Bulgaria’s 2013 elections: The fuzzy morning after the election night before

Bulgaria’s 2013 elections: The fuzzy morning after the election night before


By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

After Bulgaria’s May 12 parliamentary elections, most polling agencies said that just four parties would enter the next parliament, and the morning after the election, there were variations in unofficial calculations of how many seats each would get.

This, in turn, makes it difficult to pronounce on which parties will form the next government or even if there will be a next government without further elections being held in the autumn.

Many commentators saw Boiko Borissov’s GERB party, while it had won the largest single share of votes, as having to give way for an expected coalition alliance between the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), the latter the party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity.

The socialists and the MRF have a track record in the Bulgarian politics of the past 20 years of having governed in coalition, more than once. At least one newspaper in Bulgaria insisted on the morning of May 13 that the two now had 125 seats, enough to muster a governing majority in the 240-seat National Assembly.

But GERB saw a possibility of forming a minority government with Borissov returning as prime minister, and was prepared to reach out for talks with other parties, with the exception of the BSP, GERB campaign chief and former deputy prime minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said.

The election night mood was anything but triumphant, at least in any spontaneous sense. GERB, which had the right to hold the first news conference at the election centre, postponed it, saying that it would comment only on official results. Unlike Tsvetanov, who was at the election centre briefly, Borissov did not appear at all.

The BSP news conference was addressed by socialist leader Sergei Stanishev and the party’s nominee for prime minister, Plamen Oresharski. Resolutely, they spoke as if they had won the elections, sketching the outlines of a governing programme promising economic growth, improved foreign investment and jobs, all overseen by a so-called “programme cabinet” of “experts”.

MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan vehemently ruled out a coalition with GERB but declined to be anything but equivocal about other coalitions, although this came across more as theatre than anything else.

The fourth party in the next Parliament, Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalists Ataka, would not go into coalition with any other party and doubted that a workable government could be formed, Siderov told a news conference around 3am on May 13.

Siderov said that Bulgaria was under foreign colonial rule, that Bulgarians were slaves, and he punted his booklet, the “Siderov Plan” to end this colonial slavery. Key elements of this plan appeared to be driving out major foreign investors and reshaping the fruit and vegetable market so that Bulgarians were not eating imports.

On election night, there was a brief clash between police and a group of a few dozen protesters outside the election centre. The protesters called for the elections to be declared invalid. None of the parties in which protesters from the early 2013 cost-of-living demonstrations in Bulgaria came anywhere close to the threshold for entry to parliament.

It is expected to take several days for results to be officially announced. After that comes the process of the President, as head of state, offering a mandate to the party with the largest share of votes to attempt to form a government. Should that attempt fail, the party with the next-largest share of votes will be offered the mandate. The President would then have a free hand to offer a mandate to any other party. Should that fail, another general election would be called, for two months hence from the conclusion of the mandate-offering process.