The President of the Republic, Georgi Parvanov wins the first round of the presidential election in Bulgaria but will have to face Volen Siderov in a second round since the participation rate was not adequate to validate the election

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Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy

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24 October 2006
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Deloy Corinne

Corinne Deloy

Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Robert Schuman Fondation

Fondation Robert Schuman

Levy Helen

Helen Levy

Outgoing President Georgi Parvanov easily won the first round of the presidential election that took place in Bulgaria on 22nd October taking 64% of the vote. However, only 42.51% of the electorate fulfilled their civic duty and the electoral law sets a minimum participation rate of at least 50% for the election to be declared valid. The Bulgarians will have to return to ballot on 29th October next for a second round which the outgoing President is almost certain to win.

A thousand Bulgarians living in Turkey came by bus to vote after the appeal of an association of immigrant Turks of Bulgaria which called for the "burial" of the ultranationalist candidate Volen Siderov. According to Emin Balkan, president of the Association for the Solidarity of Balkan immigrants living in Turkey, the participation of voters with dual nationality who were allowed to vote in Turkey on Sunday – 300,000 people – was greater than that seen in the last presidential election on 11th and 18th November 2001. The idea is "not to give the fascist, ultranationalist candidate, Volen Siderov a chance," he maintained. The low participation rate can be explained in the main by the Bulgarians' discontent with the present Socialist led government's activities, (Serguei Stanichev – Socialist Party, BSP), notably with regard to the fight against poverty, corruption and organised crime. "The participation rate was low but not dramatically so. It could not have been better after ten months of negative campaigning," said the outgoing President of the Republic, Georgi Parvanov. "Much anger has accumulated and the people have expressed their great despair. We would be making a great mistake if we did not take note of it," he added explaining that the abstention rate could be explained by "the people's distrust of the political parties and community." "This situation will remain as long as politicians are involved in scandals and they see their policies as a means to succeed rather than a tool to solve the population's problems," he maintained. There is no obligatory minimum participation rate set in the second round.

On the announcement of the results Georgi Parvanov thanked the voters who had enabled him to achieve this "convincing result" and said that he was not worried about the second round. "When you face this type of adversary it is not worth worrying about anything," he declared. "Over the next five years I shall work towards achieving a political culture that is in harmony with the best Bulgarian and European traditions and I shall not tolerate those who support aggression and confrontation," he declared during the speech which concluded the campaign of the first round on 20th October last. "Bulgaria's European future is not in danger," said Georgi Parvanov reassuringly on Sunday night explaining Volen Siderov's result as "an expression of the dispair of those who had lost so much in the post-Communist transition." The outgoing President will face the leader of the extreme rightwing populist party, Ataka, Volen Siderov on 29th October; the latter won 21.5% of the vote. He points to "the enormous responsibility conferred on him by the Bulgarian people," and promised not to betray "the 600,000 Bulgarians who voted for him." Continuing his campaign against corrupt politicians he declared that he hoped that in the second round he would have the support of all those who had not taken part in the "pillage of Bulgaria." Apart from the minorities whom he attacks both regularly and violently Volen Siderov also denounces the corruption of the political community and has called for the annulment of the privatisations that have taken place over the last few years; he is also calling for a re-negotiation of the conditions for the country's entry into the EU.

Voting for Volen Siderov is a type of "protest or punishment of the system," says analyst Youri Aslanov who adds that "most people cannot see him as President of the Republic." "Volen Siderov's result gives no one the right to say that Bulgaria has been struck by a wave of ultranationalism," says political analyst Andreï Raïtchev, who adds, "the electorate do not want either his nationalism nor his racism or his clearly fascist positions. But voters who are unhappy with the present situation made him their first choice." According to a recent poll by the main union KNSB, 29% of Bulgarian households live below the poverty line. In addition to this many people have suffered in the wake of the numerous economic and social reforms applied by various governments over the last few years which have enabled the country to join the EU.

With 9.7% of the vote the candidate supported by the United Democratic Forces (ODS) and the Party of Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB), Nedelcho Beronov, is the main loser in this presidential election. "We entered the campaign late and we did not have enough time," declared Nedelcho Beronov in explanation of his result. For the first time since the fall of Communism there will be no candidate from the right in the second round of the presidential election. According to the president of the United Democratic Forces, former President of the Republic (1997-2002) Petar Stoyanov, "Georgi Parvanov is so far ahead that he will not need the support of the right." Nedelcho Beronov said that he would not vote in the second round. However many political analysts expect "a French scenario" on 29th October where the right will support the outgoing President of the Republic in order to block out Volen Siderov. During a speech on TV Prime Minister Serguei Stanichev made a point of stressing how important the second round was. "Remember the situation with Jacques Chirac. A choice had to be made, one that was greater than the differences between the parties. It is important to understand whether we are going to choose the European route of development," he declared.

Given the results of the first round there is little doubt about the re-election of the outgoing President. "If the second round brings Georgi Parvanov against Volen Siderov as we have forecast I think that whatever their political attachment most people who believe in democracy will vote for the outgoing President, since this will be a vote for democracy," said Kantcho Stoichev from Gallup International just a few days before the first round. "The immediate effect of victory on the part of Georgi Parvanov will mean the strengthening of the present government's power," analyses political analyst Rumyana Kolarova from the University of Sofia.

If Georgi Parvanov wins the election on 29th October next he will be the first President of the Republic to be re-elected to his post since the fall of Communism.

Results of the first round of the presidential election on 22nd October in Bulgaria

Participation rate: 42.51%

Source National Electoral Commission

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