National consensus – these words are missing from Bulgaria’s political vocabulary. In the midst of bitter political contentions, Bulgaria’s political scene is once again marred by open confrontations, and the bad-blood of back stabbing. Today, Saturday 11th of May, is the day before the early Bulgarian elections. In theory, this day should allow quiet time for voters, in which they could consider their political options. Yet, there is no ‘calm before the storm,’ as the public anger has just been roused by the newly discovered 350,000 empty electoral bulletins . This staggering quantity amounts to 10% of the expected vote. Still, this is the day in which to reflect on the predictions of analysts, pollsters, and politologists about the up-coming political fortunes of the Bulgarian polis.
Not a national consensus, but another form of socio-political polarization is reflected in the latest polls, which teeter-totter in their predictions of the actual ‘winner.’ Some polls teeter on the promise of a hair-thin margin of victory to the former Bulgarian ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (abbreviated in Bulgarian as GERB), with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) trailing behind by a percentage or two. Other polls ever-so-slightly totter the result towards the other side: BSP leading, followed by GERB. Mid-sized parties, such as the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (abbreviated in Bulgarian as DPS), Ataka, and the Movement Bulgaria for Citizens (abbreviated in Bulgarian as DBG), hope they will be able to jump over the electoral bar and into the parliamentary pool. This political galaxy is completed by a host of smaller parties, which ‘capture the diversity of voters’ preference.’ Some sceptics accuse them of trying to capture the 1% of the voters’ threshold, and get a coveted government subsidy of 12 leva per vote for the next four years .
The Divided Voters
The public support is dispersed across the political spectrum. The polls predict that Bulgaria’s political pool will be inhabited by two big fish: GERB and BSP. They will have to lord over the murky political waters in coalition with some of the mid-sized parties – DPS, Ataka or Movement BG. Gallup International (GI) expects about 3.5 million Bulgarians to head to the polls tomorrow. According to GI (10.05.2013) the voters preference are as follows: GERB – 24%, BSP – 23.6, DPS - 7.1%, DBG – 3.7%, Ataka – 3.6%. ‘Sova Haris,’ in a survey requested by TV7 and NEWS7, predicts 20.9% support for GERB and 20.4% for BSP. The National Center for Study of the Public Opinion (NCSPO), predicts 34.3% for GERB, BSP – 25%, DPS – 13%, Ataka – 9%.
However, NCSPO, an agency supported by the National Assembly’s budget does not have a web page, and concerned citizens point out that it is rather non-transparent structure, considering that it is financed by public money . NCSPO seemingly exemplifies the problems, faced by the Bulgarian state and Bulgaria’s public institutions even now, more than 6 years after Bulgaria’s entry into the EU. The experiences of the Bulgarian polis with coalition governments brings out fresh memories of their rather weak and definitely less-than-stellar performance. Doubts remain, as to if a loosely stitched coalition can gain the needed wide social consensus, in tackling the enormous and controversial problems of Bulgaria’s poverty, stagnating economy, and widespread corruption.
The leaders of both GERB and BSP suffer very significant public disapproval. Fresh secret-wire-taping scandal pains Boyko Borisov, the former prime minister. The ghost of coalitions past haunts Sergei Stanishev, leader of the socialists. Currently, Stanishev leads with 1% approval ahead of Borisov, (28% vs 27%). However, the percentage of people, who stated that they have no confidence in Stanishev’s leadership is 66%, compared with 61% who expressed no confidence in Borisov. There is nothing to boast about in this 5% difference, as both percentages exceed 60 – i.e. well over half of the voters have no confidence in either party leader.
The scene is completed by choruses of advisers, who promise bandage of reforms for the stagnating Bulgarian economy. A throng of 200 international observers will fly in and then fly out. How many orphanages in Bulgaria could be helped with the money for these expensive trips? Still, with the shocking discovery of the extra-abundance of 350,000 electoral bulletins, maybe the Bulgarian elections do need this large flock of foreign observers, after all.
Electing the Un(d)electable
Analysts warn that a weak coalition government may send the Bulgarians back to the election booths as early as in September, 2013. ‘It will take them months to come up with a coalition agreement,’ grumble some of the Bulgarian citizenry, by now well familiar with the agree-ability of the Bulgarian politicians. Bulgaria’s political class suffers from an acute de-legitimization crisis, and one of the demands of the angry protests, which brought down GERB’s government, centered on the disappointment with the old ways of political leadership, and the desire to see new faces and new political solutions. Seems though, that the same old political recipes will be dominating the polls on the election day. What will tomorrow’s elections bring? It is a ‘known unknown.’ Bulgaria’s political climate is currently characterized by widely dispersed across the political spectrum public support, and significant, exceeding 60% disapproval of the leadership of the major political organizations. Yet, national consensus does not figure in the electoral platforms of any of the parties.
. ‘The prosecution took away 350,000 illegal bulletins,’ Sega, 11.05.2013, http://www.segabg.com/article.php?id=648410
. Gospodinova, Veselina, ‘A Piggy-Bank Vote’, Capital, 10.05.2013, http://www.capital.bg/politika_i_ikonomika/bulgaria/izbori2013/2013/05/10/2057858_vot_-_kasichka/
. ‘Parity between GERB and BSP,’ Pressadaily, 10.05.2013, http://pressadaily.bg/publication/14720-%D0%9F%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B5%D1%82-%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%B6%D0%B4%D1%83-%D0%93%D0%95%D0%A0%D0%91-%D0%B8-%D0%91%D0%A1%D0%9F
. Paunova, Polina, ‘Open parliament for citizen’s positions,’ 20.05.2012,
Bulgarian Parliament, http://www.parliament.bg/bg/nciom