Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party has a lead of about three and a half percentage points over Kornelia Ninova’s opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, according to the results of a poll by Alpha Research, released on December 16.
GERB rates about 21.7 per cent support, against 18.2 per cent for the BSP, according to Alpha Research.
Individually, Borissov, at 29.6 per cent, continues to have a significantly higher approval rating than Ninova, at 20.8 per cent.
The Alpha Research poll found that the putative party of former TV showman Slavi Trifonov – a party that has failed so far to get court approval for registration because it submitted a logo that illegally contained a state symbol, against Bulgarian law – had potential support of 8.6 per cent of voters.
Were an election to be held now – improbable in current political circumstances – Trifonov’s party would vie with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms for third place in the National Assembly. The MRF was at 7.8 per cent support among voters polled, Alpha Research said.
The polling agency said that at this stage, it was difficult to say whether the sympathies for a Trifonov party would turn into actual support, especially because the profile of supporters remained too vague.
For the moment, this profile was of voters who were easily quickly mobilised but also equally quickly demobilised – the younger-than-30 electorate, disillusioned and frustrated people from the smaller settlements in Bulgaria.
Alpha Research noted that the erosion of support for ultra-nationalist parties in Bulgaria had continued throughout 2019.
The VMRO-National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria tandem – the rump of the United Patriots – had 5.3 per cent support, while Volen Siderov’s Ataka had 1.4 per cent.
The leaders of the three parties each had shed support. The approval rating of VMRO leader and Deputy Prime Minister Krassimir Karakachanov had dropped, in the past year, from 22.5 per cent to 18.9 per cent. That for NFSB leader Valeri Simeonov was at 9.1 per cent, and for Ataka leader Volen Siderov, at 6.4 per cent.
Support for the reformist Democratic Bulgaria was at 5.1 per cent, after the coalition did relatively well in European Parliament elections in May and the municipal elections in the autumn. However, the lack of a Democratic Bulgaria presence outside capital city Sofia continued to be a challenge, Alpha Research said.
Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev (index of 25.8), Sports Minister Krassen Kralev (index 10.1), Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva (index 7.9), Education Minister Krassimir Vulchev (index 6.3) are once again the most approved members of the Borissov Cabinet.
For the first time in years, a positive trend is present in opinions about the Interior Minister; Mladen Marinov has reached an index of 4.8, and the police, with 29 per cent approval, are one of the few institutions with a positive trend in 2019.
Winning the unpopularity stakes are Justice Minister Danail Kirilov, Health Minister Kiril Ananiev and Mariana Nikolova, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic and Demographic Policy.
Social policy, health care and justice are the areas traditionally criticised in Bulgaria, Alpha Research said.
It said that the recurring and worsening problems that generate both dissatisfaction among the workers and dissatisfaction among the citizens show that doing nothing more than throwing money at these areas is not able to solve them.
Apart from the decrease in approval for Karakachanov, other ministers to have attracted more negative ratings are Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov and Environment Minister Neno Dimov.
Going by the Alpha Research poll, the least favourite institution among Bulgarians is Parliament. It had a 10 per cent approval rating and a disapproval rating of 51 per cent.
However, for the first time in 11 years, the judiciary had improved its approval rating – from the “usual” 11 per cent to 19 per cent.
Sotir Tsatsarov, no longer Prosecutor-General as at December 16 (his departure, approved by the Supreme Judicial Council, so that he may be the new head of the anti-corruption commission, has been approved by presidential decree), had stayed at the level of his ratings of the past 12 months: 12 per cent approval and 45 per cent disapproval.
As 2019 heads to a close, the Alpha Research poll found the government with some negatives, where problems had been piling up in Bulgaria for years – damage to its image, and sharp discontent about proposals regarding the social security system and health care, affecting broad groups in society.
But the opposition was not placed to make much of this, lacking strong leadership, convincing solutions regarding the most problematic areas, and the disconnect between what the opposition says and what it does.
Against this background, President Roumen Radev (elected head of state on a ticket backed by the opposition BSP) remains the strongest political figure outside the government.
However, for the second time, after his disagreement with the purchase of F-16 aircraft at the end of 2018, his personal rating dropped below 50 per cent (48 per cent approval versus 15 per cent disapproval).
Alpha Research said that there were two main reasons that could be behind the shedding of support for Radev. First, the lack of a clear and leading position in foreign policy, where Bulgaria’s President generally has a strong role, and second, the escalation of his confrontations with the government, a syndrome which in general the Bulgarian public did not like.
As to the government, after months after rising disapproval, it is regaining position as 2019 heads to its end. The year opened with the government at 13 per cent approval; it is closing with this having risen to 19 per cent. At the same time, the disapproval rating of the government receded from 51 per cent to 41 per cent.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s approval rating is 30 per cent, against 39 per cent disapproval, Alpha Research said.
The polling agency found that the positive trend of the past five years among Bulgarians as to how they see the quality of their lives improving had continued.
Thirty-three per cent of Bulgarians saw 2019 as having been better for them than 2018; 14 per cent saw it as worse. Note, however, that a year ago, the former figure was 35 per cent; the latter, 19 per cent.
Alpha Research added that the percentage of Bulgarians who saw no change in their lives or opportunities – 53 per cent – remained a significant factor.
At the moment, however, the analysis shows that optimism is declining mainly among the higher status groups, and pessimism, among the lower status groups.
“In short, the richer and younger feel less fortunate. The older and poorer – less miserable,” the polling agency said.