Sofia to the polls, low enthusiasm

Political instability is coupled by economic and social crisis. The evaluations by Smilov, political analyst

On Sunday October 5 Bulgarians will go to the polls for the third time in the past two years. Early parliamentary elections are held at a time of political instability in the poorest country of the European Union, and the lack of a stable government negatively affects the economic situation and delays the implementation of urgent reforms. According to recent surveys, said political analyst Daniel Smilov, interviewed by Iva Mihailova, for SIR Europe, “the evident winner is the right-wing party Gerb, led by its populist leader Boyko Borissov, former Prime Minister from 2009 to 2013. The question is whether Gerb will manage to put together a coalition that will enable him to govern”. Socialists are expected to rank second, but at a great distance. In the unicameral parliament of Sofia will also enter the party of the Turkish minority (DPS), while three or four minor political forces are expected to gain three or four seats. Bulgaria goes to the polls again after less than two years of instability. Why? “Indeed, in this short period of time our Country held three elections: two rounds of national elections plus European elections, as well as five different governments: two ordinary ones, two ad interim, and the executive that will be formed after the October 5 elections. The government leadership of the centre-right party Gerb, to which after the 2013 elections contributed also the government of the centre-left Socialists (BSP) with the Turkish minority party (DPS), caused political instability. Massive protests forced the government to resign in the winter of 2013 due to high costs of electricity. Many Bulgarians could not afford to pay heating and electricity bills as a result of the economic crisis. As for the centre-left government, however, it was clear from the outset that it would not reach the end of term”. Political analysts consider the electoral campaign slack. What is the reason and what will happen after the vote? “Probably the campaign is slack owing to the predicted result of the election. Everyone expects that Gerb obtain the largest number of seats in parliament while the Socialists will have a poor result. The unknown factor is whether Gerb will be able to form the government alone, but this is unlikely, or if there will be a minority government, as in 2009. The latest polls highlight the possibility of a centre-right government formed by Gerb and the Reform Block (the union of several groups that split from the old right-wing party). This coalition, however, will be somewhat complicated to manage because of personal problems between the leaders of the right. The other possibility is an alliance between Gerb and the Turkish minority party (DPS). There is also talk of a broad coalition with the Socialists, but this is very unlikely”. How will this reflect the already serious economic and social situation in the Country? What will be the main challenges for the new government? “The energy sector requires urgent reorganization: the electricity price was artificially mitigated for more than a year and a half and now public electricity companies have accumulated a large deficit that must be compensated. Also reforms in healthcare and education are urgently needed. Important decisions also need to be made on the future of some important and controversial projects such as the South Stream gas pipeline with strong Russian interests and the Belene nuclear power plant on the Danube”. Another element of the political crisis is linked to the situation of the Corporate Commercial Bank, one of the largest Bulgarian banks, placed under surveillance on June 20 by the national Bank because of reduced liquidity. “The main shareholder of Corporate Bank, Tsvetan Vassilev, connected to various political circles, sparked off an open conflict involving the media and the judiciary, against his recent partner, another controversial figure, Delyan Peevski, Member of Parliament with the DPS and media tycoon. There are several ways to exit this crisis, but a lot depends on the composition of the majority in power after the elections. The European Commission has already initiated an infringement procedure against Bulgaria for the impossibility of account holders to withdraw their money”.

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