Bulgaria presidential race: Rivals like GERB candidate for all the wrong reasons

Bulgaria now knows who will be the largest political party’s candidate in the November 2016 presidential elections, and the nomination of Tsetska Tsacheva has been seized on by rivals as a vulnerable choice.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, leader of centre-right party GERB, named Tsacheva – the 58-year-old two-time Speaker of the National Assembly – as his party’s candidate on October 2, just two days ahead of the deadline for registering candidates and some time after most other significant parties had named their nominees.

While a well-known figure because of her place in the presiding officer’s chair in Parliament since 2009, with a break in 2013/14, Tsacheva does not rank especially highly in public opinion polls. One of the most recent gave her an approval rating of about 27 per cent, not a bad figure but below some of GERB’s other possible choices.

Critics have not failed to point out that before the beginning of Bulgaria’s transition to democracy, Tsacheva was a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party, which – while not uncommon among a number of prominent latter-day right-wing politicians – may be used to seek to tarnish her credentials.

Tsacheva, a Sofia University graduate possessed of a sharp legal brain and who has worked in the private sector as an advocate, and who has been fairly even-handed in her role at the head of Parliament, on the other hand is not a particularly charismatic figure nor a particularly engaging orator.

There is the asset of her gender – Borissov, in announcing her candidacy, said that it was “high time to have a mother of the nation” – but GERB’s other possible candidates had the same asset, notably Sofia mayor Yordankda Fandukova, who also rates significantly higher in opinion polls.

Borissov said that his party had not chosen Fandukova so as not to disrupt the running of the capital city. Behind the scenes, talk is that Fandukova had declined to be the party’s candidate, in spite of repeated approaches.

In a television interview on October 3, Tsacheva said that she would treat all her rivals with respect, but if slanders and lies were hurled against her, she would not simply smile.

She said that her ambition was to get out support for her party, even among people who had voted against GERB.

Tsetska Tsacheva and GERB vice-presidential candidate Plamen Manushev.
Tsetska Tsacheva and GERB vice-presidential candidate Plamen Manushev.

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(Photos: gerb.bg)