Former justice minister Hristo Ivanov’s “Yes Bulgaria” faced a target of getting 3000 signatures in a day to register a coalition in the country’s early parliamentary elections – and before nightfall, had more than 11 000 and was accepting more. Then, an hour before midnight, Ivanov announced that the party had gathered 20 000 signatures.
The February 7 signature-gathering campaign was a response to a clumsy but effective move to try to keep the fledgling anti-corruption party out of Bulgaria’s March 26 elections.
Through identity theft, unidentified individuals initiated a challenge to Yes Bulgaria’s formal registration in court as a party, so that it could not meet the deadline to apply to the Central Election Commission to participate in the early elections.
The party rapidly reached an agreement with the minority extra-parliamentary Greens party to stand in the elections as a coalition under the Yes Bulgaria name, and initiated a campaign to add 3000 to its existing 5000 signatures of eligible Bulgarian voters to qualify for registration as a coalition.
By the late afternoon, after volunteers stood in streets in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Bourgas, Veliko Turnovo, Blagoevgrad and Montana, word spread that the campaign had passed the 3000 mark, but there was eagerness to keep going so that the party could be confident that it had more than enough valid signatures.
In an evening message, Yes Bulgaria said that at about 4pm, it had gathered more than 11 000 signatures.
Signatories were contininuing to come forward.
Volunteers would continue to gather signatures through the night, but not all would enter into the CEC forms, which had only 9999 lines, Yes Bulgaria said.
It was a day of drama, in which Ivanov – formerly justice minister in the second Borissov government before resigning over frustration at inadequate judicial reform – said that his party had been targeted by organised crime.
February 8 is the closing day for accepting applications to register for the elections. On February 7, another of the group of politicians formerly associated with the centre-right Reformist Bloc coalition, Radan Kanev’s New Republic platform, submitted its registration application to the CEC.
The Reformist Bloc itself is standing in the elections, which presents those who voted for the bloc in the October 2014 early elections potentially a choice of three this time around.
Ivanov’s Yes Bulgaria may not have passed its last obstacle. During the day, a minor political rival said that he was approaching prosecutors on the grounds that Yes Bulgaria’s volunteers were not registered under the law of personal data to collect the information included in Ivanov’s party’s signature campaign.
With more than six weeks to go to Bulgaria’s 2017 early parliamentary elections, there is no certainty what result Yes Bulgaria – provided it faces no other legal obstructions – may earn in the vote. But for its enthusiasts and those who back its pro-judicial reform, anti-graft stance, February 7 was a heady day indeed.
(Photo of Ivanov at the Palace of Justice in Sofia on February 7: (c) Clive Leviev-Sawyer)