The Bulgarian population is called to the polls to decide on the composition of parliament, despite the health situation in the country being particularly serious due to the pandemic.
Political and health uncertainty
The parliamentary elections, initially scheduled for March 28, were set by President Rumen Radev for Sunday 4th April. A delay of a few days opposed by the Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov who would have preferred a longer suspension of the vote. “No doctor can predict the health situation in March and assure us that it will be possible to vote in safety”, are the words of the premier in January when the vote was confirmed. In Bulgaria, the first real wave of Covid arrived at the end of last October, putting the hospital system in serious difficulty, while the second is underway in recent weeks.
The elections are only the last of the reasons for the opposition between Radev and Borisov. For months, starting in the summer of 2020, the country was traversed by major anti-government demonstrations. Protests sparked by a scandal that involved Ahmed Dogan, an influential politician and businessman close to the premier, and which resulted in a harsh condemnation of Radev. A few hours later the police entered the presidential offices arresting two staff members and causing general outrage. Thousands of people in many cities took to the streets to protest against corruption and the reform of the judicial system, demanding the resignation of Borisov and his executive. According to Transparency International, Bulgaria was the country where corruption was most perceived among all 27 EU Member States in 2019. A problem not only on a political level but also on an economic and social level.
Elections Bulgaria, the candidates
According to the latest polls, the favorite is still the Gerb (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) di Borisov. The center-right party on the eve is in the lead with 28% of the preferences and leads the second force on the field by a handful of points, the E.g (Coalition for Bulgaria). A coalition led by the Socialist Party headed by Cornelia Ninova, in fact, it is still at 23%. It will be these two formations that will play the relative majority of the 240 seats in the National Assembly up for grabs.
The struggle to figure out who will be the third force in the country is more uncertain. Always according to forecasts, the new party Etc. (There Are Such People) stood at 13%. A recently formed political force of a populist character that will participate in the first elections in its history, trying to intercept the discontent of the population. Its founder and leader is 54-year-old Slavi Trifonov, former musician and actor, who through his Seven-Eights TV channel gave extensive coverage of last year’s protests, earning the favor of many. At 11%, just below the starting grid, is the DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) led by Mustafa Karadaya. A party born in 1990 to give a voice to the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, but which in recent years has been able to attract other minorities into the country, especially the Romanian one.
Further back they are to be mentioned Stand Up.BG Maya Manolova at 6%, the liberal Democratic Bulgaria alliance of Atanas Atanasov and Hristo Ivanov at 5% and the right-wing force Imro (Bulgarian National Movement) at 4%. Another new party is Bulgarian Summer, created by Vasil Boskov, tycoon, oligarch and owner of the Levski Sofia football club, who fled to Dubai on charges of corruption and conspiracy.
Bulgaria, the European Union and Cold War tension
Relations between Brussels and Sofia are not idyllic at the moment, also thanks to the management of vaccines. In recent weeks Borisov has declared that the European Union pressured Bulgaria (and other states) to refuse doses from China and Russia. On March 12, the premieres of Bulgaria, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Latvia asked Ursula Von der Leyen for clarification on the uneven distribution of vaccines within the Union in their view. Already in recent months, following the protests in the Bulgarian country, relations had tightened. The European Parliament had asked Borisov’s government to respect unconditionally the values of the Union and to guarantee the principles of democracy and the rule of law. In a non-legislative resolution, MEPs expressed their support for the demands of the people in Bulgaria and their aspirations.
But Brussels was not alone in condemning Sofia. On March 4, the US Senate Foreign Relations Commission, signed by Democrat Bob Menendez and Republican Jim Rish, issued a statement. In Washington’s tough stance, he is remembered as “persistent corruption, the decline of media freedom, the politicization of the judiciary and other threats to the rule of law pose serious challenges to US-Bulgaria bilateral relations”.
In recent days, however, a scandal of espionage which helped make i thesis relations between Sofia and Moscow. Two Russian diplomats were deported and six Bulgarian citizens arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia. In Bulgaria, one of the NATO member countries (since 2004) geographically further to the east, the old Cold War rages continue to be reported.