Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

Bulgarian Presidential Elections, 22 OCT 2006

by gradinski chai Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 09:28:34 AM EST

A generally unenthusiastic electorate will go to the polls today...well perhaps 30-40% of them at least...to start the process of electing the Bulgarian president for the next five years.

Let's use this as a Bulgarian election thread - from the diaries ~ whataboutbob


For any candidate to win in tomorrow's first round, one candidate must win an absolute majority with at least 50% turnout. Since all indications are that turnout will fall well below 50%, we'll be heading to a second round election next weekend.

Like many other East European systems, Bulgaria has a weak presidential system, so whoever wins in the coming elections will not wield a decisive influence over Bulgarian policy processes. Instead, the position exists to meet with foreign officials and to provide a mild veto over parliament. Parliament can override a presidential veto by a simple majority, so the veto is more of an embarrassment or delay than a substantive part of the policy process. The real power is the power of an attentive press and many formal state meetings.

There are only two real candidates in tomorrow's election. These are the ones who are very, very likely to end up in a second round of elections next weekend:

GEORGI PURVANOV (Bulgarian Socialist Party) is the current president. His tenure has been generally uneventful and some would say uninspired. He has admitted to being an informer to the communist regime's internal security services, which has not won him any votes among the center-right of the political spectrum. He does, however, usually make a decent public face for Bulgaria and generally knows how to say the right sort of things for an external audience.

VODIN SIDEROV (Movement ATTAKA) is the far right candidate. He is credited by many Bulgarians with talking honestly about what many see as some of the most pressing problems facing the country. As with any far right candidate, there are the typical scapegoats for why average Bulgarians are having such a hard time...gypsies (Roma about 4-5% of the population)...Turks (about 7% of the population)...Jews and Gays/Lesbians. These groups are the cause of all problems in addition to the European Union and the United States. Siderov has some interesting policy proposals including sending all of the gypsy population to the moon. (No, I'm not kidding...this is really the idea.) Some of you may have read about the ATTAKA European Parliament boytoy observer

who sent an email to some colleagues in the EP about a Hungarian Roma MEP and about Bulgarian gypsies being cheap to buy.

Polls indicate that Siderov will take somewhere between 20-25% of the poll tomorrow. I think that this is a low figure. There is a lot of soft support that is using Siderov as an expression of their frustrations with the ruling elites and ruling parties. I think he could reach 30-35%. Purvanov will reach about 35-40%.

The interesting question is what the traditional center right parties will do in all of this. Their weak candidate will certainly poll third or fourth place, so the question facing them is whether they will do what the French and Romanian political elite did when faced with similar situations (support the left candidate no matter how unpalatable he may be) or what. There are some indications that they may simply sit out the election claiming that they cannot support Purvanov. If this, indeed, is the case (meaning that they ignore the certain pressure from the European People's Party) then next week will make for a very interesting political thriller. We might just have an EU candidate state with a bizarre far right president.

I'll report on the election results as they come in.

Display:
We had an interesting discussion of Purvanov in this diary by a student of Gradinski Chai's:
* "Eyes Wide Shut" or Why Do We Tolerate Populism in Politics? by ccarc on February 26th, 2006
Siderov was profiled in this diary by another student:
* On How Populism in Bulgaria Is Different by Little L on March 27th, 2006
And there was this followup:
* Populism Takes the Lead by lukewarm on April 6th, 2006
The Gypsy issue was discussed in these student diaries:
The Turkish issue was discussed here:
* The Role of an Ethnic Party--the Bulgarian Example by ccarc on April 12th, 2006

I am personally really grateful to Gradinski Chai for bringing his students into ET last winter. I learnt a lot.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 21st, 2006 at 07:01:49 PM EST
Migeru,

I'm just totally blown away by your work here. Thanks so very much.

I spoken with a couple of the students who were in the course, and they have become lurkers. I need to encourage them a bit to participate more.

by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 02:09:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now in the wiki.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 04:55:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I really miss the ET..I keep on reading it, but not as often as I used to. Strangely enough, ET was the first website I went to after the elections. Thanks for this diary, gradinski chai, I was sure you'd contribute on the elections issue.

Have to go and watch Volen Siderov's press conference now. Amen!;-)

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde

by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 05:23:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A generally unenthusiastic electorate will go to the polls today...well perhaps 30-40% of them at least...to start the process of electing the Bulgarian president for the next five years.

For any candidate to win in tomorrow's first round, one candidate must win an absolute majority with at least 50% turnout. Since all indications are that turnout will fall well below 50%, we'll be heading to a second round election next weekend.

In light of this story form last year...
Bulgarians voting in next week's parliamentary elections will have the opportunity to participate in an election lottery. The government sponsored lottery will allow voters who have voted to register for the lottery by internet or by mobile phone. Prizes include mobile phones,  watches, computers, and a Hyundai Matrix.

The government arrived at this plan after early surveys put voter turnout at about 50% for the 25 June vote. The thing is that Bulgarians always say that they will not vote in the elections, and yet they end up voting in very respectable numbers (71% in the 2001 elections).

it makes one wonder whether the turnout this time around is in fact lower than it might have been precisely because voters cannot be rewarded this time around (as manipulating the turnout would affect the result of the election).

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 04:58:49 AM EST
I think voters have basically had it with just about everyone...at least the traditional political parties. This is a plague on all your houses type electorate.

Part of the vote for Siderov is the far right that we see in every European electorate. The larger part, I argue, is made up of people who just are tired of a political elite that still is seen as corrupt, stealing right and left, and lying to the people. This is an anti-establishment vote rather than an endorsement of the far right's positions.

by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 07:34:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At 13:00 today, the voter turnout was 19.04%.

Voter turnout was highest in Silistra and Veliko Turnovo with about 25% turnout.

Turnout was lowest in Sofia and Kyustendil with only about 15% turnout.

This is good news for the far right Siderov since he polls well in the medium sized towns. Particularly in these areas. Traditionally, he has not polled well in Sofia, Blagoevgrad (in the soutwest corner of the country), and in the small villages across the country.

Polling agencies are reporting a turnout of about 33% at 14:00 today. Since this would mean that 14% of the population went to vote in one hour, I don't believe these figures.

We'll know something of the results tonight at around 8:30 (CET).

I am not usually such a attentive correspondent as most of you know...but I have several piles of papers that I am trying my best to avoid working on today. So by writing something here, I can rationalize that I am providing a community service. :)

My students won't believe that either. :)

by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 10:13:58 AM EST
Usually turnout figures are not very meaningful without reference to the turnout at the same time of day in previous similar elections, in this case the last Presidential election.

In other words, I have no way to gauge whether 19% turnout at 1 pm is high or low.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 10:15:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are absolutely correct. One can know very little from such a figure without comparing it with figures from other elections. If my memory serves me correctly, this is a several percentage points lower (I'm thinking about 5% lower) than the last parliamentary elections for the same hour...they always give the 13:00 figures. So it looks like a lower turnout.
by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 10:29:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Aha, and who is it that says procrastination is bad????? :)))) And is so strict about deadlines... But you're doing us a favor.

What you're doing IS community service. I think no amount of talking on your part in class which leads students to believe they have to be engaged citizens can substitute actions. It's a nice example.

by Brownie on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 06:23:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excuse my ignorance of most things in Bulgaria, except the headlines that cross borders:

*If the president is the weak link in the system, how will the election affect the national process?

*Is there a political sense of the need for change, realated to becoming an EU member?

I did read about the boy toy and "dismissed it" as another common disgrace, since politician sexism is rampant: Bush, Aznar, Putin....  It is tragic that it seems the lesser of evils, though.

*What is the real role and place of Simeon?  The denial of involvement with D´Aosta was not very convincing at all, but where does he fit in since he returned from exile?  

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 12:31:55 PM EST
The president has the ability to return legislation to parliament, but parliament only needs to pass the legislation again by 50%+1 for it to become law. The president's real power comes from his access to the press and public and access to the outside world.

The support for SIDEROV comes from a felt need that the political elite are all corrupt and have not served the average people.

Simeon's (former prime minister and king) involvement with his cousin is still under investigation. The prosecutor's office has still not released its findings.

by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 12:54:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The polls have closed and the polling agencies are now releasing the exit polls. The three current exit polls each show about the same results:

PURVANOV 60-65%

SIDEROV  20-25%

These result are very interesting and are somewhat contrary to what the polling agencies have been telling us for the past week.

What we are all now waiting for is whether or not these results are real or only in the exit polls. I, personally, expect the Siderov vote to be on the high side of these figures or even a little above this. Again, I argue that there is a hidden vote that is out there, but will not speak of this in public.

What we are also waiting for is whether or not the total turnout is above 50% of the electorate. Under Bulgarian law, this is the only way to avoid a second round.

In any case, these first results look very promising. Voters seem to have resisted the far right by a large margin.

In first questions to the third place candidate of the more mainstream conservative parties, we have the expected answer that I wrote about earlier in the day. The mainstream right candidate said that he will not vote in the second round. We'll see if he continues to say that.

by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 12:48:30 PM EST
Just a couple of other points so far from the exit polls...

As I wrote about earlier, PURVANOV did very well in Sofia and in the small towns and villages. For example, he seems to be polling about 68% in Sofia to 19% for SIDEROV.

SIDEROV did well in the middle size cities.

by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 12:50:47 PM EST
I made a mistake in the Sofia vote. Siderov appears to have taken only about 11% of the vote in the capital.
by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 01:19:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the question that I hope EVERY international journalist will ask over the next week. Tonight, they are being very quiet...they are talking about boycotting the vote, but not quite talking about it openly...they are talking about not supporting a democracy.

I DO HOPE that the internationl and European press will STRONGLY insist on an answer to this question.

I also hope that the European People's Party will begin to put pressure on the two largest right formations, the Union of Democratic Forces and the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, and make them live up to the DEMOCRAT in their party names...OR do they prefer to allow NON-democratic forces to take the presidency? It will be very interesting how these parties answer this to a wider European press.

by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 01:59:07 PM EST
From an EU standpoint, I assume they will have to keep up appearances of democracy, or else, but is there a chance the right wing parties could unite and refuse membership?

What are the economic powers behind the scenes doing?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 02:39:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There will not be an opportunity for the parties to unite since there will not be a referendum on membership. All parties, right to left, want EU membership with the single exception of ATTAKA.

The question for the international media to ask the two right parties is whether or not they are ready to support  democracy over the far right. So far, they don't really seem to want to answer the question.

by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 02:57:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder why they've been silent. Are they trying to come up with a response and a policy? Or are they surprised by the voting results? Or is silence their policy, something like a boycott?
by Brownie on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 06:28:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
According to leader of the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria...it means a boycott. Which is why the international media need to ask the questions.
by gradinski chai on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 06:33:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm, a boycott is not going to help us...
by Brownie on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 08:38:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gradinski chai: Thank you for the original diary, and for all the followup on the incoming results...much appreciated and excellent job. I find this vote very positive (assumming the socialist candidate does win).

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 04:35:44 PM EST
Just like Little L, i KNEW i'd find a nice summary here. Thanks for doing that, given that in the middle of mid-term exams here you're busier than usual, like all of us.

I was also delighted to see that Eurotribers are curious about developments here.

I'm disappointed for not having been able to vote. My fault - forgot to do some paperwork. I would have voted for Purvanov, of course. I have to admit that i did not follow the election campaign and therefore wasn't familiar with the discourses of the different candidates. (Why is a separate story. Excuses!) I had just a nodding acquiantance from discussions in a political science class.

Hopefully i'll be able to fix the paperwork problem and vote next weekend.

That said, i was told last night about a newly-adopted law that forbids Bulgarian citizens who have been out of the country during the last 1 month, if i am not mistaken, to vote in the elections. Is that true?

I was also told that the main reason for the adoption of this law was the undemocratic way in which Ahmed Dogan, from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (a Turkish ethnic party), gets votes from people living in Turkey who also have Bulgarian citizenship. As far as i know, he pays them to come to Bulgaria for a few days, cast a ballot, and then go back to Turkey. Since these people live in Turkey most of the time, they are not quite concerned with the situation here, so of course when paid they'd vote.

But i am confused: how is the gathering of the Turkish votes related to the current presidential elections? Who were these Turks supposed to vote for now?

Back to the newly-adopted law. I might be mistaken, but apart from Dogan's Turks, the other group that is affected by this law are primarily young people. They are the ones most likely to travel outside the country, and they are the part of the middle and upper-middle class that have more money. So an important group. Could one argue that because this law affects people like them, this law amounts to voter suppression?

Of course, we've discussed in class that voter suppression happens around the world.

by Brownie on Sun Oct 22nd, 2006 at 06:16:50 PM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries

The Brexit effect

by Frank Schnittger - Oct 25
20 comments

A Trip to the Woodshed

by Cat - Nov 3
20 comments

Catalonia?

by Frank Schnittger - Oct 28
17 comments