Results of elections in Bulgaria show voters’ desire to change situation in country
9 December 2021. PenzaNews. Bulgaria’s presidential and parliamentary elections have drawn a line under the rule of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who has led the country’s government almost permanently since 2009.
The incumbent President Rumen Radev, who won the second round, will remain in office for another five years. The majority of the seats in parliament went to anti-government parties.
For example, We Continue the Change coalition headed by Kiril Petkov and Assen Vassilev became the leader of the race with 25.67% of votes. The party received 67 mandates in the People’s Assembly. The Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) in coalition with the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) was in second with 22,74% of votes and got 59 seats. They are followed by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms with 13% of votes and 34 mandates.
The new parliament also includes the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), which received 10.21% of votes (26 seats), There is Such a People party with 9.52% of votes (25 seats), the Democratic Bulgaria alliance, which won 6.37% (16 seats), and the Vazrazhdane (Revival) party, which received 4.86% (13 seats).
In total, representatives of 27 parties and coalitions fought for 240 seats in the 47th convocation of the Bulgarian National Assembly, while the election activity was record low: 40.23% of voters took part in the voting.
The last elections were already the third in less than a year, since none of the parties was able to form a government based on the results of the April and July elections.
The deputies of the new convocation took up their duties on December 3. At present, consultations with the parties represented in the parliament are being finalized regarding the formation of a new Bulgarian government. Many observers are confident that this time the political forces will be able to come to agreement.
Analyzing the current situation in Bulgaria, Andrius Tursa, Central & Eastern Europe Advisor, Teneo Intelligence, called the reelection of the head of state quite logical.
“As expected, incumbent Rumen Radev achieved a convincing victory in the second round of presidential elections held on 21 November. Radev received 66.7% of votes, coming ahead of his rival Anastas Gerdzhikov with 31.8%,” the expert reminded.
He noted that the second term of Rumen Radev will begin on 22 January 2022.
“Although the presidential powers are limited, Radev is expected to facilitate the formation of the new government by giving sufficient time for negotiations between potential coalition partners before appointing a prime ministerial candidate. The election winner We Continue the Change party started talks with the center-left Bulgarian Socialist Party, the populist There is Such People as well as the reformist Democratic Bulgaria concerning a potential coalition agreement. The four-party coalition remains the most likely outcome, but negotiations […] could reveal the main fault lines in terms of policy positions,” Andrius Tursa suggested.
According to Vincent Henry, expert of Paris-Est University and Babes-Bolyai University in Romania, Bulgaria is going through one of the most difficult periods in its post 1989 history.
“It is one of the European countries most affected by the health crisis and it has been in a deep political, institutional and I would say moral crisis for several years. This crisis is that of the GERB in power since 2009. GERB and its leader Boyko Borissov […] have long presented themselves as the guarantors of Bulgaria’s modernization. Today they are the image of the corruption […] and the promises that have been broken,” he said.
In his opinion, the political forces of Bulgaria will manage to form a coalition, but at the same time it will be “fragile” because the political landscape is now highly versatile.
Vincent Henry added that the rise of centre-right anti-corruption parties or personalities is becoming a fairly common phenomenon in Central and Eastern Europe: in their discourse, corruption is designated as the cause of their country’s backwardness but the fight against corruption does not make a political programme on its own.
“If these parties succeed in reducing corruption, it will not magically improve the lives of voters. Bulgaria or Romania entered the European Union with the idea that they would be transformed by EU membership. However, they have poorly transformed. […] The standard of living has risen, but the institutions have remained weak, the rules poorly enforced and the undeniable economic growth terribly unevenly distributed,” he explained.
From his point of view, in order to catch up with the level of other European countries, to be part of Europe, “they need to respect the law and the rules.”
In turn, Parvan Simeonov, a political analyst for Gallup International, believes that the situation around the series of elections in Bulgaria this year was actually a consequence of the “Borisov’s decade.”
“Now Bulgarian society did show will and willingness for the continuous change of the model, the style, the mode and fashion of government. So the change continues. The new party created by the two Harvard graduates reflects this even with the name of their party,” the expert said.
According to him, there was a hypothesis in Bulgaria that due to the crisis, due to inflation, due to COVID-19 and many other things people prefer something familiar, something from Borisov’s decade again.
“It was supposed that they would ask Borisov back on stage. But actually it did not happen this way. People in Bulgaria voted for continuing the change. So now we have a kind of materialization of the protests. The pro-Western liberal network called Democratic Bulgaria – one of the main political forces – and nostalgic post-Communist Bulgarian Socialist Party and revolving populist movements – these were all against Borisov’s style,” Parvan Simeonov said.
At the same time, according to him, these parties “had awful relationships.”
“This was not an easy coalition or even an easy cooperation at all. But now it actually happened. And now these forces are maybe not united but synchronized. And now they have an umbrella organization called We Continue the Change,” the analyst stressed.
In his opinion, Bulgarian citizens clearly demonstrate the desire and hope for the formation of a new cabinet of ministers.
“So this is the societal demand and the possible motivation for those negotiations that will take place. Still I believe there could be some trouble and problems and I hope that here will be some government. That is what logic says,” Parvan Simeonov said.
Petar Bankov, School of Social & Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, noted that the re-election of Rumen Radev together with the electoral success of We Continue the Change confirmed the popular demand for a decisive break with the economic mismanagement and political decay.
“Radev has been a consistent opposition to GERB during his first term, […] with his outspoken support for the anti-government protests. This seems to have played a decisive role [at the voting] that overshadowed Radev’s indecisive foreign policy positions or his failure to call for a decisive action against the pandemic,” he suggested.
In his opinion, the failure of the previous coalition talks among the parties that aim at reforming the political and economic system of Bulgaria brought these parties to the realisation that they need the support from some of the established parties who also opposed GERB.
Moreover, according to him, the emergence of We Continue the Change and its electoral success based on a centrist electoral platform brought the pro-reformists and the socialists at the table.
“Third, the socialist party is in deep crisis, both internally and externally, so its participation in the coalition talks is recognition of its diminished political clout and also an effort of its leader, Korneliya Ninova, to resolve the mounting internal criticism against her,” Petar Bankov said.
In his opinion, now there is every reason to believe that intensive negotiations to agree on a government program will be successful.
“Bulgaria suffers from a mounting social inequality, so in the medium term it is vital that the government addresses this. So far, however, there is little indication this would happen. The four parties seek to rather optimise the political and economic system, rather than seeking a substantial reform that fosters social cohesion,” the expert said.
In his opinion, it would be interesting what the dynamics would be among the emerging coalition.
“Despite their shared desire for reform and dismantling the GERB legacy, the four parties have significant disagreements that may threaten the stability of this potential coalition, so the following four years may prove challenging in keeping it together,” Petar Bankov concluded.