Slavi the showman in pole position in Bulgarian election race

Combo picture of the leades of the six parties likely to be represented in Parliament: Slavi Trifonov (There is Such a People), Boyko Borissov (GERB) Kornelia Ninova (Bulgarian Socialist Party), Hristo Ivanov (Democratic Bulgaria, Mustafa Karadaya (Movement of Rights and Freedoms) and Maya Manolova (Srand Up! Mafia out!) [Dnevnik]

The anti-elite party “There is such a people”, founded by Bulgaria’s popular TV showman Slavi Trifonov, is in pole position ahead of Sunday’s (11 July) snap parliamentary elections. EURACTIV Bulgaria reports.

Opinion polls are giving Trifonov’s party a 1% lead over former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s centre-right GERB. The latter is expected to do less well on Sunday because pollsters do not include the votes of Bulgarians abroad, who massively supported Trifonov in the April elections that produced a fragmented parliament and no governing coalition.

A caretaker government was therefore appointed by President Rumen Radev, pending snap elections in the poorest EU member.

Bulgarians vote for change, send three new parties to Parliament

Bulgaria’s election on Sunday (4 April) saw three new parties, largely representing the anti-corruption protests of last summer, enter parliament. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s ruling conservative GERB remained the strongest single party but with slim chances of forming a government and staying in power.

‘There is such a people’ expects to get around 22-23% of the vote and is picky about its coalition partners. The party announced that it could form a coalition only with the centre-right pro-European coalition “Democratic Bulgaria” (rated at 12-13%) and the small anti-corruption coalition “Stand up! Mafia out!” (rated at 5-6%).

But the aggregate power of the three protest parties is not enough for a stable majority in parliament and they will probably be forced to accept the support of the Socialists (BSP), who is also in opposition to GERB.

Following the April ballot, Trifonov’s party rejected the Socialists but political pundits think it may be different this time.

‘Bulgarians are Europeanising’

“This time there will be a government,” political scientist Andrei Raichev said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. According to him, Bulgarians are fed up with Borissov and insist on judicial reform and fight against corruption.

“Bulgaria has visibly lagged behind Europe in justice and the fight against corruption. Now people do not want to continue like this, they are fomenting the change,” said Raichev, adding that “Bulgarians are Europeanising “.

Opinion polls give Borissov’s party 20-21% – a serious decrease compared to the elections in April, when GERB won more than 26%.

A considerable blow to GERB came from the United States, which imposed unprecedented sanctions for corruption on Bulgarian citizens under the Magnitsky Act, including on the oligarchs Vasil Bozhkov and Delyan Peevski. The move laid bare the corruption that had developed during GERB’s rule.

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The caretaker government has helped to further clarify the picture, with revelations of mass wiretapping of opposition politicians and the distribution of more than €4.3 billion to GERB-friendly circles that by-passed public procurement procedures. It has also declared war on vote-buying that has been plaguing Bulgarian elections in the last 20 years.

Graft scandals weigh on upcoming Bulgarian elections

In the two months before the 11 July parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, a series of corruption scandals have shed light on the country’s governance during the rule of Boyko Borissov’s GERB party. According to the latest polls, support for GERB is falling.

The caretaker government currently enjoys the support of the majority of Bulgarians and some of the current ministers are expected to maintain their positions in the future government.

The complex political format of the future government means that the next prime minister will most likely be a supra-party expert. The current minister of economy, Kiril Petkov, is often tipped as a likely candidate.

Petkov, a Harvard graduate, has a successful international business and was an active participant in the civil protests against the GERB government and Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev that rocked Bulgaria last year. This makes him an excellent candidate, the only major drawback being his lack of political experience.

After the 11 July election, Bulgaria is almost certain to change after almost 11 years of Boyko Borissov’s rule, marred by serious allegations of cronyism and corruption.

The former prime minister’s influence is waning fast and he is in almost complete political isolation. Even his former junior coalition partner, the nationalist VMRO party, have said they do not want another coalition with GERB.

The main question is whether yesterday’s opposition will be able to effectively manage the country tomorrow.

Slavi Trifonov has been reported to have serious health issues and has refused to run for MP.

The pro-European centre-right coalition Democratic Bulgaria is on the rise under the leadership of Hristo Ivanov, who managed to impose judicial reform and the fight against corruption as the leading theme for Bulgaria. But Ivanov does not have enough support to head the next government.

Slavi Trifonov: Bulgaria’s miracle worker

The big surprise of the pivotal Bulgarian elections held on 4 April was the performance of showman Slavi Trifonov’s party, “There is such a people”, which captured 17.66% of the vote and is likely to go on to form a government. But who is Stanislav Slavi Trifonov?

Many expect the next government to be similar to the current caretaker cabinet, marked by its expert and supra-party nature. Should Sunday’s vote produce another fragmented parliament and an unwieldy ruling coalition lacking stable support, the country might have to hold new early elections as early as 2022.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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