Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has called for maximum mobilisation of his centre-right GERB party ahead of the country’s European Parliament and municipal elections in 2019, while sharply criticising party activists for a lack of engagement with ordinary people and passivity in the face of opposition criticism.
Ahead of Bulgaria’s May 26 European Parliament elections and the mayoral and municipal elections in the autumn, GERB held a pre-election meeting in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia on January 20.
More than 2000 people were in attendance, including GERB Cabinet ministers, MPs, national and municipal leaders, heads of local structures, and European Commissioner Maria Gabriel.
In a 40-minute address, Borissov acknowledged that support for his party was diminishing.
The more reliable opinion polls in Bulgaria have shown the approval ratings of Borissov and his government falling, and in the European Parliament elections, a likely close race between GERB and the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party.
Borissov said that the electorate had quickly forgotten what his party had achieved “because we did it quickly. They quickly forgot about it”.
“I ask myself – why we are the first political force, but also why our support is diminishing. Yes, we are wearing out. But from the first government, only I and Tomislav Donchev are still in government. Every day there is talk about corruption. Why? If you do not take steps and clean house locally, sooner or later it will be fatal – whether about sudjuk or something else, it will be fatal.”
Borissov was referring to a former GERB figure who is alleged to have sought to trade influence in return for a large quantity of sudjuk, a form of dried meat.
“We have to be very careful whether we have not become something that we are accused of, and if we have not, let us not let that happen. Everyone has to consider – why did they elect us 10 years ago, why they re-elected us every time. Everyone has to think about where there are mistakes, including me. At the moment, the most corrupt people are talking about corruption,” Borissov said.
Tsvetan Tsvetanov, deputy leader of the party and GERB’s parliamentary group leader, said that the European Parliament elections would be a test for the governance of GERB.
He said that for the party, “this year there is no summer” because everyone would have to work solely for GERB to win first place.
Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova, another of the party’s deputy leaders, said that GERB’s biggest opponent would be “fake news”.
This was placed not only by anonymous trolls, but also commented on representatives and even by political leaders, “which shows frustration and lack of activity,” Fandukova said.
GERB is to determine its criteria for its candidate MEPs, who are to be nominated by February 20.
The party also is to conduct a “citizens dialogue” on key sectoral policies throughout the country. The theme of this dialogue is “Europe in our home” and it will be carried out between February and April.
GERB has already held its first sessions at its electoral headquarters, which again is headed by Tsvetanov.
Some of the tasks assigned to the local GERB structures during the January 20 meeting include a review of the active members of the party, training of people to enter the district and section electoral commissions, and the popularisation at local level of GERB’s achievements.