Bulgaria after the March 2017 parliamentary elections: Recriminations and resignations

The aftermath of the results of Bulgaria’s March 26 parliamentary elections is seeing a predictable round of recriminations, while among those who lost, some leaders are resigning and others determinedly seeing the bright side.

Hardly any Bulgarian parliamentary election goes by without someone trying to have it overturned, and this time around, the call came from Lyutvi Mestan, leader of the DOST party that notched up 2.86 per cent, below the threshold for entry to the National Assembly.

Mestan, whose party was at the centre of controversy because of allegations of help from Ankara, told a March 28 news conference that he wanted the elections nullified.

He pointed the finger at the nationalist United Patriots, who sought to blockade the Turkish border to prevent people coming across to vote in Bulgaria. His voters had been “totally repressed,” Mestan said, saying that his party could have won seats were it not for an “absolutely deliberately planned aggressive, not just campaign, but unconstitutional and illegal activities”.

Mestan called on prosecutors to carry out a full investigation.

Konstantin Prodanov, co-leader of the electoral coalition of socialist splinters ABC and Movement 21, said that his ABC party wanted the Prosecutor-General and the State Agency for National Security to investigate what he alleged to be the unconstitutional nature of DOST following “Turkey’s gross interference through it in Bulgaria’s internal affairs”.

Prodanov described his election coalition’s result, of 1.55 per cent of the vote, as “very disappointing”.

He said that his party had received reports from many places of vote-rigging. Prodanov predicted that a government formed after these elections would not last long.

In contrast to Prodanov and his disappointment, Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova – whose party came second with 27.2 per cent of the vote – said that in spite of having lost the election, this was the best result for the BSP since 2009.

Ninova reiterated for the latest day running that her party would turn down any invitation from Boiko Borissov’s GERB (which got the largest share of the vote, 32.65 per cent) to be part of a “grand coalition”.

“I am delighted with these results, even though I lost,” said Ninova, who insisted that she saw no reason to resign from the BSP leadership post to which she was elected in May 2016.

On March 28, Bozhidar Lukarski became the latest political leader to resign a party leadership.

Lukarski resigned as leader of the Union of Democratic Forces because of the weak performance of the Reformist Bloc, the coalition of which the UDF is part, and which failed to surpass the four per cent threshold to get into Parliament.

His resignation came after the Reformist Bloc’s political council resigned en masse. On Monday, Radan Kanev, leader of the New Republic coalition and the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria party, resigned from both posts. Kanev, formerly with the Reformist Bloc before breaking with Borissov’s coalition government over a lack of judicial reform, led the New Republic coalition to a 2.48 per cent result.

Former justice minister Hristo Ivanov, whose pro-judicial reform Yes Bulgaria coalition got 2.88 per cent, said that the election result was not realistic.

Bulgarians had voted not for Borissov, but against Ninova, Ivanov told a March 28 news conference.

Ivanov said that his party had achieved a good result, in spite of coming under attack in the media, and had a good future.

“We believe that this result is important. It is important in that it shows that what we started is vital, that it is acknowledged by the voters. The prospect is to become a viable alternative.”

Ivanov said that Yes Bulgaria had managed to go from zero to 100 000 votes in 10 weeks “without court registration, without a (state) subsidy, and placed under a sustained media attack”. No other political force had come under such fire, he said.

His party had taken votes from GERB and other political parties and people who had not voted before, he said. “By adding those from abroad, you see that Yes Bulgaria is the future of the Bulgarian political system. The key resource we did not have was time,” Ivanov said.

Borissov should not become Prime Minister, Ivanov said, because he had shown he could not conduct reforms and make changes. “Leave the normal people in GERB to carry out the change. Democracy must be revived. The people did not vote for Borissov, but against Ninova. That is not a real election.”




Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.