13/09/2006 - D-7 - 1st round
For the fourth time since the fall of the Communist regime, 6.7 million voters are being called on 22nd October to elect a new President. If none of the candidates wins the absolute majority or if the participation rate is below 50% of those registered a second round will take place a week later, i.e. on 29th October. Seven people are running for the post of Head of State.
Just one week before the election the present President, Georgi Parvanov leads in all the polls. However some political experts expect a low participation rate (estimated between 48% and 53%) and many believe that the quorum of 50% of those registered will not be achieved. "The participation rate might fall below 40% if nothing happens over the last week of the electoral campaign", said sociologist Mikhail Mirchev. "People think that this presidential election has already been decided upon. Bulgaria is no longer an extremely politicised country which is a result of the economic transition – what we are witnessing today is not apathy rather than normalisation", maintains Kancho Stoychev from Gallup BBSS.
However even if he achieves a substantial result, or an absolute majority Georgi Parvanov might be forced to run in a second round in which he will be challenged by the candidate who comes second on 22nd October. To date no Bulgarian Head of State has been re-elected after a first four-year term in office.
The outgoing President of the Republic has the support of the Independent Unions' Confederation (KNSB) led by Zhelyazko Khristov and that of the Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS), member of the present government coalition. Ahmed Dogan leader of the party which represents the country's Turkish minority (around 8% of the Bulgarians), decided (by 143 votes in favour and 44 against) during a congress on 26th September to support Georgi Parvanov in the presidential election.
The two main rightwing leaders, former President of the Republic (1997-2002) Petar Stoyanov (United Democratic Forces, ODS) and former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov (the Party of Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, DSB), did not want to participate in the election that is rousing little interest amongst the Bulgarians and the victorious outcome of which on the part of Georgi Parvano has been announced over and over. The liberal candidate Nedelcho Beronov, who has suffered since people obviously do not know much about him, has been left behind in all the polls. Many have placed hope in the candidature of the former secretary general of the Interior Ministry and present mayor of Sofia, Boïko Borisov, and leader of the association Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB, which means "blazon" in Bulgarian). But this has been in vain. Boïko Borisov is the country's most popular personality. The support of the Mayor of Sofia for Nedelcho Beronov has had no effect on the polls to date. According to the latter those close to the right seem much less motivated than supporters of the Socialist Party, the Movement for Rights and Freedom and Ataka.
Likewise the National Simeon II Movement (NDS II), member of the present government coalition decided not to stand in this election. Former Prime Minister (2001-2005) Simeon of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha announced on 11th July that he would not be standing "for personal reasons". "The National Simeon II Movement has sacrificed itself for the general good. It might have been good for the party to appoint a candidate but we are refraining from doing so, we wanted to privilege the upkeep of the government coalition and the reconstruction of the right", declared Education and Science Minister, Daniel Vulchev (NDS II).
"We would like to congratulate all Bulgarian citizens on Bulgaria's accession to the EU on 1st January next", declared Nedelcho Beronov. "In spite of the work promised the government has been judged negatively and an unprecedented system of safety measures have been established. This is humiliating for the government and the majority coalition of the Socialist Party, the National Simeon II Movement and the Movement for Rights and Freedom", he added. However the European Commission's decision on 26th September making Bulgaria's accession to the EU effective on 1st January is a positive point for the present President of the Republic Georgi Parvanov, likewise his participation in the European Summit which will take place in Lahti, Finland two days before the first round of the election.
There are at least four nationalist candidates running in the election which might seem strange in a country that has large minorities but which has succeeded in avoiding all ethnic tension, originally the source of the wars that shook the Balkans after the fall of the Communist system in the 1990's. In the last elections on 25th June 2005 the populist, xenophobic, anti-European party Ataka, did come fourth winning 8.16% of the vote. The result achieved by its leader Volen Siderov, on 22nd October is one of the main issues in this election. "There is overall discontent with regard to politicians which would explain Volen Siderov's popularity", analyses Boyko Todorov from the Democracy Research Centre in Sofia.
For his part, Petar Beron, former vice-President of Ataka and leader of his own parliamentary group in the National Assembly, the only Chamber in Parliament, decided to leave Ataka. The party's leader Volen Siderov, has however said that his party was about to dismiss Petar Beron before he resigned himself. "He is a man manipulated from the outside. He was paid and I am not surprised at his decision", he declared. The "populist" party has 12 MPs, versus 21 after the general elections on 25th June 2005.
According to the latest poll by ASSA-M Georgi Parvanov will win the first round of the election with 51% of the vote. He will be followed by Volen Siderov who is due to win 18% ahead of Nedelcho Beronov with 11.5%. Georgi Markov is predicted to win 6.5%, Petar Beron 3%; the nationalist university professor, Grigor Velev and former chief of staff, Lyuben Petrov are due to win under 2% of the vote. Around 16% of the electorate says it still has not taken a decision.