Pollster Mira Radeva: New Elections Only Way Out for Bulgaria
Interview of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) and Novinite.bg with pollster Mira Radeva, head of MBMD agency
You have made an interesting forecast, saying that the recently-founded right-leaning Reformist Block can catch up with formerly ruling GERB if new elections are held by the end of the year. Could you elaborate a bit on that?
We should be very careful when making such interpretations. True, I said it is possible for the Reformist Block to draw level with GERB, but there are a number of conditions for this to happen.
First, the voters most likely to support center-right parties are the most active people. They are the driver of the current events in Bulgaria.
The majority of them did not go to the polls in the previous elections because nobody was worthy of their support. All these people will definitely cast their vote now if the Reformist Block manages to promote leaders who inspire and give hope.
At the same time the formerly ruling GERB party is no longer riding the popularity wave, on the contrary it is losing voters’ trust and support.
Let me point out that all these are only theoretical assumptions. I am not basing my claims on a particular poll, rather I am drawing on my long professional experience.
Are the reforms which the Reformist Block offers possible to implement or they are totally unrealistic?
The answer depends on the point of view. Insiders say that former die-hard right-winger Ivan Kostov has not exited the political scene and still is pulling the strings. If this is true, I doubt that the reforms can be implemented. But my point of view is the point of view of an ordinary voter, who is no insider.
Are there new right-wing leaders who could win voters’ trust?
Radan Kanev, the new leader of Democrats for Strong Bulgaria, is a young man, unburdened by the past. Yonko Grozev is a charismatic man with NGO background.
We all saw the potential that former European Commissioner Meglena Kuneva has and how much her party and others like it have learned. But now new faces are moving into the foreground and we should follow them closely.
Do you expect the Reformist Block to officially spearhead the protests even though part of the protesters are openly non-political?
This is a possible scenario. Bulgaria’s protesters are quite a diverse group, people with diverse ideology and values, who at one point will be forced to get united in on political formation, to make a choice.
We saw in the previous election that many young people do not support GERB. Most of them even refused to go to the polls. The Reformist block has great potential to attract these people.
I also expect other new parties to stake a claim.
Economists have warned that elections in the autumn will throw Bulgaria into turmoil. How serious are these worries?
Bulgaria’s economy is already in turmoil. Economic stability and predictability can be expected only after state institutions begin to function properly and win back people’s trust. As long as social tensions are brewing, the prospect of economic recession will loom larger and larger. It is very likely that Bulgaria’s economy will enter a difficult period of stagnation.
With or without elections, we are in a very difficult situation as long as people don’t trust the state. Bulgaria has been stuck in a political deadlock since February and no solution is in the offing. But it is imperative to find a solution to the political crisis to quench social tensions. The ruling politicians however don’t seem to care about this.
The rulers from the Socialist Party and ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms have to be well aware nothing good will come out of their term if nobody believes them.
If somebody hopes that the current government will revive the economy, they are gravely misled. Bulgaria’s economy is in dire straits and this will become more than clear in the autumn. What we need is consensus, the two sides should bury the hatchet. With this government in power, however, this is mission impossible.
What I suggested, right after the protests erupted, was the formation of a new cabinet of experts. This did not happen because Socialist leader Sergey Stanishev proved to be a very stubborn man. Now it is already too late. Even if the rulers try to form a new cabinet of experts, the protesters won’t believe them. For them this will be just another trick of the oligarchy. That’s why early elections are the only way out for Bulgaria.
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The May 2013 Elections had a 53% turnout that is worrying, what needs to be done to get a higher turnout?
Sure, in Democratic Countries people have the right to protest peacefully and if the protests raise legitimate issues then Governments should listen and maybe act on them.
I was really surprised when the GERB led Government resigned in March 2013 following protests, the job of Government is to Govern.
The current Government faces huge challenges given that it does not have a majority and will have to work hard to get consensus to get its policy through.
This might be a good thing to get cross party consensus on policies.
I would be very disappointed if they resigned because of the protests!!!!!!
Let's look at the logic of this woman's reasoning.
She puts forward one single, unique group as the driver of Bulgarian history. These people are "the voters most likely to support center-right parties."
These are people of the future, according to her. In her own words: "They are the driver of the current events in Bulgaria." And why? Because they "are the most active people," i.e. they are the people most likely to vote.
So what happened to this history-making center-right electorate in the last round of elections? Well . . . these people most-likely-to-vote . . . well, they didn't bother so much to vote.
And why didn't they vote? Well, "the majority of them [i.e. center-right voters] did not go to the polls in the previous elections because nobody was worthy of their support."
That's odd, since the GERB government was a center-right government.
So here's the question: did GERB follow purely center-right policies and so lost power? That seems to have been the case. Or, instead was it insufficiently rightist?
Only a rightist would say the latter.
The author goes on to explore the (for her) very interesting hope that the center-right electorate will turn even further to the right, and embrace the rightist policies of the "Reformist Bloc" (After all, most journalists call Ivan Kostov, the present-day UDF and all their ilk for what they are - rightists).
Borissov lost power because his budgetary policies restained economic growth too much. This is what is called "austerity" elsewhere in Europe.
Also, Borissov failed in a typical way for a center-right party: he favored the profits of international companies (and the Foreign Direct Investment these multinational companies offer) over the needs of consumers and workers in his own country. When the Czech CEZ raised the power rates in the name of profit, people took to the streets.
Let's see if in 2014 this woman's hopes are realized, if her worthy center-right electorate shows up at the polls and vote for rightists like Ivan Kostov and whoever he decided to combine with.
Then we will see pensions "reformed," educational spending (and teacher salaries) "reformed," health care spending "reformed," and (finally) wages "reformed," to say nothing of electricity prices.
Then we will see if people take to the streets only to protest a Turk as a cabinet minister ("Corruption!"), or if they have something more important on their mind.