Bulgaria’s 2019 local elections: The battle for Varna

There are 11 candidates seeking election as mayor of Bulgaria’s largest Black Sea city Varna in the autumn 2019 local elections, including Ivan Portnih, who is seeking a third consecutive term in office.

Portnih is the candidate of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party. At the previous mayoral elections, in 2015, he won a first-round victory with 62 per cent of the vote.

Among rivals from the more significant political parties, he is being faced by Anelia Klisarova, the nominee of the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Klisarova was Education Minister in the ill-fated “Oresharski” administration of 2013/14. She was a mayoral candidate in 2015, nominally put forward by an initiative committee but seen at the time as really the BSP’s candidate.

This time around, she is officially the BSP’s candidate, but there has been dissension in the party about its mayoral candidate. Reports from Varna said that local socialists had wanted to back the leader of the Vuzrazhdane party, Kostadin Kostadinov.

Kostadinov was a Varna mayoral candidate in 2015, on a ticket backed by Vuzrazhdane and ultra-nationalist Ataka, and before that was a mayoral candidate for Valeri Simeonov’s National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria.

Portnih is standing on his record, including a recent decision to cut prices of student and senior citizens cards for public transport by 25 per cent, the recent extension of Vassil Levski Boulevard – an important thoroughfare in Varna – even though the road was not without its troubles, including defects and a landslide.

Among other parties with national representation, the nationalist VMRO has nominated surgeon Dr Nikolia Evtimov and NFSB the (the latter’s stronghold is in the other Black Sea city, Bourgas, not Varna) business person Dimitar Karbov, who also was a candidate in 2015, garnering a mere handful of votes.

In Varna, the real question on October 27 will be whether Portnih will win a first-round victory, or whether a second round the following Sunday, November 3, will be necessary.

(Photo of Varna, including the city’s municipal headquarters: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)


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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.