26/09/2011 - Analysis - 1st round
On 15th June last the National Assembly, the only chamber in Parliament, announced that the first round of the next presidential election would take place in Bulgaria on 23rd October. If necessary a second round will take place one week later, i.e. 30th October. 6.5 million Bulgarians are being called to ballot to appoint the successor to Georgi Parvanov, who, at the end of his second term in office, cannot run again. This presidential election, although important, should not have any significant effect on the country's domestic or foreign policy.
On 23rd and 30th October next the Bulgarian electorate will appoint their local representatives (mayors, regional representatives and town councillors).
The Presidential Office
The President of the Republic and his Vice President (with whom he forms a ticket) are elected for a five year term in office which is renewable once only. Candidates for the supreme office can be presented either by political parties or by voters' committees. 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. Moreover the president and the vice-president cannot come from the same party.
To everyone's surprise the former leader of the Socialist Party (BSP) Georgi Parvanov was elected to the presidency for the first time on 18th November 2001 with 54.01% of the vote, against 45.90% for his rival, outgoing head of State, Petar Stoyanov (United Democratic Forces). Parvanov was re-elected on 29th October 2006 with 75.94% of the vote, ahead of the far right leader, Volen Siderov (Ataka), who won 24.05%. In the first round of voting on 22nd October, Georgi Parvanov easily won with 64.04% of the vote but turnout (42.51%) was insufficient for the vote to be valid (the electoral law demands a minimum turnout of half of those on the electoral rolls for the candidate to be appointed in the first round). Between the two rounds of voting the outgoing head of State Georgi Parvanov refused all debate with his rival, Volen Siderov, "out of respect for the dignity of the presidential office," he said, adding that Bulgaria needed "patriotism that united rather than divided the nation."
Georgi Parvanov is the first president of the Bulgarian Republic to have undertaken two consecutive terms in office since the communism in the country came to an end. Angel Marin was his Vice-President for ten years. In a speech in Krivodol (north), Georgi Parvanov spoke of his return to the Socialist Party at the end of his mandate. He did however say that he would not run for a seat in Parliament.
Candidates running and the presidential campaign stakes
18 people have registered as candidates for the supreme office, each in a ticket with a Vice-President. 12 are put forward by political parties and 6 by voters' committees.
On 4th September last the Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB, "blazon" in Bulgarian), the party of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, appointed Rossen Plevnelyev, Regional Development and Public Works Minister, as the candidate for the supreme office. The latter immediately resigned from office and was replaced by Deputy Minister, Liliana Pavlova. He forms a ticket with Justice Minister Margarita Popova. Neither are GERB members.
Margarita Popova declared that she wanted to continue and complete ongoing legal reform in the event of victory. She said she wanted the practice of the presidential veto, which is only formal, since it can be followed by another vote in parliament, to be r re-examined so that the Head of State can take greater part in the writing of the laws.
When interviewed about his own aspirations in the presidential election Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that "it would be a betrayal with regard to GERB voters and an abdication from responsibility on his part". The head of government did for some time think of putting forward Tsevtan Tsevtanov, GERB's second most important personality and present Interior Minister. "I really need him," said Boyko Borissov in justification of his choice.
Some political analysts have said they are concerned about Rossen Plevnelyev's inexperience and about the danger of the division of power if he wins the presidential election. "In this case we would have a weak President with the total concentration of power in the hands of the government and a powerful Boyko Borissov," stresses Antony Todorov, political scientist. Johanna Deimel, Deputy Director of the Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft in Munich, said that the Prime Minister had decided to appoint Rossen Plevnelyev to drive a political rival out of government. Likewise the appointment of Margarita Popova as Vice-President would enable him to remove one of his main opponents, since the Justice Minister often disagrees with the measures implemented to counter crime.
Ivaylo Kalfine, MEP and former Foreign Minister (2005-2009) in the government led by Serguey Stanichev, will be running for the Socialist Party (BSP). He is standing with Stefan Danaylov, a famous actor (he is one of the heroes of the TV series, Stuklen Dom, the Glass House) and former Culture Minister (2005-2009), who refused to run in first position. "Bulgaria needs a different politics, politics of dialogue, leadership alternatives," he declared indicating that the Socialist Party had to counter "the policy of pressurising institutions" undertaken by the GERB, which simply "defends the interests of the business world," likewise the aggressiveness of the ruling party towards "anyone who thinks differently.
Serguei Stanichev, the Socialist Party leader threatened to resign from office "if the Socialist Party did not succeed in re-establishing confidence amongst traditional voters in the upcoming local and presidential elections."
On 6th June last, Meglena Kuneva, former European Affairs Minister (2002-2006) and European Commissioner for Consumer Protection (2007-2009), announced that she was standing. "I shall rally the majority of change to my name. I am not looking for the support of any party, I am defending the interests of no lobbyist or politician, I shall not commit to any party," she declared. The committee who put Ms Kuneva forward is chaired by film director Ilglika Trifonova and comprises 53 people, including singers, Mariana Popova, Doni and Kotseto Kalki, actors, Yoanna Bukovska and Petar Popyordanov, economists, musicians, sports personalities of the National Movement for Stability and Progress (MNSE), a party led by Christina Christova.
Positioned in the centre of the political scale and close to the European institutions, Meglena Kuneva is a popular personality in Bulgaria, notably because, as the country's first European Commissioner, she witnessed Sofia's entry into the EU. She may attract a young, urban electorate. She has chosen to form a ticket with economist Lubomir Christiv. The latter has worked for the Bulgarian Central Bank and the World Bank.
Ataka's leader, Volen Siderov, will, as in 2006 be standing. Ataka, which is Boyko Borissov government's official ally, has however distanced itself greatly from the GERB. This summer Volen Siderov warned the Prime Minister's party. "If it continues to work for capital rather than for the people, the GERB may end like the National Movement for Stability and Progress (MNSE)", he declared. After having led Bulgaria from 2001 to 2005, this centre-right party is in total decay. Volen Siderov has formed a ticket with Pavel Chopov.
Rumen Christov was appointed to stand in the presidential election for the Blue Coalition, an alliance formed by the Union of Democratic Forces (DSB) led by Ivan Kostov (as well as three other parties) on 12th June last after a primary election organised by his party in which he won 55.47% of the vote. His rival, Svetoslav Malinov (DSB), won 44.26% of the vote. All Bulgarians were allowed to take part in this vote. A dispute arose over the turnout of the Rom community in support of Rumen Christov. The chair of the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, Ivan Kostov spoke of "vote purchasing".
Rumen Christov is standing with former Interior Minister (1999-2001), Emanouïl Yordanov.
But the Bulgarian right, which in 2009 joined forces within the Blue Coalition, is again in danger of being divided. The leader of the Union of Democratic Forces, Martin Dimitrov, signed an agreement for the presidential election with the Community of Democratic Forces, a movement that rallies several organisations and which is led by former Mayor of Sofia Stefan Sofianski, Yevgueni Bakardjiev and Lyuben Dilov junior, without informing Ivan Kostov,. This new alliance was baptised "the Union of Rightwing Forces (ODS). The Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, another party in the Blue Coalition, are against this alliance because of their agreement with the Union of Democratic Forces in the local elections. Both parties came to agreement to support the candidate, Proshko Proshkov (DSB), the present Mayor of Lozénets in the capital and winner of the primary elections (ahead of Ventseslav Kissyov, ODS), in the town hall of Sofia, whilst the Community of Democratic Forces has its own candidate in this election.
The Party for Order, Law and Justice (RZS) led by Yaney Yanev selected its Vice-President, Atanas Semov as its candidate in the presidential election on 23rd October. "I am launching myself courageously into the ring for the conquest of the hearts of my fellow countrymen, or at least the hearts of those Bulgarians who attach great importance to the teacher's ruler than the policeman's truncheon," he declared as the electoral campaign started. Atanas Semov is forming a ticket with Polya Stancheva, town councillor in Sofia. The latter has said she chose to support the Order, Law and Justice Party because it was the only one to support a change in the Bulgarian Constitution.
The other candidates in the presidential election on 23rd and 30th October are:
– Maria Cappone and Nikola Kissyov (United People's Party);
– Pavel Chernev and Anelia Delcheva (the People's Party);
– Sali Ibryam and Valentina Gotseva (National Unity Movement);
– Krassimir Karakatchanov and Daniela Simidchyeva-Dimitrova (Internal Revolutionary Macedonian Organisation –Bulgarian National Movement, VMRO-BND);
– Stefan Solakov and Galina Vassileva (National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, NDSO);
– Nikolaï Nentchev and Jeko Ivanov (Union populaire des agriculteurs, BZNS) ;
– Andreï Chorbanov and Anguel Mirchev (Bulgarian Demcoratic Community);
– Ventsislav Yossifov and Emilian Dimitrov;
– Dimitar Kutsarov, former policeman and owner of a security company, and Kamelia Todorova, jazz singer;
– Alexey Petrov and Nikolay Gueorgyev;
– Svetoslav Vitkov and Ventsislav Mitsov;
– Nikolay Vassilev and Vladimir Savov.
According to the most recent poll by Mediana, the ruling party's candidate Rossen Plevnelyev, is due to win 29.1% of the vote in the first round, ahead of Ivaylo Kalfine who is due to win 21.9% of the vote and Meglena Kuneva, who is due to win 14.1% of the vote. 81.4% of those voting for Rossen Plevnelyev are GERB sympathisers; 78.1% voting for Ivaylo Kalfine support the Socialist Party and finally 62.5% of those voting for Meglena Kuneva say they support no political party, 22.1% support the Socialist Party and 12.5% the GERB.
Source : Bulgarian National Electoral Commission