like in the case of Hungary, Bulgarian parties are trying to convince citizens
to vote for the party itself, not for a specific candidate. Although the voting system in Bulgaria allows
voters to express their preference for a candidate from a chosen list, parties
are not eager to let voters have the chance to reorder their pre-set list of
candidates.There is a chance for preferential voting to be dismissed as
cumbersome and unnecessary, in case few people exercised their right to
such an option at the upcoming elections (preferential voting is optional – one
can also only vote for a party/coalition/independent candidate). Parties
prefer this option and, therefore, focusing on party votes without shedding
light on preferential voting.
Politics in Bulgaria can
surely be described as "interesting", and existing relations between the
different actors are sometimes, to say the least, "very strange". Here is a brief
overview on the political situation and main actors in Bulgaria in the
last 15 years and a timeline of the ruling parties/coalitions in the period
2001-2014 needed for a better understanding of the current elections
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha - Bulgaria’s
former king - became the only monarch in history to have won general elections
in 2001 and therefore he remained Prime minister until 2005. As Simeon's party
ranked second in the 2005 elections, he joined a coalition government with DPS
(Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the ethnic Turkish party) and led by BSP
(Bulgarian Socialist Party, left-centrist, at the moment part of the ruling
coalition). In 2009 GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria,
centre-right, the abbreviation meaning “coat of arms”) won the elections and
its leader, Boyko Borisov, became the 50th Prime minister of
Bulgaria. He previously held the position of mayor of Sofia
and was the bodyguard of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Todor Jivkov’s (the
leader of communist Bulgaria).
GERB could not finish his mandate at the beginning of 2013 due to wide-spread
protests over government austerity measures. In the following early elections
GERB was re-elected but refused the mandate as it could not form a coalition,
while BSP and DPS managed to do so and a cabinet was appointed. Shortly after
the left-wing coalition stepped in power, parliament appointed Delyan Peevski,
a controversial MP, as head of the Bulgarian Security Agency DANS. This fact led
to large scale protests still ongoing to
the present date. It has become somewhat a tradition to expect newcomers on the
political stage around voting time in Bulgaria. It is therefore, worth
mentioning this year’s elections’ “newbies”: Nikolai Barekov’s “Bulgaria without
Censorship” (BBT) party. Barekov is a former TV host and an executive director
of TV7 television channel.
unstable political situation in the country, it is obvious even from the parties
campaign posters, that the EP elections will only be the milestone for possible
early domestic elections this year. Most of the billboards/flyers don’t mention
the EP elections or any elections, as a matter of fact. They only state the
candidate’s number in the electoral bulletin and usually the slogan of the
party. The parties, coalitions and non-affiliated candidates will compete for
17 seats at the European parliament.
overall promotion of European elections, EP information office’s campaign has
been very well represented in Sofia
in particular. EP’s office has organized a number of promotional events –
setting up information pavilions, press conference for presenting the EUVOX 2014 project and, of course, social
campaign advertising on TV is taking place and there is a section about EP
elections in every major online media in the country.
examined the billboards and posters that were hanging on the walls in Sofia. Interestingly
enough, there haven’t been any billboards of the two major parties – BSP and the
opposition GERB. Billboards of other parties/candidates also proved hard to be
found. On the other hand, parties are using various grassroot methods – from
concerts and other types of events to give out flyers in the street.
A poster of the
“ABC” movement. The leader of the party is Georgi Parvanov, former Bulgarian
president and member of BSP and the leader of the list - Ivaylo Kalfin – EP
member, former deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister. The creation
of the political movement meant a division of the Bulgarian left with Sergei
Stanishev (BSP and PES leader) blaming Kalfin for treachery as the latter was foreign
minister of BSP. “Let’s save the Bulgarian, let’s revive Bulgaria!”
reads the slogan on the poster. Then there is the name of the coalition: ABC
which is the acronym for “Alternative for Bulgarian Revival” making a reference
to the first three letters of the alphabet.
Ugarchinska – the European choice”. Independent candidate. She is a writer,
Bulgarian public figure and a French investigative journalist. Her political
prioritiy is to find equality between “The New Europe” and “The Old Europe”;
stimulating active European Union citizenship; a better dialogue between Bulgaria and
the EU. We can also observe the EU flag in the upper left corner of the
billboard, further emphasizing her priorities.
without censorship” formed by the party with the same name and 3 others.
Bulgarians, deserve more!”
This is a
billboard of the TV station ALFA ATAKA that is (as the name gives out) the
party TV station of ATAKA – one of the parties in the ruling coalition at the moment.
It states that
this is “The TV of the truth” and the face that you can see belongs to the
leader of the party – Volen Siderov. The white box with the number 20 was added
later to the billboard and corresponds to the number that will stand for ATAKA
on the upcoming elections.
Electoral Commission received a complaint about the billboards shortly after
the numbers were added. It was pointed out that the electoral regulations have
been breached, because the billboards don’t state that buying and selling of
votes is illegal (a must for all electoral campaigning materials in Bulgaria). The
Commission, however, said that it is not a direct breach of those regulations,
as the billboards don’t belong to Ataka itself, but to the TV ALFA Ataka.
Later, the Supreme Administrative Court
ruled in favour of the Protest Network (the network that was started after the
beginning of the antigovernment protests in June 2013). The Electoral
Commission had to re-consider the case and as a result all billboards of the TV
station that included the word “Ataka”, the number 20 and the face of Volen
Siderov were removed.
a centre-right electoral alliance consisting of 5 parties. Slogan: “Don’t sell
your heart!”; “Make a choice!”. On the backside of the flyer there are a number
of Bulgarian artists and singers encouraging citizens to vote.
elections in Bulgaria
will be a challenge on many levels. Though there has been some effort to promote the
EP elections, the majority of people remain indecisive about whether or not voting.
The main reason for that is the lack of information. The Central electoral
commission, for example, released a video with instructions on how to vote.
This video is, first of all, nearly impossible to find. Second, the talking and
subtitles are going so fast that it is very hard to understand the content
unless you watch the video a few more times. Like elsewhere in Europe, lack of elections-relevant information remains a
big problem. In the particular case of Bulgaria the link between
“elections” and “European union” seems to be lost and politicians are competing
for voters with the EU still being a distant and abstract image.
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