The approval rating of Bulgarian President Roumen Radev has seen an unprecedented fall while that of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has climbed, so that they are now on a near-equal footing, according to the results of an Alpha Research poll released on May 11.
The poll was done between April 28 and May 5 among 1000 adult Bulgarians via telephone interviews.
In December 2019, Radev had an approval rating of 48 per cent, which has fallen to 40 per cent, while disapproval has climbed from 15 per cent to 25 per cent.
Borissov’s approval rating in December was 30 per cent and is now 40 per cent. Disapproval of Borissov has decreased from 39 per cent to a current 31 per cent.
Alpha Research noted that this was an unprecedented decline in approval for Radev since his term in office began in January 2017.
The agency said that the parity between Radev and Borissov “creates a radically different dynamic and intrigue before the upcoming presidential elections in the autumn of next year, for which Radev has been the strongest candidate so far.”
The change in ratings, in the context of the coronavirus crisis, could have a significant impact on the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2021 “as the opposition will not be able to rely so heavily on the strength of one of its few spokespeople with the ability to influence public opinion”.
Radev, elected on a ticket backed by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, frequently criticises Borissov’s government. At the start of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria, Borissov and Radev had a brief truce, broken when Radev returned to publicly criticising the government.
Alpha Research said that the last time that Borissov had a positive rating, with a minimal preponderance of approval over disapproval – 37 per cent to 35 per cent, respectively – was in June 2018, at the close of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
The poll found that 40 per cent believed that Bulgaria was doing better than most European countries in the fight against Covid-19, 38 per cent believed that in some areas it was doing better and in others worse, while only 14 per cent believed that the country was doing worse in every respect.
“This assessment logically improves the position of the executive branch, which has taken responsibility for the measures it used to counter the crisis, and, conversely, worsens those of the president, who was one of the main opponents and critics of the strategy,” Alpha Research said.
Thirty-four per cent approved of Borissov’s position on the measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in the initial acute phase of the crisis, while 27 per cent approved of Radev’s position.
Twenty-eight per cent approved of Borissov’s position on the speed and approach to economic recovery, against 24 per cent who supported Radev.
Sixty per cent approved of the head of the operational headquarters, Major-General Ventislav Mutafchiyski, 25 per cent were undecided and 15 per cent had a negative view.
Alpha Research said that its poll found strong support both for the measures taken during this period and for the way in which the public benefited from them.
Seventy per cent approved of the quarantine measures, feeling more secure because of them.
Sixty per cent approved of the measures in education, and especially the timely introduction of distance learning for their children.
Fifty-two per cent supported the social assistance measures for the most vulnerable and at-risk groups, Alpha Research said.
“If we look at current expectations, we will also see that although tired or nervous about the restrictions, people are still dominated by fears and caution – preferring a slower and gradual return to normalcy.”
Twenty-seven per cent favoured proceeding slowly, even at risk to the economy, 40 per cent favoured proceeding through a number of phases towards restoring the economy and normal life, 28 per cent favoured proceeding as fast as possible in the belief that Bulgaria had not been seriously affected, while the financial situation was worsening, while five per cent were undecided.
The agency said that Borissov had managed to reconcile both of the main public moods, the fear of the risk to personal and family life and health, and impatience to emerge from social isolation.
Radev had taken a more ideological stance “in defence of the citizen and the economy”. However, his main voters are people of higher age groups who are more concerned about their own health – “which led to a drop in his support,” Alpha Research said.
BSP leader Kornelia Ninova lost six points, with her approval rating dropping to 15 per cent.
Alpha Research noted that this was comparable to the approval rating of former BSP leader Mihail Mikov in 2015/2016 before he resigned to be replaced by Ninova.
As to the BSP itself, the party lost about a third of its potential voters, falling from 21.5 per cent in December to 12.2 per cent in May.
Borissov’s centre-right GERB party saw a slight drop, from 21.7 per cent to 20.8 per cent, but the erosion of support for the BSP meant that it now had close to double an electoral lead over that party.
Television showman Slavi Trifonov’s hypothetical political party was in third place, dropping very slightly from 9.4 per cent in December to 9.1 per cent in May.
Alpha Research found no significant change in support for other political parties. Almost all of them lost slightly because of the crisis, including the minority coalition partner the United Patriots, which remained in the shadow of majority partner GERB.
In May, support for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms was 6.4 per cent, down from 7.8 per cent in December, for the VMRO-NFSB 3.9 per cent, down from 5.3 per cent, for Democratic Bulgaria 3.7 per cent, down from 5.1 per cent, for Volya one per cent, down from 1.5 per cent and for Volen Siderov’s Ataka 0.9 per cent, down from 1.4 per cent, Alpha Research said.
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Section supported by the Embassy of Switzerland