Bulgaria’s 2019 local elections: The votes for No One (or, Dr Fell)

The second round of Bulgaria’s mayoral elections is over, and thus, all of the mayoral elections.

In those places where the elections went to a second round, voters had a choice between the two candidates who had the largest shares of votes at the first round. They also had a choice of ticking the box: “I don’t support anyone”.

Second-round elections were held in 18 major cities in Bulgaria on November 3. The weather was considerably chillier than it had been at the first round, the previous Sunday. Yet, in those cities, called once more to the ballot boxes, there were those who braved the chill to inscribe their ballots with the message that read: “A plague on both your houses”. In fact, by official dint of Bulgaria’s statute, it actually said: “I don’t support anyone”.

In the words attributed to Tom Brown (he other than he of the Schooldays), in the year 1680:

I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why – I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

In the city of Sofia, where I live, those confronted with a choice of two who chose neither emerged highest, of all such “I don’t support anyone” ticked boxes in the run-off contests in Bulgaria.

Presented with the option of granting Yordanka Fandukova (GERB) a fourth term in office, or conferring on socialist-backed challenger Maya Manolova the chance to plop into the mayor’s chair, all of 20 493 of the electorate ticked “I don’t support anyone”. That, in the calculations of the Central Election Commission, represented 4.89 per cent of those who voted.

In the city of Plovdiv, my beloved city where I maintain a desk and a fervent aspiration to reside, they gazed at the menu choices and scorned both presented to them. The choices were GERB’s Zdravko Dimitrov and his ultra-nationalist rival Slavcho Atanassov. All of 3747 Plovdivchani wrapped up warmly this past Sunday, and ventured to the ballot boxes, to inscribe “I don’t support anyone”. That’s 4.58 per cent, don’t you know.

At the extremely other end of the scale, in Stara Zagora one person chose “I don’t support anyone”. Similarly replete with distaste for the choice was the single voter in Haskovo who did the same. In neither case was turnout high. In voting as she or he did, the Dissident of Stara Zagora represented 0.24 per cent of the vote; the One-Person Awkward Squad of Haskovo accounted for 0.36 per cent of those who voted.

I may go on, and if you permit me, I shall: those who voted “I don’t support anyone” were: Blagoevrad 2.41 per cent, Varna 3.22 per cent, Vidin 2.24 per cent, Vratsa 1.28 per cent (all right, it was five people), Dobrich 1.49 per cent, Kyustendil 0.98 per cent (25 people), Lovech 5.1 per cent (don’t get too excited, that was 883 people), Pazardzhik 2.84 per cent, Pernik 2.05 per cent, Razgrad 3.2 per cent, Rousse 2.85 per cent (1456 people, the city on the Danube is quite a big town).

In Silistra, it was 2.25 per cent (369 voters), in Sliven 2.55 per cent (831), in Smolyan 2.75 per cent (441), Turgovishte 1.32 per cent (316) and in Yambol, 2.81 per cent (577 people).

Let us dwell on Shoumen. According to the Central Election Commission, GERB’s Lyubomir Hristov got 48.57 per cent of the vote – 12 538 people. Hristov’s rival from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Ventsilav Venkov, 48.27 per cent – 12 461 people.

To save you the arithmetic, that is a difference of 77 voters. I shave with less precision, or, if you prefer, more clumsiness.

In Shoumen this past Sunday, 3.15 per cent trudged to the ballot boxes to say “I don’t support anyone”. That is, according to the CEC, 814 people, who looked on the wagon of Hristov, and looked on the wagon of Venkov, and disdained hitching their stars to either.

I do not know, at this hour, whether Venkov is screaming, as well he might, “Recount!”

But I know that in Shoumen, and not only Shoumen, may resonate the rhyme, the one from the 17th Century:

But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.



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.