Another positive assessment is that the coalition (government) wins these elections,” he said.
Kanev said that in Shoumen, Plovdiv, Lovech and Vidin, there were functioning rightist majorities in the municipal councils, involving GERB and the Reformist Bloc.
He hailed the “unique political breakthrough” in Pleven.
The BSP, the second largest party – by far – in the National Assembly, conceded electoral defeat in reaction to exit polls, without awaiting the final results of the November 1 second-round mayoral elections.
BSP MP Kornelia Ninova told Bulgarian National Television, “it is not that nice a picture…we lost these elections”.
Yanaki Stoilov, deputy leader of the BSP, said that the party had lost the elections, but had not fallen to its knees. At the time he spoke, results were not clear in narrow races in Lovech, Vratsa, Razgrad and Sliven. Later, it emerged that the BSP had been defeated in its long-held stronghold of Lovech, and apparently also had lost another former stronghold, Vratsa, to GERB. Exit polls showed a narrow victory for the BSP in Razgrad, and defeat for its at the hands of GERB in Sliven.
Another BSP deputy leader, Boiko Velikov, told Bulgarian National Radio that the general conclusion that the party had drawn “is that the BSP lost these elections”.
The BSP had fewer municipal councillors and had performed weakly in large cities, which had become a serious weakness for the party, he said. Low voter turnout was evidence that the party was unable to sufficiently motivate its supporters, Velikov said.
(Photo via Borissov’s Facebook page)