Bulgarian elections: the “beginning of the end” for Borisov? | News from Europe


On Sunday, Bulgarians will go to the polls for the second parliamentary elections in three months.

An early vote was called after the April 4 vote that resulted in a hanging parliament, with former Conservative Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s GERB ruling party not getting enough support to form a new one. cabinet.

In May, Borisov, who has been prime minister for three terms since 2009, had to step down and hand over power to an interim government.

Since then, several political scandals have shaken the country of seven million, as the interim cabinet tried to uncover what it says are corrupt practices of GERB-linked government officials.

Pre-election polls show that GERB is almost tied to There is such a people, the party that came second in the April vote and is led by popular talk show host Slavi Trifonov.

It is possible that far-right parties that were partners of the GERB coalition in the previous government could not exceed the 4% threshold to enter parliament.

Analysts with whom Al Jazeera spoke said in the July 11 election that Borisov’s party could fail again to get enough votes to form a coalition, which would end the ten-year practice of power of the former Prime Minister.

Some say this may even mark the end of his political career.

“Trumpization of the election campaign”

Since taking power on May 12, the interim government has regularly published public information on practices of corruption, embezzlement and other legal violations that it says it has uncovered in government ministries and state institutions.

The administration has initiated investigations into state-funded dealings, examined infrastructure projects, initiated investigations into malpractice in government hospitals, replaced police and customs chiefs across the country, and thoroughly documented reports from citizens on alleged corruption practices.

Accusations by the business sector against the previous government have also been publicized, and a businessman claimed before a parliamentary committee that Borisov had personally threatened him.

In a separate allegation, Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said another businessman confided in him that Borisov had suggested they could kill him and feed his body to his family.

The former prime minister has dismissed these accusations as a political campaign against him, and predicted he could be arrested soon.

“Don’t be afraid, I’m the one watching,” Borisov told a gathering of young GERB members in May. “What is happening now as a coup is not at all legal.”

He also questioned the mandatory use of voting machines in Sunday’s election, and accused opposition parties of “manipulating” them.

According to Anna Krasteva, a professor of political science at the New Bulgarian University, the rhetoric of Borisov’s campaign shows that he has run out of strategic moves.

“All he has left are tactical moves and they are ridiculous. He is in favor of Trumpizing the election campaign, “he told Al Jazeera.” This is definitely the beginning of Borisov’s end. In the eyes of the Bulgarian people, he defends corruption. “

Sanctions of the Magnitsky Act

However, according to Petar Cholakov, an associate professor of sociology at the Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, it is too early to declare the end of Borisov and his party.

“The situation is quite dynamic … If the so-called protest parties cannot form a government after the elections, this could work in favor of GERB,” he said, referring to the three parties that supported the protests against GERB summer 2020 – There is such a people, democratic Bulgaria and Stand! Bullies out !.

And, despite alleged corruption scandals, some of Borisov’s allies abroad maintain his support.

“I follow what is happening in Bulgaria and, Boyko, you have a lot of work to do. The PPE supports you, we stand firm behind you. Trust us, “Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, said in June.

On July 3, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Borisov in Istanbul and praised the migration policies of his “true friend and brother.”

Supporters wearing T-shirts with images of former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov wait before an election rally in Kardzhali on July 5, 2021 [File: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP]

But the administration of US President Joe Biden seems to be sending a different signal.

Shortly after the caretaker government took over in May, US Ambassador Hero Mustafa met with Prime Minister Stefan Yanev and several of his ministers and paid an unusual visit to the National Revenue Agency.

Then, on June 2, the Biden administration announced sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against various Bulgarian political and business figures, including former MP Delyan Peevski of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRLs).

According to some, Borisov has close relations with the sanctioned media mogul.

Cholakov said Peevsky’s alleged trade in Bulgarian passports and links to Russian energy projects may have been perceived by Washington as a threat to U.S. interests.

But sanctions are also a sign of disapproval.

“The United States is not happy with this model of governance [of GERB-MLR], “He said.

A third choice

GERB and There is such a People are voting around 20 percent.

The other two parties that could enter a possible anti-GERB coalition: Democratic Bulgaria and Stand Up! Bullies out! – are about 12 and 5 percent, respectively.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party is at 15% and the MRL at 11%.

But according to political consultant Vesislava Tancheva, there may be some surprises due to automatic voting, which would limit the purchase of votes and could discourage some minority communities that did not read Bulgarian.

This may affect MRL results, in particular, as the party is traditionally supported by minorities.

Some supporters of GERB’s large companies may also withdraw their support, reducing the so-called “controlled vote,” where large employers instruct employees to vote for a specific party that favors their interests.

These trends may not bring enough votes to an anti-GERB coalition.

“It is very possible that this year we will go to a third election. And this is a possibility that all parties except GERB are discussing internally, ”Tancheva said.

In his view, a third election could put pressure on GERB and lead to another interim government investigating its dealings and pushing for judicial reform, which could speed up prosecution in corruption cases.

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