The Sandwich of Bulgaria's Democracy
This past Sunday Bulgarians overwhelmingly voted for change. The ruling three-party Coalition suffered a crushing defeat while the opposition Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) registered a landslide victory with nearly 40% of the vote and a remarkable 60% voter turnout.
The results are certainly something the Bulgarian civil society must be proud of. However, some hastily declared them "the victory of democracy".
Unfortunately, Bulgaria is far away from being a true democratic state. The ugly faces of Aleko Konstantinov's Bai Ganio and the group of like-minded people driving his mean political campaign are still lurking behind the facade of democracy, laughing at us.
The wide-spread vote buying, the amazing upsurge of the so-called controlled and corporate vote and the organized bus trips for group voting all over the country, certainly take us back to the ethnic stereotype of the uneducated, greedy and oriental Bulgarian, whose bad manners, unscrupulousness and vulgarity clash with the civilized European.
With the parliamentary run of the murky businessmen and alleged crime bosses from the small town of Dupnitsa - Angel Hristov and Plamen Galev aka The Galevi Brothers, Bulgaria's political life continues to be a stark reminiscence of the Bai Ganio Is Organizing Elections and other political feuilletons of Aleko Konstantinov where the character turns from a petty rose oil dealer into a big-time politician, who writes petitions, runs for Member of the National Assembly and issues a political newspaper.
There isn't true democracy in a State where during an election campaign meeting supporters of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party throw rocks at their socialist opponents, calling them "Turks" while the red party members, who should profess respect and appreciation for all occupations, think that the biggest insult is to label the adversaries "firefighters."
There isn't democracy when votes are sold and bought with good old cash, and with such ingenious commodities like gasoline, cooking oil, a pack of flour, heroin or a ham sandwich on whose wrap one notices a certain ballot number.
There isn't democracy in a country where vote buying is at the same time illegal and a common occurrence because the law is not enforced and we are yet to see if anyone will be punished.
Voting through blackmail, threats and harassment might be more difficult to catch but it is the same massacre of one of the most cherished democratic rights of the citizen - the right of a free political vote. The controlled, corporate vote forcefully turns people into serfs bringing votes to their "feudal lord."
In addition, the easiness with which a politician, such as the leader of the ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), Ahmed Dogan, makes startling anti-democratic, anti-constitutional and politically immoral statements is a public display of the feeling of being untouchable and the complete disregard towards Bulgaria's democracy and civil society.
It is even more appalling that after Dogan's statements that he is Bulgaria's backseat ruler, controlling the country's financial resources, that taking people around the country and organizing group voting trips is nothing illegal, there still weren't more negative electoral consequences for DPS and its leader.
All these dangerous trends should be unacceptable in a true democratic State. To use Dogan's own words, we must admit that there is indeed a "virus" that has invaded the Bulgarian political model. And it did not escape the attention of the mission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) which was in Bulgaria to observe the general elections.
The Head of the Mission, Professor Tadeusz Iwinski, officially announced Monday that PACE will propose the restart of the monitoring process.
"Further efforts are necessary to ensure the integrity of the election process and increase public confidence. Late changes to the election system, concerns about the effectiveness of law enforcement and the judiciary, as well as pervasive and persistent allegations of vote-buying, negatively affected the election environment", the statement said.
So, the July 5 elections were not the victory of democracy. Just a very, very good start - 4 million Bulgarians got angry and woke up from lethargy to show that the remedy against the virus infection is to exercise their voting rights.
The high voter turnout made the money that was poured into vote buying a huge investment flop, but true democracy will arrive when, as French Ambassador to Sofia, Etienne de Poncins said "money is used to buy wine and cheese, not votes"; when harassment of people to cast a certain ballot, busing them around the country, or allowing criminals to run for Parliamentary seats, despite being legal, becomes extinct simply because it is immoral.