Bulgaria’s 2023 mayoral elections: Borissov effectively endorses socialist-backed Grigorova

GERB-UDF leader Boiko Borissov has declined to officially endorse either candidate in the Sofia mayoral election run-off on November 5, though in effect he expressed backing for Vanya Grigorova, who is the nominee of a local coalition of socialist, communist and Russophile parties.

Sunday’s run-off vote is between We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria-Spasi Sofia’s Vassil Terziev, who got 31.8 per cent in the first round on October 29, and Grigorova, who got 21.59 per cent, according to official Central Election Commission (CEC) results after all tally sheets were processed.

Borissov told reporters: “As (failed GERB Sofia mayoral candidate Anton) Hekimyan said, state ownership is better than state security”.

This was a clear reference to Grigorova’s socialist stance and Terziev’s family members who worked for communist-era secret service State Security.

Borissov’s October 31 statement runs counter to what he said weeks ago, that if there was no GERB candidate in a second-round mayoral contest, he would call on GERB supporters to back the candidate of WCC-DB. GERB and WCC-DB are part of the mutually antagonistic “non-coalition” that voted Bulgaria’s current government into office in June 2023.

While GERB is a member of the centre-right European People’s Party at EU level and WCC-DB has a mixture of centrist and moderate left policies, Grigorova, a trade union employee, is backed by a local coalition that includes the Bulgarian Socialist Party and minor extra-parliamentary parties including the Bulgarian Communist Party, Party of Bulgarian Communists, Russophiles for the Revival of the Fatherland, The Left, pro-Russian party Ataka and the Alternative for Citizens. After the October 29 vote, the BSP said that Grigorova now also had the backing of ITN, a populist party that is the smallest group in the National Assembly.

Borissov complained that in the past three years, outgoing Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova (GERB) and the party had been under attack from the formations backing Terziev.

“The best way to get Sofia back is by losing it. We will save it from the saviours. I know these people, they are lazy, they can’t work,” Borissov said of WCC-DB.

He criticised the reporters, saying that they had not asked WCC-DB if they would support GERB in other mayoral run-offs in Bulgaria.

Borissov said that GERB voters should vote “according to their conscience”, because there is no decision about GERB and WCC-DB supporting each other in elections.

He said that it was too late for negotiations between the two formations.

He described the “low voter turnout” as a punishment for the entire political class.

“Such a low voter turnout and so few voted. Let each of us, and the analysts, draw a conclusion as to why we are going down like this,” Borissov said.

But while Borissov referred to “such a low voter turnout” on October 29, voter turnout – according to official CEC figures – was the highest in any election in Bulgaria since April 2021.

Voter turnout on October 29, according to the CEC, was 44.94 per cent. In Bulgaria’s municipal elections in 2019, it was 42.1 per cent and in the municipal elections in 2015, it was 40.83 per cent.

In Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections in April 2021, voter turnout was 50.61 per cent, dropping to 42.19 per cent in July 2021’s parliamentary elections, 40.23 per cent in the November 2021 parliamentary elections, 39.41 per cent in October 22 parliamentary elections, with a very slight rise in the April 2023 parliamentary elections, to 40.69 per cent – still below the turnout last Sunday. The lowest voter turnout in recent years was in the second round of presidential elections in November 2021, all of 34.84 per cent.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s voters were awaiting the consequences of the Supreme Administrative Court ruling that opened the way for the use of voting machines on November 5, in contrast to the CEC’s controversial ban on their use this past Sunday.

CEC head Kamelia Neikova called on the e-government ministry to carry out the certification process so that voting machines could be used this coming Sunday.

News agency BTA quoted the ministry as saying on October 31 that it was opening a new certification procedure and that its teams would be working extra hours to make sure it was completed on time.

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