Bulgarians are heading for a third parliamentary election this year hoping that this time a new political force could become the game-changer and break the political deadlock. EURACTIV Bulgaria reports.
In the next election, expected in November, Bulgarians will look for another saviour, tired of the existing political parties but encouraged by the performance of the ministers in the caretaker cabinet appointed by President Rumen Radev, in particular Economy Minister Kiril Petkov and his colleague responsible for finance, Assen Vassilev.
The speed with which voters are moving from one new political project to another is a sign of insecurity and anxiety in society.
The political parties that people looked up to end the decade of conservative GERB’s rule, during which corruption flourished and media freedom collapsed, not only failed to understand each other but fought among themselves, using insults, intrigue and slander.
This inevitably affected the electorate’s initial enthusiasm for the “new parties” – ‘There is such a people’, ‘Democratic Bulgaria’ and ‘Stand up BG’.
At this juncture, a new political project is emerging, centred on the caretaker ministers Petkov and Vassilev.
In just three months, the two have become popular for exposing graft in the government of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. Although they have not confirmed (or denied) their political plans, expectations are growing, although there are no fresh election surveys to corroborate their popularity.
Friends for years, Harvard graduates Petkov and Vassilev will need to use another party – the time is too short to establish and register their own – to contest the election.
Caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev, who is close to the head of state, publicly commented that he would happily join their project and would vote for them.
The probability that Petkov and Vassilev would run for elections on their own, using the registration of an already existing small party, is significantly higher than the other option. It is unlikely that they would feature on the lists of ‘Democratic Bulgaria’, although they are considered close to this party.
The two are also piggybacking on the high rating of President Radev, who is expected to win a new five-year term in the 14 November election. In return, the campaign of Petkov and Vassilev should also boost Radev.
Who is afraid of the new force
The success of the new project almost looks like a foregone conclusion, even though it does not have proper party structures. Analyst Dimitar Ganev from Trend Research Center told EURACTIV Bulgaria, however, that this would not be a handicap.
He referred to the success of a new party created by Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 2001, which won nearly two million votes without having any structures. Similarly, Simeon’s party had to use the registration of another political party.
“They [Petkov and Vassilev] are media icons and will ride on the wave of their popularity,” said Ganev. According to him, combining the parliamentary and presidential election would be beneficial for the duo, as there would probably be a higher turnout.
In the 11 July parliamentary election, the turnout was 42.19% compared to 50.61% three months earlier.
Political scientist Tatiana Burudjieva warned that the new force could create problems for the president in his relations with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).
“The problems are already visible to the naked eye. The BSP leader [Kornelia Ninova] has asked the president if he was behind the new political project and required a clear answer. Socialist MPs even mentioned an attempt to “steal” votes from BSP in favour of the future party”, Burudjieva said.
Conversely, Radan Kanev, MEP representing ‘Democratic Bulgaria’ in the EPP group, voiced fears that the new party could split the right-wing camp. In an interview with the ClubZ website, he called on the two ministers to join the Democratic Bulgaria lists.
On the other hand, the camp of President Radev’s most zealous supporters is coming apart. ‘Stand Up Bulgaria’, which had united left and right forces and civic associations in the aftermath of last year’s anti-government protests, is unlikely to run in the same election format this fall.
The party of showman Slavi Trifonov, ‘There is such a people’ – the relative winner of this year’s elections – is not among the supporters of the future project either. Its MPs have been giving the two ministers the cold shoulder, and have also raised the issue of Petkov’s Canadian citizenship, on which a Constitutional Court ruling is still pending.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]