Local Elections 2015: Will Burgas Continue to be Among Bulgaria's Best Cities to Live in?
Local elections are coming in just days, and Novinite is fully aware it did not provide the campaign coverage a news outlet covering a particular country usually does whatever vote is forthcoming.
This was avoided on purpose, and in a short opinion piece after the vote we will explain why. Instead, we are offering short summaries about key candidates in Bulgaria’s five biggest cities. These are Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, and Veliko Tarnovo.
Far from being an “extended ballot” – i.e. a full list of candidates with acclarations – each one is a selection of several candidates – either those who belong to one of the biggest parties or whose bid can easily be singled out for something in particular.
Following the summaries about the key candidates in Sofia, Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria's fourth largest city - Burgas comes next – with summaries arranged in random order. In the past five years, Burgas has been voted on three occasions as the “Best city to live in Bulgaria” in the annual poll of Darik radio and 24 Chasa daily. Burgas has also outpaced in many aspects its main competitor in the Black Sea region – Varna. However low living standards and average wages lower than the rest of Bulgaria raise some questions on the actual achievements.
A total of 11 candidates for mayor and 483 nominees for municipal councillors will be contesting the forthcoming local elections in the city of Burgas on October 25.
The largest ruling party GERB nominated the incumbent mayor Dimitar Nikolov, while the candidate of the largest opposition party BSP is Evgenii Mosinov.
Nikolov will be running for a third consecutive term after having been elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2011.
In 2011, Nikolov was re-elected at the first round with 70.86 % of the votes, Darik radio informs.
Three other parliamentary represented parties have also nominated candidates for mayor.
One of the parties constituting the Patriotic Front, NFSB, nominated Boyko Mirazchiiski.
Ivan Ivanov is the candidate of the nationalist Ataka, while left-wing ABV nominated Kamen Seymenliiski.
The remaining contenders are candidates of non-parliamentary represented parties, namely Milcho Dobrev (Forward Bulgaria Movement), Andrean Georgiev (Democratic action movement), Sergey Elfimov (Movement for radical change "Bulgarian Spring"), Georgi Zhelyazkov (National Republican Party), Tsvetan Harizanov (New Alternative) and the only female contender Nela Ivanova (People’s Voice).
Dimitar Nikolov (incumbent, GERB)
At the opening of his election campaign, Nikolov reviewed the main achievements of his last term as mayor.
According to him, Burgas managed to consolidate as the administrative and economic centre of the largest Bulgarian province.
He pointed to some of his other achievements, such as the completely renewed public transport system, the modern waste disposal system and the establishment of several eco-zones in the municipality.
In his words, Burgas became the leader in the energy efficiency programme as well as in the successful preparation and implementation of EU projects.
He vows to continue modernizing the city, developing its infrastructure and improving the quality and accessibility of the services offered.
If reelected to a third term Nikolov will focus on: accelerating the pace of development; ensuring funding; investing in healthcare and education; restoring iconic buildings; opening the city towards the sea and lakes; unlocking the city’s economic potential.
He vows to renovate old units and open new ones at the oncology centre as well as to unveil a medical faculty.
The incumbent sets out to renovate all playgrounds and build new school gyms and outdoor sports facilities in the yards of all educational establishments.
In addition, the Arena Burgas multi-purpose hall will be unveiled, while a sports complex will be built in Mednik Rudnik neighbourhood as well as an outdoor swimming pool and a skate park.
Parallel to these developments, an Olympic-size swimming pool will be also constructed.
Nikolov foresees the completion of the western interchange and launching of the “integrated public transport of Burgas” project, which will provide real-time information on traffic.
The new transport infrastructure will also feature four pedestrian bridges, new cycling lanes and completion of the northern ring road of Burgas.
The candidate of GERB vows to build a new port and new ethnographic complex in the Chengene skele bay and three new eco-zones on the banks of the Vaya lake.
This will be coupled with the renovation of the Ezero (Lake) park and the historical core of the sea garden.
Nikolov foresees the industrial park in the north commercial zone to start functioning soon with the first new enterprises expected to become operational.
He will work towards completing the new tourist complex Aquae Calidae, which is located at the site of the ancient Roman thermae and the present Burgas mineral baths.
The incumbent calls for turning the German language school into a library and museum of contemporary art as well as the opening of a new art gallery and a miniature park in Ezero.
According to his estimates, 150 blocks of flats will undergo renovation under the energy efficiency programme.
He will also pursue the idea for English to be taught in kindergartens and introducing healthy food in the canteens.
Nikolov assured that the best for Burgas is yet to come and explained that he will rely on the active support of citizens for ensuring the bright future of their city.
Evgenii Mosinov (BSP)
Mosinov seems to be the most vocal critic of Nikolov, having clearly expressed his discontent with the way Burgas has been governed in the past eight years.
The Socialist criticized the ineffective management of the municipality’s finance, including the investment of BGN 24 M in the now insolvent Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB).
Mosinov criticized the incumbent mayor for having turned Burgas into a “bedroom city”, with most of its citizens working in the nearby resorts and being forced to commute on a daily basis.
The Socialist also noted the ineffective management of the municipality’s revenues, which amounted to BGN 70 M.
According to him, investors were bypassing Burgas, with no new investments made in the city, while the municipality has become the largest employer.
He also pointed that the problem with parking has not yet been solved and complained that public discussions on issues of importance to the city were lacking.
Furthermore, the municipal council has been turned into a rubber stamp for the decisions of the mayor.
The main stances of four other candidates
Similarly to other candidates of GERB, Nikolov did not participate in the election debate on private bTV station.
A total of six candidates for mayor participated in the debate – Mosinov, Seymenliiski (ABV), Ivanov (Ataka), Georgiev (Democratic action movement), Ivanova (People's voice) and Elfimov (Movement for radical change "Bulgarian Spring").
Seymenliiski called for reinvigorating the spiritual life of the city, which has been largely neglected.
The candidate of ABV also criticized the spending of millions without municipal control.
Ivanov pointed to the city’s unsolved ecological problems and the unsuccessful public-private partnerships in which private interest had taken over the public one.
The nationalist added that there was need for setting the local economy in motion and attracting more investments, including from the Eurasian Union and China.
Georgiev called for allowing young people to voice their opinion, noting that he is in favour of full political and fiscal decentralization.
According to him, there was also need for greater transparency in public procurement procedures and more contracts awarded to local firms.
Furthermore, he was discontent with the low living standard and purchasing power and the fact that the average wage in Burgas was lower than the rest in the country.
The only female contestant, Ivanova, will work towards preventing the youth from leaving the city and ensuring greater participation of society in the local government.
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