Yoan Kolev: Mobilization and Disappointment in the Alternatives to the Status Quo
The third elections for parliament in the country for the year are now over. What made them different was that they were combined with regular elections for president and vice-president. Whereas the presidential election will be decided at a runoff next Sunday, the results of the early election for parliament have once again put together a difficult puzzle – will a regular government be formed and with what time horizon?
Sociologist Parvan Simeonov from Gallup sociological agency believes that this time all prerequisites are at hand for a coalition government to be formed, though he does not venture to say how long it may last:
“What we are seeing is that the parties of change enjoy sufficient support to be able to come up with some kind of option, together with the Bulgarian Socialist Party. But if they do not, I am very much afraid, that at the next election, voter turnout may be really low, and we may see a radicalization of the political process and other unpredictable developments.”
The election results were enviable for the party of the former ministers in the caretaker government Kiril Petkov and Assen Vassilev We Continue the Change, but parties like the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the nationalist Vazrazhdane also fared very well. The election pushed the Movement for Rights and Freedoms to the position of first political force outside Bulgaria (38.65%), followed by We Continue the Change (22.19%) and There Is Such a People (10.96%).
The party that is staking on anti-pandemic rhetoric and managed to clear the 4% electoral threshold for entering parliament – Vazrazhdane – got some serious support from Bulgarians abroad – 6.2%, following closely by GERB (8.01%) and Democratic Bulgaria (7.97%) in the results from the votes from abroad, with 97.7% of the results having been processed.
The performance of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Vazrazhdane among our compatriots outside Bulgaria merits a serious analysis.
“What the Movement did was remind us what it is capable of – something we seemed to have forgotten,” Parvan Simeonov says. “What we saw was voting on a massive scale on the territory of another country, something that did not happen at the election in July even though the restriction on the number of polling stations in non-EU countries had been lifted. And one more thing – this voting on a massive scale took place in a country which has strained relations with the Western world. And the most important thing now is that the Movement is reminding us of its existence, not just with the votes from Turkey but also with the campaign it conducted for president. This means that the Movement for Rights and Freedoms is closing ranks as it is being politically besieged in Bulgaria.”
The phenomenon with the good result for the party Vazrazhdane among our compatriots outside Bulgaria has its logical explanation – disappointment in the other alternatives to the formations from the status quo.
“The first big alternative – Slavi Trifonov and his party ITN – failed. Democratic Bulgaria faced stiff competition from We Continue the Change. Stand Up,BG! We Are Coming! failed, because at the third consecutive elections, their strength just gave out. At times such as these runners-up tend to grow. Parties like this tend to follow a strategy against everyone, refusing to take part in any collaborations and this pushes their result up. And last but not least Vazrazhdane is one of the protest-oriented formations in Bulgaria and it is quite normal for economic migrants outside the country to choose to support it.”
One problem Parvan Simeonov says will grow more and more prominent is the long-established tendency of the political parties underestimating the potential of the vote they could garner from Bulgarians abroad andtheir disregard for the weight it carries.
“As time goes by, it really could carry a lot of weight. The reason – more and more Bulgarians live outside the country, and it leaves us no choice, we need them, we need to somehow involve them in the political process. There are parties which ignore these potential voters altogether. One such party is the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which practically has no votes from abroad (2.33% - editorial note). And one more important thing – the voting abroad could prove crucial when the results of a given party are unstable. This means that even a small amount of work done for and among these communities can pay off for the formations that undertake the effort.”
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