Bulgaria’s second-round mayoral elections: Wins and reverses for ruling party – exit polls
Exit polls immediately after voting ended on November 3 in second-round mayoral elections in many parts of Bulgaria showed Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party as having won decisive victories in capital city Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna, among several other cities, but having been dealt reverses in places it had previously won.
In Sofia, incumbent mayor Yordanka Fandukova, a deputy leader of GERB, saw off her socialist-backed rival Maya Manolova to win a fourth term in office. Fandukova defeated Manolova by 13 points, similar to the gap between them at the first round, when there was a field of 20 candidates. Alpha Research showed Fandukova at 53.5 per cent and Manolova at 40.6 per cent, with 5.9 per cent voting “I don’t support anyone”.
The bitter final days of campaigning in Sofia saw Manolova level allegations that victory for Fandukova was being purchased through vote-buying. At the first round, Manolova’s distance behind Fandukova was in contrast to earlier opinion poll predictions of a neck-and-neck race.
In Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv, GERB mayoral candidate Zdravko Dimitrov thoroughly trounced Slavcho Atanassov, who stood on a ticket backed by a local electoral coalition of the ultra-nationalist VMRO and NFSB parties. Alpha Research said that Dimitrov had 55.4 per cent against Atanassov’s 39.1 per cent.
In the country’s largest Black Sea city Varna, GERB candidate and incumbent mayor Ivan Portnih comfortably won a further term, defeating the ultra-nationalist Vuzhrazhdane party’s Kostadin Kostadinov. Unlike 2015, Portnih had not achieved a first-round victory on October 27, though he came close. At 8pm on November 3, Alpha Research said that Portnih had 60.3 per cent and Kostadinov 36.1 per cent.
But in Rousse on the Danube, GERB was handed a sound defeat by the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s Pencho Milkov, who routed the nominee of Borissov’s party, Diana Ivanova. It was a significant reverse compared with four years earlier, when the GERB mayoral candidate of the time, Plamen Stoilov, won victory at the first round. As voting ended on November 3, Alpha Research said that the BSP’s Milkov had 55.7 per cent and Ivanova 36.8 per cent.
With a first-round victory in Bourgas on October 27, GERB has won the 2019 mayoral elections in four out of five of Bulgaria’s largest cities – one fewer than in 2015.
In Blagoevgrad, GERB’s Atanas Kambitov got 42.66 per cent, losing to BSP-backed Roumen Tomov, who had 50.33 per cent, according to Alpha Research. Kambitov had won in 2015.
With final figures pending, late afternoon data from the Central Election Commission showed voter turnout in the mayoral elections across Bulgaria notably lower than at the October 27 first round of local elections. Factors likely contributing to lower turnout included a reluctance by several parties that lost out at the first round to endorse second-round competitors, poorer weather in comparison with a week earlier, as well an overall lack of lustre in the past month of campaigning.
While voter turnout at 5.30pm nationally was 35.8 per cent, down from 42.85 per cent a week earlier at the same time, Sofia was an exception. Voter turnout at that time was estimated in Bulgaria’s capital city at 33.33 per cent, slightly up from 32.22 per cent on October 27.
November 3 also saw a significant number of allegations about vote-buying and other violations of electoral law. The Prosecutor’s Office said that by 1pm, 100 investigations into crimes against citizens’ political rights, as well as into other election-related crimes, had been launched. Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov told reporters that the week between the two rounds of voting had seen a jump in allegations of vote-buying.
By that point, 25 people had been indicted. The largest number of investigations, nine, were being conducted at the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office, eight in Pleven, five in Varna and the rest in Oryahovo, Dupnitsa and Byala Slatina.
The November 3 elections were for mayors in 105 municipalities – including 18 “regional centres”, meaning capital cities of districts – 441 mayoralties and 31 districts. In the other nine regional centres, mayors were elected at the first round on October 27.