Bulgaria’s 2019 local elections: Ombudsman resigns, to stand as Sofia mayoral candidate

Written by on September 3, 2019 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria’s 2019 local elections: Ombudsman resigns, to stand as Sofia mayoral candidate

Maya Manolova arrived at Bulgaria’s National Assembly on the afternoon of September 3 to submit her resignation as national Ombudsman, opening the way for her candidacy for mayor of Sofia in the country’s autumn 2019 local elections.

Manolova confirmed her long-expected candidacy on September 2, and said that she would resign, rather than take leave of absence, from the post of Ombudsman for the Sofia mayoral race.

The race is expected to come down to a contest between her and Yordanka Fandukova, a deputy leader of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party and who is in her third term as mayor of Sofia.

Kaloyan Pargov, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) in Sofia, said that the party would officially announce on September 11 whether it would endorse Manolova.

Manolova was a BSP MP from 2005 to 2015 and the National Assembly’s Deputy Speaker in 2013/14, at the time of the “Oresharski” administration.

She became Ombudsman with the backing of Borissov’s GERB, a fact he referred to in comments on her candidacy on September 3.

Fandukova, who the day before had confirmed her own candidacy, said on September 3 that she saw Manolova as a serious candidate, but not one that scared her.

Manolova’s candidacy will be submitted in the name of an “initiative committee”, according to a September 2 media statement, and there would be “building of citizens’ initiatives throughout the country under the heading ‘Change for Sofia and Bulgaria’.”

The statement said that Manolova would be the “flagship of a nationwide movement and support for independent mayoral and municipal council candidates across the country”.

In her letter of resignation, addressed to National Assembly Speaker Tsveta Karayancheva, Manolova set out six motives for quitting the post of Ombudsman.

Manolova said that the legislature had “systematically neglected” the work of the Ombudsman by deliberately delaying or suspending legislative proposals she had submitted.

These included a bill amending the Civil Procedure Code to limit the “super-privileges” of banks and monopolies, a recommendation to cut the statutory interest rate, amendments to the Labour Code and to the law on insolvency of natural persons, among several others.

Manolova said that there was a lack of political will in Parliament and the state institutions to amend laws and regulations to serve justice.

She accused Sofia municipal councillors of ignoring the problems of city residents, listing several grievances including increases in the prices of urban transport tickets, lack of parking spaces, a lack of municipal housing and inaction in the face of residents’ discontent about overbuilding.

Manolova, who said that over the past four years she had received more than 5000 complaints about violations of human rights, more than 4000 involving property rights and more than 3300 about enforcement proceedings, said promised reforms had not happened, leading to injustice.

There was a retreat from established civil rights and democratic practices, such as the limitation on voting rights of Bulgarians abroad, and the abolition of machine and electronic voting. The Ombudsman’s proposals for electoral reform had been rejected, and recommendations to the Central Election Commission ignored, she said.

The institutions responsible had neglected the fair demands of professional and other communities, such as medical professionals who wanted decent pay and working conditions, citizens who protested against redevelopment and destruction of sand dunes, discontent about poor road infrastructure and people’s requests for quality services, drinking water and fresh air, as well as what she called the inadequate response to African Swine Fever.

“Objecting to the above practices, with the clear awareness that they damage the confidence of citizens in institutions, contradict my understanding of community service and violate the rights and freedoms of my compatriots, I find it objectively impossible to continue to exercise my Ombudsman’s powers effectively,” Manolova said.

Bulgaria is holding regular local elections on October 27 2019. Where results are not decisive at the first round, a second round will be held on November 3.

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