The Bulgaria 2009 Review: Elections
Bulgaria’s European Parliament Elections – June 7, 2009
Borisov’s GERB Party Wins EP Elections with Minor Lead on Socialists
The center-right party GERB (i.e. “Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria”) of then Sofia Mayor (and later Prime Minister) Boyko Borisov won Bulgaria’s European Parliament Elections on June 7, 2009, with a minor lead on the then ruling Socialists.
Bulgaria entered the 2009 EP Elections with a ruling three-way coalition made up of the Socialist Party, the NMSP, and the DPS. GERB was emerging as the major opposition party, and so were the nationalists from Ataka and the rightists from the Blue Coalition. The EU Parliament Elections were considered a crucial test as Bulgaria was to vote in Parliamentary Elections only a month later – July 5, 2009.
The voter turnout in Bulgaria’s EP Elections was only 38,5% - below the EU average of 43%.
GERB received 24,48% of the cast votes getting 5 of Bulgaria’s 17 MEP seats. It sent to the EP Rumyana Zheleva (later to become Foreign Minister and EU Commissioner-Designate), Vladimir Uruchev, Iliyana Ivanova, Emil Stoyanov, and Mariya Nedelcheva.
Coalition for Bulgaria (dominated by the then ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party) won 18,59% of the votes, getting 4 MEPs – the then Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin, Iliyana Yotova, Kristian Vigenin, and Evgeni Kirilov.
14,21% of the votes went for the ethnic Turkish party DPS (“Movement for Rights and Freedoms”). It received three representatives in the EPP - Filiz Husmenova, Vladko Panayotov, and Metin Kazak.
The nationalist party ATAKA won two seats in the EP, and 12,01% of the votes. Its new old MEPs are Dimitar Stoyanov and Slavi Binev.
The party of former Tsar and PM Simeon Saxe-Coburg, the National Movement for Stability and Prosperity (NMSP), much to a surprise, won 8%, and sent two MEPs to Brussels and Strasbourg. These were then Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, and Antonia Parvanova.
The right-wing Blue Coalition (made up of Martin Dimitrov’s Union for Democratic Forces and Ivan Kostov’s Democrats for Strong Bulgaria) was only 329 votes behind NMSP; its result was 7,99%. The Blue Coalition got only one seat, which will be for Nadezhda Mihaylova, plus a second one added when the Lisbon Treaty entered into force later in 2009 (as under it Bulgaria has 18 rather than 17 MEPs).
The party LIDER of energy tycoon Hristo Kovachki got 5,73%, and did not pass the 5,88% threshold for making it to the EP. The conservative "Order, Law and Justice" (RZS) party won 4,69% of the votes, and the "Forward" Coalition got 2,26%. All other participants won under one percent.
In terms of absolute numbers, GERB received 627 693 votes, Coalition for Bulgaria (BSP) – 476 618, DPS – 364 254, Ataka – 307 985, NMSP – 205 145, Blue Coalition – 204 784, LIDER – 146 984, RZS – 120 280, Forward Coalition – 57 922.
Bulgaria’s New Members of the European Parliament – Quick Facts
41%, or 7 of Bulgaria’s 17 MEPs elected in June 2009 are women.
Bulgarians reelected 59%, or 10 of the 18 incumbent MEPs.
In June 2009, Bulgarians formally elected 17 MEPs, one fewer than the original number the country got in 2007. The 18th Bulgarian MEP – Svetoslav Malinov from the Blue Coalition (DSB) joined the EP after the Lisbon Treaty was ratified and entered into force on December 1, 2009.
Bulgarians elected to the EP two former Foreign Ministers – Ivaylo Kalfin (2005-2009) from the Socialist government, and Nadezhda Mihaylova, later known as Nadezhda Neynski after she remarried, in the rightist government of UDF (1997-2001).
Bulgaria’s EU Commisioner Kuneva Gives up MEP Seat
The unexpectedly strong performance of the NMSP party, which had been losing popularity during its participation in the three-way coalition with the Socialists and the ethnic Turks, is believed to have largely resulted from the No. 1 on its EP ticket, popular EU Commissioner for Consumer Protect Meglena Kuneva.
With a few months left to serve as EU Commissioner, Kuneva faced the tough choice of deciding whether to become a MEP after she was elected, or to retain her Commissioner seat. On July 10, 2009, after the GERB party had just won the general elections in Bulgaria, Kuneva announced she chose the EC over the EP, perhaps hoping to be nominated for a second term by the new Bulgarian government. Shortly after that, the new PM Boyko Borisov said he would not do so, later picking former MEP Rumiana Jeleva.
16,5% of Bulgaria's 2009 EP Votes "Controlled" amidst Vote-Buying Scramble
The total number of the votes in Bulgaria's 2009 European Elections that were bought or otherwise controlled was about 360 000, according to sociologist Antoniy Galabov. The so called "controlled vote", i.e. the number of voters who were either bought, or were otherwise coerced into voting, for example, with their employer threatening to fire them unless they supported a certain political party emerged as a very serious problem in Bulgaria in the summer of 2009. Vote-buying was reported to be rampant in Roma-populated ghettos and poorer provincial regions, and coercing by the employer was reported in southern Bulgarian towns and cities with plants owned by tycoon Hristo Kovachki who is the informal leader of the LIDER party.
On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 meaning totally "controlled vote", and 10 meaning totally free of control voting, Bulgaria's 2009 EP Vote ranked at 5,6. The overall trend, however, was more positive than negative as research showed that the full potential of the "controlled vote" in Bulgaria was about 640 000 votes, and that it was not realized. Thus, only about 360 000 votes were cast by people who had been paid or threatened with firing, which is about 16,5% of the total number of cast votes. Galabov pointed to certain Roma quarters around the country and certain factories in Southern and Southwest Bulgaria as striking cases of "controlled votes".
European People's Party Gets Largest EP Boost from Bulgaria
The Group of the European People's Party in the EP got the greatest number of Bulgarian MEPs among the European party families.
The EPP-ED Group got 7 MEPs from Bulgaria - the MEPs of its Bulgarian members - GERB (5 MEPs) and UDF + DSB ("Blue Coalition" - 2 MEPs).
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group also received 5 Bulgarian members - 3 from the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), and 2 from the National Movement for Security and Progress (NSMP) of former Tsar and former PM Simeon Saxe-Coburg.
The Party of the European Socialists received 4 Bulgarian members - from "Coalition for Bulgaria" which is led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
Bulgaria's remaining 2 MEPs are from the nationalist Ataka party. The election of far-right MEPs from Ataka and Romania's "Greater Romania" made possible the creation of a far-right group in the European Parliament in 2007 called "Identity, Tradtions, Sovereignty" (ITS) which existed for about 10 months and fell apart after "Greater Romania" pulled out over offensive remarks by an Italian MP, Mussolini's granddaughter.
European People's Party Retains Largest Group in European Parliament
The Group of the European People's Party-European Democrats remained the largest party family group in the new European Parliament.
According to the results from the 2009 EU Elections, released by the Parliament, EPP-ED received 265 MEPs, which is fewer than it had in the 2004-2009 Parliament.
The second largest group remained that of the Party of European Socialists with 184 MEPs. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe got 84 MEPs.
The Greens/European Free Alliance formed the fourth largest group with about 55 MEPs.
The European Conservatives and Reformists got 54 MEPs.
The United Left/Nordic Green Left Group got 35 seats. The Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group received 32 MEPs.
A group in the EP needs to have at least 25 MEPs from at least 7 states.
2009 European Elections with Lowest Turnout in EU History
The 2009 European Elections registered an average EU-wide turnout of only 43%, which is the lowest in EU's history. Bulgaria's voter turnout in the June 7 Elections is below the average at about 38,5%. The highest turnout was registered in Belgium - 91% - where the voting is mandatory. The lowest turnout was registered in Lithuania - 15%. The EU-wide turnout has been declining steadily since the first European Elections in 1979: 1979 - 63%; 1984 - 61%; 1989 - 58,5%; 1994 - 56,8%; 1999 - 49,4%; 2004 - 45,5%.
Bulgaria’s Parliamentary Elections – July 5, 2009
Borisov’s GERB Defeats Ruling Coalition in Bulgaria Parliamentary Elections
The center-right GERB party of led by Boyko Borisov won the Bulgarian Parliamentary Elections in a somewhat surprising landslide.
The GERB party got 39,71% of the cast votes for the 41st National Assembly, or about 1 620 000 votes.
The Coalition for Bulgaria led by the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party won 17,7%, or over 728 440 votes.
For the most part, the public opinion polls before the Parliamentary Elections predicted a minor win for Borisov’s GERB – similar to the results in the EP Elections a month earlier. After the elections, most sociologists commented that GERB received about 600 000 votes more than expected from people who had previously declared they would not vote.
The ethnic Turkish party DPS, which is also part of the ruling three-way coalition, got 14,46% of the votes.
9,36% give the nationalist Ataka party the fourth place, followed by the rightist Blue Coalition with 6,76%.
The conservative RZS party barely passed the 4% barrier with a little over 4,13% of the votes.
Those who could not pass the 4% threshold are the LIDER party of energy tycoon Hristo Kovachki with 3,23%, and the member of the three-way ruling coalition, NMSP of former Tsar and PM Simeon Saxe-Coburg, which won only 3,01%.
The GERB party won 26 of Bulgaria’s 31 majority representation MP seats, while the other 5 went to the DPS.
After the handing out of the mandates, GERB got 116 MPs (26 Majority, 90 Proportional), BSP - 40 Proportional MPs, DPS - 38 MPs (5 Majority, 33 Proportional), Ataka - 21 Proportional MPs, Blue Coalition - 15 Proportional MPs and RZS - 10 Proportional MPs. The Bulgarian Parliament has 240 seats, 121 are needed for a majority.
Bulgaria Elections Turnout Hits 60,2%
Voting activity in Bulgaria's general elections reached 60,2%, beating by some 5% the turnout four years ago. A total of 4 144 341 of all eligible voters in Bulgaria have cast their ballot against 3 747 793 voters or 55,76 % in the 2005 general elections, which brought to power the Socialist Party. Sofia district registered the highest election turnout with 64,65%, followed by Varna - 65,59%, Silista - 64,50% and Sofia 23 electoral district - 64,42%. The town of Kardzhali, which is best known for its predominantly ethnic Turkish populaton, marked the lowest voters' activity - 45,22% along with the Danube town of Vidin - 53,57%.
Election Day Vote-Buying Arrests Across Bulgaria
On July 5, 2009, Election Day, the Bulgarian Interior Ministry investigated 138 signals of vote-buying, several of which led to criminal trials. On the whole, despite a number of instances of vote-buying around the country, the issue was not as grave as previously predicted largely thanks to the unexpectedly high voter-turnout which wiped out much of the effect that vote-buying could have on the actually results.
Bulgaria Wannabe Mafia MPs Fail to Make It to Parliament
Despite much uproar caused by the running of alleged gangsters for MPs in Bulgaria before the elections, including the two Galevi Brothers, none of the murky candidates managed to make it to the Parliament. A number of persons with criminal proceedings did manage to stall their trials by acquiring temporary immunity as they were placed on the tickets of minor parties. However, none of them was elected despite the fears of much of the society that manipulations and vote-buying could help them achieve these goals.
Renewed Controversy over Voting of Bulgarian Expats in Turkey
The ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) gathered 63,18% (over 90 000) of the votes coming from abroad. GERB has 20,76% (30 880 votes), followed by the Blue Coalition with 5,17% (7684 votes). Nationalist and right-wing parties protested massively once again over the large-scale voting in by ethnic Turkish Bulgarian expats living in Turkey which favors the DPS party. The issue remained unresolved but some, including representatives of the GERB party, have floated the idea of abolishing the dual citizenship. The nationalists from Ataka and VMRO and the conservatives from the RZS have slammed the votes coming from Turkey as intervention in Bulgaria’s internal affairs.
Bulgaria Socialists, Anti-Socialists Top Election Spenders
Bulgaria's formerly ruling Socialist Party was the top spender during the 2009 general elections with a total of BGN 2,038 M. The BSP spent most of that - BGN 1,337 M on advertising in the press, on TV and on radio.
The arch-enemy of the Socialists from the 1990s, the rightist Blue Coalition was a close second with a spending of BGN 2,029. The ethnic Turkish party DPS, which was the top spender on the EU Elections, this time spent only BGN 999 000.
The fourth largest spender was the party of energy tycoon Hristo Kovachki, LIDER, which spend a total of BGN 959 000 together with its coalition partner Novoto Vreme (The New Time).
The Parliamentary Elections winner, PM Borisov's GERB party spent BGN 826 000. The conservative RZS party spent BGN 735 000. The most modest spender was the nationalist Ataka party. It spent only BGN 220 000.
Sofia Mayor By-Elecitons – November 15, 2009
GERB Candidate Fandakova Elected 1st Woman Mayor of Sofia
In what was largely seen as a pre-determined race, Yordanka Fandakova from Borisov’s GERB party was elected the new Mayor of the Bulgarian capital Sofia with 66,23% of the votes, or 170 454 votes. The candidate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Georgi Kadiev, received 27,71% of the votes, or 71 316.
Architect Pavel Popov from the conservative RZS party has received 2,8%, or 7 206 votes. Each of the other 15 candidates received below 1%.
The voter turnout in Sofia hit a record low of 23,17%. A total of 257 367 votes were cast out of a total of 1 110 258 names in the list of eligible voters.
The Bulgarian capital had to hold Mayor By-Elections as Boyko Borisov, who was elected Sofia Mayor in 2007, became the Prime Minister of the country in the summer of 2009.
In addition to winning in Sofia, the GERB party also won the mayor by-election races in the city of Vratsa, and the towns of Pravetz and Razlog.
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