Bulgaria’s 2019 European Parliament elections: Parties cagey on results

It may be said that in Bulgaria and its political culture, everyone always wants the last word. After exit poll results were announced in the May 26 European Parliament elections, few were keen to have the first.

In short, the tradition of the marathon of election night and the verbiage of political parties commenting on the results, well into the wee hours, looked likely to turn into an early rising to hear whatever spin they had cooked up overnight.

Even Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB, the centre-right party shown by an Alpha Research exit poll to have won a nine-and-a-half percentage point lead over its rival Bulgarian Socialist Party, sent out only its lead candidate, Mariya Gabriel, as the evening skies darkened.

Gabriel, current holder of the European Commission portfolio on digital society, had little more than blatherings, about thanking those who had voted, and saying that fake news had not triumphed.

She projected that party leader Borissov would pronounce his verdict on the outcome not even on Monday, but on Tuesday.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party of Kornelia Ninova was not affording the spectacle of the leader who had led it to defeat.

Instead, on election night, all that was available to speak in passive-aggressive mode in front of the microphones was Georgi Svilenski (who he? – Ed.) the head of the BSP national election commission.

“The results of the exit polls are very different,” said Svilenski. “We will not comment on the results until the parallel count is completed. We will do our own parallel count,” he said.

Svilenski bemoaned the low turnout. “That’s what bothers us, because we expected Bulgarian citizens to be active today,” he said.

He said that on May 27, there would be a meeting of the BSP executive bureau, after which there would be a news conference to comment on “all preliminary results”.

Mustafa Karadayi, leader of the third-ranked Movement for Rights and Freedoms, congratulated “all pro-European Bulgarian citizens and especially those who participated in the elections”.

Karadayi referred to the fact that Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections were held on the third and final day of a three-day long weekend. “Today it was said that some Bulgarian citizens were on holiday, yes, maybe from the bigger cities and where there are conditions for a better life, they were on holiday. But what we saw in the election campaign is that Bulgarian citizens from small settlements and small towns were in Europe, not on holiday”.

The leader of the fourth-ranked VMRO, which by exit polls should win one seat, Krassimir Karakachanov, was willing to hold forth at length to television reporters on the perfidy of his ultra-nationalist allies, Ataka and the National Movement for the Salvation of Bulgaria, who stood separately in Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections.

Karakachanov complained at length to the microphones and chill blue eyes of the TV cameras about how his ultra-nationalist “allies” had dedicated their campaigns to insults and “lies” about him.

If exit polls are confirmed, the reformist Democratic Bulgaria will win one of Bulgaria’s 17 European Parliament seats.

Democratic Bulgaria, like the big players, was being cautious about its pronouncements, waiting for firmer results. But its list leader (lest he be deposed by preferential voting) Radan Kanev was available for the cameras for several television stations.

Kanev said that the low turnout in Bulgaria’s May 2019 European Parliament elections showed the public distrust in Bulgarian politics and Bulgarian institutions. But fuller comment should await official results, he said.

He saw, at least, in the European Parliament elections across the continent,”a heavy loss for the extreme nationalists, especially those who are directly rewarded by the Kremlin”.

Thirteen political parties, eight coalitions and six independent candidates stood in Bulgaria’s May 26 2019 European Parliament elections. Going by the exit polls by Alpha Research, five have won seats – GERB, the BSP, the MRF, VMRO and the Democratic Bulgaria coalition.

If official results confirm these projections, GERB will have won seven seats, the BSP five, the MRF three, VMRO one and Democratic Bulgaria one. In 2014, GERB won six seats, the BSP four and the MRF four.

But those elections, five years ago, were held under different domestic political circumstances. It is no wonder that the major political players are cagey, circumspect of conclusions, mindful of the needfulness for the precision of spin, before offering their final takes on the outcome of Bulgaria’s May 2019 vote.



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.