25/09/2006 - Analysis - 1st round
On 27th July last the 240 members of the National Assembly, the only chamber in Parliament decided that the next presidential election would be organised on 22nd and 29th October i.e. the first dates allowed by the country's electoral law. 6.7 million voters will elect the fourth President (and Vice-President) of the Republic since the fall of the Communist regime. 22 people stood in the race for the supreme office in 1992, 13 in 1996 and 6 in the last election on 11th and 18th November 2001. This year 7 people are running.
Just one month before the election the present President of the Republic, Georgi Parvanov is forecast to be the winner by all polls. To date no Bulgarian Head of State has been re-elected after a first term in office. The first round of voting will take place on 22nd October next. If no candidate wins an absolute majority of the vote or if the participation rate is lower than half of the voters registered then a second round of voting will be organised a week later on 29th October
The Presidential Function
The President of the Republic and his Vice President are elected for a five year term in office which is renewable once only. The position is essentially an honorary one, but the Head of State does however have the power of veto enabling him to send a draft law back to the National Assembly for renewed debate. The President of the Republic is the head of the army, concludes international treaties and represents the country abroad. The Constitution prohibits the Head of State from belonging to any type of political party.
The seven people officially running for the supreme office are:
- Georgi Parvanov, 49 years old and present President of the Republic and former leader of the Socialist Party (BSP) has the support of this party led by Prime Minister Serguei Stanichev and several other parties which are not represented in Parliament. His Vice-President is Angel Marin.
- Nedelcho Beronov, 78 years old, president of the Constitutional Court has the support of the United Democratic Forces (ODS), the Democrat Party for Strong Bulgaria (DSB), the Democratic Party, the Agrarian Party and the Social Democrat Party. His Vice President is Yuliana Nikolova.
- Volen Siderov, 50 years old is the leader of Ataka (Attack), the only candidate to have been appointed by a parliamentary movement. He is the former editor in chief of the first anti-communist daily in Bulgaria, Demokratija and author of several books in which he assails the "Jewish conspiracy against Bulgarian Orthodox Christians", Volen Siderov, MP was a TV presenter on the private channel Scat. His Vice President is Pavel Shopov.
- Georgi Markov, a former judge at the Constitutional Court has the support of the Law, Order and Justice Party. His Vice President is Maria Ivanova.
- Petar Beron, MP and former founder member of the United Democratic Forces and former Vice President of Ataka is supported by an independent committee. In 2001, Petar Beron stood for the post of Vice President with Zhorzh Ganchev (who won 1.10% of the vote). His Vice President is Stefa Bankova.
- Grigor Velev, an academic and moderate nationalist is the author of a book on the national Bulgarian doctrine and has the support of the Nationalist Alliance. His Vice President is Yordan Mutafchiev.
- Lyuben Petrov, 68 years old is the former Chief of Staff of the military and has the support of a group of citizens (including economists, scientist, artists and businessmen, etc) who say they are in favour of a settlement by the State of the present economic chaos a revision of privatisation and the prohibition of the sale of Bulgarian land to foreigners who are not members of the EU. His Vice President is Nelly Topalova.
Boiko Borisov, mayor of the capital Sofia, was called upon by the rightwing opposition to take part in the presidential election but finally he declined their suggestion. "I do not have the time to take care of the presidential election. It is simply not my election," he declared. The former President of the Republic (1997-2002) Petar Stoyanov, leader of the United Democratic Forces indicated that he would not run in the presidential election in order to avoid giving the impression that he was trying to take revenge on Georgi Parvanov who succeeded him as Head of State on 18th November 2001. Five years ago Stoyanov was running for re-election and was the unfortunate adversary of the present President of the Republic; the ODS leader won 34.09% of the vote in the first round and 45.09% in the second.
The National Simeon II Movement (NDS II), a member of the present government coalition decided not to put a candidate forward for the election. The former Prime Minister (2001-2005) Simeon of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha announced that he was standing down as a candidate for "personal reasons".
The Electoral Campaign
"The President of the Republic, Georgi Parvanov has undertaken some excellent work. Under his Presidency he has accomplished perfectly two of the country's priorities with regard to foreign policy: joining NATO (2004) and the EU (accession is to be effective as from 1st January 2007 but a decision still has to be taken by the European Commission)," declared Prime Minister and leader of the Socialist Party, Serguei Stanichev on 5th September during a support meeting for the present Head of State. The Head of Government also stressed that it was important for the Socialist Party to be firmly behind Georgi Parvanov. Nikola Kolev, the campaign director maintained that his goal was to win in the first round of the election.
Georgi Parvanov has asked voters not to transform this presidential election into a referendum on the government's activities, recalling that amongst the parties that support him there are those in the government and but also others from the opposition. "The only important thing is to prepare the Bulgarians for what is to come after 1st January 2007," he said.
The leader of the United Democratic Forces Petar Stoyanov, called on his party members to stand behind Nedelcho Beronov, who is not so well known by the public. "We have to break from the oligarchic model created by Georgi Parvanov," he declared. Although the post of President of the Republic is essentially honorary in Bulgaria the success of its candidate would mean that the opposition might hope for a modification in the status quo. "I accepted to participate in this presidential election because I would like to show that I want change as do many Bulgarians and to work to make our country a place where young people want to stay," declared Nedelcho Beronov.
"I am not called Petar Stoyanov or Ivan Kostov (the leader of the United Democratic Forces and the Democrat Party for Strong Bulgaria respectively) and I shall therefore assume my responsibilities. The presidential campaign will be a battle between the outgoing President of the Republic, Georgi Parvanov, who betrays the interests of Bulgaria everyday, and myself, the leader of Ataka," declared Volen Siderov when he announced that he would stand as candidate. Founded in March 2005, i.e. two months before the last general elections on 25th June 2005, Ataka is a xenophobic party (anti-Turk and anti-Gypsy, these minorities representing around 16% of the population) which stands as the defender of the purity of the State and the Nation, the values of the Orthodox Church and the Slav identity. The party is fighting against corruption and for the end of the country's supervision under the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is also against Bulgaria joining the EU as well as it belonging to NATO. During the election last year the party made a break through which was even more incredible since in spite of Bulgaria having a great number of minorities it has been spared to date of all ethnic tensions that had been the source of the war which bloodied the Balkans after the fall of Communism. On 25th June 2005 Ataka came fourth winning 8.16% of the vote. "Ataka is the avant-garde in the fight against the damaging role played by the Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom – the MDL led by Ahmed Dogan, which represents the country's Turkish minority (around 8% of Bulgarians)," maintains Volen Siderov. The ultra-nationalist leader is being prosecuted at the moment for his declarations against the Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom, the Roms and homosexuals.
Georgi Markov, who is violently anti-communist, is trying to rally all rightwing supporters to his name; Grigor Velev is campaigning for moderate nationalism. Finally Lyuben Petrov, who accuses Georgi Parvanov of being a "national traitor", is fighting for the withdrawal of the American military bases from Bulgarian territory and is in favour of the deployment of national troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The former Chief of Military Staff is in favour of the country joining the EU but criticises Georgi Parvanov of supporting the American bases and for having been the instigator of Bulgaria's integration into NATO in 2004 without the previous organisation of a referendum on the issue. "I shall ask for a national referendum on the closure of the nuclear power station in Kozloduy, for debates on the American bases in Parliament and the withdrawal of the Bulgarian troops from Iraq," he declared during a meeting in Pleven.
The latest poll by Mediana credits the present President Georgi Parvanov with 42% of the vote on 22nd October next. His two main adversaries, Volen Siderov and Nedelcho Beronov are due to win 8% and 6% respectively.
The electoral campaign officially started on 19th September in Bulgaria. "Although until now voters have always sanctioned outgoing presidents, Georgi Parvanov has every chance of becoming the first politician to be re-elected to the supreme office," maintains political analyst Kolyo Kolev from the agency Mediana. Some journalists believe that the present President of the Republic might be re-elected in the first round. The election will take place just a few days after the European Commission gives its opinion on the date when Bulgaria will be allowed to integrate the Union. This is a decision, which if positive, might comprise a decisive advantage for the present President of the Republic.
Reminder of the Presidential Election Results on 11th and 18th November 2001 in Bulgaria
Participation rate: 39.20% (first round) and 54.40% (second round)
Source : Bulgarian Electoral Commission