The parties in Bulgaria’s ruling coalition have shed some support, according to an Alpha Research three-monthly poll conducted in September 2018, but so has the largest opposition party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, the majority partner in government, had 22.2 per cent support in September, down from 24.5 per cent in June 2018.
The minority partner, the United Patriots, dropped over those three months from five per cent to 4.7 per cent.
Kornelia Ninova’s Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) recorded a further consecutive loss of support. In March 2018, it had 20.5 per cent, dropping to 20.1 per in June and to 19.7 per cent in September.
The sole party to make a notable gain was the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), rising from 4.9 per cent in June to 6.6 per cent in September. Were parliamentary elections to be held now, the MRF would move up from being the National Assembly’s fourth-largest to third-largest group, the place it previously held in a succession of parliaments.
The smallest party in the current Parliament, Vesselin Mareshki’s populist Volya, dropped from 2.2 to two per cent, again below the four per cent threshold to get seats in the legislature.
The Democratic Bulgaria coalition, formed in April largely around minority parties in which reformist and former justice minister Hristo Ivanov is a prominent leader, rose from 2.2 per cent to 2.9 per cent.
According to Alpha Research, the poll, done between September 23 and 30, showed that government had shed the increased confidence that Bulgaria’s holding of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU had brought it in the first half of 2018.
The ruling coalition also was damaged by inter-party confrontations among the United Patriots, as well as a series of problems in the summer, such as animal sicknesses, the prolonged collapse of the Trade Register, and especially the Svoge bus crash. The release of the poll on October 8 coincided with an announcement that the death toll in the crash was now 20, with the latest victim to succumb after an initial death toll of 17 on August 20.
These factors had increased public criticism of how those in power were coping with their duties, the poll found.
But the BSP was holding only to support among its traditional voters, without others outside this group seeing Ninova’s party as a viable alternative to govern.
Prime Minister Borissov’s personal approval rating was at 33 per cent, after 37 per cent in June. The September figure was the same that it had been in March.
The most popular member of Borissov’s Cabinet was again Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev. Now in second place was Sports Minister Krassen Kralev, apparently boosted by Bulgarian successes in various sports world championships. Again in third place in popularity was Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, followed by EU Presidency minister Lilyana Pavlova, Culture Minister Boil Banov and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov.
The three new ministers elected in September – of the interior, regional development and transport – were not included in the poll because it was too early to sound out public opinion of them, the agency said.
According to Alpha Research, the events that most significantly influenced public opinion in the three months between June and September were the road accidents and the Svoge crash (51 per cent), gas price increases (36 per cent), the Bulgarian authorities’ responses to the animal sicknesses (32 per cent), the tensions between the governing coalition and President Roumen Radev (31 per cent), the September changes to the Cabinet (28 per cent) and the clashes among the co-leaders of the United Patriots (25 per cent).
Two-thirds of those polled saw the clashes in the ruling coalition as having worsened.
Radev’s approval rating also was negatively affected by the public clashes between him and the ruling majority. It dropped from 54 per cent in June to 52 per cent in September.
Two-thirds saw these clashes as being the fault of the government, while the rest blamed Radev.
The Bulgarian Parliament’s approval rating dropped from 14 per cent in June to 12 per cent in September. Speaker Tsveta Karayancheva’s approval rating was 20 per cent.
In a trend that has continued for years, views of the institutions responsible for security, internal order and justice were critical
The Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office had an approval rating of just nine per cent, though the courts’ approval ratings went up, from eight to 14 per cent.