In the second of a two-part feature on Bulgaria, Nikolay Manov explains how the political situation in the country has changed dramatically between the last general election in May 2013 and the recent European elections.
The first major change with the European Parliament elections is the collapse of Ataka (Attack). In a previous article, Bulgarian elections: the main contenders, I explained the main concepts and principles associated with the party. In the European Elections, Ataka was expected to attract the votes of nationalists and those who felt that the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) had failed to defend Bulgaria’s relations with Russia in the context of EU sanctions. However, Ataka simply collapsed, receiving just a quarter of the votes it had in May 2013 General Election. In 2014 it won 3% – not enough to send representatives to Brussels, and below the threshold of 4% needed to gain representation in the Bulgarian parliament if an early General Election occurs.
The second factor that will influence the development of Bulgarian politics is the emergence of two new parties. The first one is Bulgaria without Censorship (abbreviated in Bulgarian as BBC), which won 11% of the vote. Its supporters have a similar profile to those Ataka, but with uniform support among all age groups. Its typical voter, according to research by Capital, is aged 35-59 (51.3% of its supporters), lives in municipal towns, has high school diploma (75%), and earns between €125 and €250 (43%). The party, which participates as a coalition in the current vote, was formed in January 2014 by the former journalist Nikolay Barekov.
One of the main issues surrounding BBC is the source of Barekov’s money. In the period 2010-2013, Barekov worked at TV7 – a TV station associated with New Bulgarian Media Group, Corporate Commercial Bank and Delyan Peevski (considered ‘one of the faces of Bulgarian oligarchy’). Although no-one has admitted the existence of a direct relationship between Peevsky, who is an MP from another party, and BBC, one must how a journalist could possibly have the financial resources to create a party and run an election campaign? Experience so far has shown that people without a large amount of money, such as independent MP-candidates, have not been elected. Finally, Barekov’s ambition to be Prime Minister (despite the fact that his support is less than 11% at turnout 36%) could be a significant factor.
Yet perhaps the biggest surprise at this election was the Reformation Block, which managed to secure one of the 17 seats in the European Parliament allocated to Bulgaria. This is a coalition of former right-wing parties, which emerged after the disintegration of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS in Bulgarian). After the Cabinet of SDS failed to secure a second term in 2001, SDS started disintegrating into smaller parties which rarely managed to win places at national elections. The protests of the summer of 2013 managed to unite the leaders of five right-wing parties to create a unification against oligarchy and the merging of politics and organised crime The Reformation Block. appealed to those right-wing voters who did not want to vote for GERB. I expect that the result at these elections will stimulate more people to support the Block at a future General Election, since in the period following 2001 a number of right-wing voters have abstained from voting because none of the separate parties had the potential to influence politics.
The result of election led to immediate calls for the resignation of the Oresharski Cabinet by GERB, BBC, and the Reformation Block. As the Socialists do not intend to withdraw their support for the government, its fate is in the hands of DPS because previous attempts to bring the government down have failed. If DSP does not support the opposition in a future vote of no confidence (of which there have been four so far), I predict the peak of instability to be reached in the late autumn, especially if the current government does not ease the tension between the people and electricity providers.
As sociologists failed to predict the difference between the two main contenders for power (see table), it becomes impossible to guess the composition of a future government. Nevertheless, it is worth following the impact of the EU on the internal politics of the poorest EU country. It is certain that there will be interesting developments to be analysed.
|Difference between Research Agencies’ estimations and the official results|
Adapted from the original source.
Author: Borislav Stefanov (https://www.facebook.com/b.b.stefanov)