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Bulgarian Parliamentary Election: Who Is Who

The last year undoubtedly was one of the most difficult for every country in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis affected the politics and the societies. Beside this, Bulgaria experienced massive anti-government protests during the summer of 2020. As a post-communist state, it faces problems such as low quality of democracy and concentration of property in the hands of a few politicians and businessmen. The perception of the high level of corruption is typical for the Bulgarian society.

These problems, beside the coronavirus crisis, had effect on the formation of political parties and coalitions which filed papers for the upcoming parliamentary election on 4 April. Bulgarian parties lack the longer democratic traditions of West European counterparts; a great deal of them make short-term coalitions in order to have electoral pay-offs. Keeping these considerations in mind, the new-formed electoral coalitions for the upcoming election make sense in the nascent tradition of Bulgarian democratic development.

Electoral CoalitionParties
Coalition GERB-SDS (EPP)Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB-EPP)
Union of the Democratic Forces (SDS-EPP)
BSP for Bulgaria (BSPzB-S&D)Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP-S&D)
New Dawn (NZ-*)
Communist Party of Bulgaria (KPB-*)
Political club ‘Thrace’ (PKT-*)
Democratic Bulgaria – Union (DB-EPP|G/EFA)Yes, Bulgaria (DaB-*)
Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB-EPP)
Green Movement (Zelenite-G/EFA)
Stand up! Mafia out! (ISMV-EPP|G/EFA)Movement 21 (D21-*)
Movement Bulgaria to the Citizens (DBG-EPP)
United People’s Party (ENP-*)
Agrarian People’s Union (ZNS-*, partial member)
Volt (G/EFA, partial member)
Patriotic Coalition-Volya and NFSB (ID)Volya (ID)
National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB-*)
Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BZNS-*)

What has changed?

The anti-government protests in the summer of 2020 boosted several political formations. The protests erupted after Hristo Ivanov, the leader of the party ‘Yes, Bulgaria’, part of Democratic Bulgaria electoral alliance (Demokratichna Bulgaria, DB-G/EFA|EPP) tried to reach a beach and was prevented by bodyguards. The beach Rosenetz is near to a property owned by Ahmed Dogan, the leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (Dvizhenie za prava i svobodi, DPS-RE). His aim was to show that the land is illegally occupied by Dogan and some politicians are untouchable. As a result, mass protests erupted in the center of Sofia. People protested against ‘the mafia’ and ‘the government which hasn’t resisted it’.

The President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev (*), was an active participant and tried to lead the protest after the chief prosecutor of Bulgaria arrested two of his councilors on the suspicions of trading in influence. President Radev transferred his dissatisfaction from the prosecutor’s office to the government. He is also known for opposing the government for a long time; during the protests he joined the crowd in chanting ‘Mafia out’.

Among the protesters were prominent political persons. One of them was former ombudsman and former member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (Bulgarska sotsialisticheska partiya, BSP-S&D) Maya Manolova. As an ombudsman and mayor-candidate of Sofia, she had significant personal acclaim. After the summer of protests, she and several other minor parties (Volt, Bulgaria for Citizens, Movement 21) formed an electoral alliance called Stand up! Mafia out! (Izpravi se! Mutri van!, ISMV-G/EFA|EPP) trying to capitalise the protest’s energy and president’s high approval rating. This has been a relatively unsuccessful tactic, since her party is predicted in polls to only just enter the parliament, but after all it is a formation which has chances for parliamentary representation.

Another electoral coalition was boosted by the protests too. Democratic Bulgaria—of which constituting party’s leader sparked the protests in the first place—whose chances were lower before the protest, now is a sure participant in the next parliament. The coalition consists of three parties—Democrats for Strong Bulgaria, Green Movement and Yes, Bulgaria.

Surprisingly, a party which did not take part in the protests also increased its projected result. There are such people (Ima takav narod, ITN-*) was formed by the popular singer and show host Slavi Trifonov. He took his first steps in politics by organizing a national referendum for a change in the electoral system and a reduction of state party funding in 2015. The referendum also insisted on the replacement of the proportional electoral system of Bulgaria with a majoritarian one. As an anti-systemic ‘protest party’, the support for Trifonov’s party increased despite its abstention of active support for the protests and participating in public debates alongside with other candidates.

As the United Patriots coalition (Obedineni patrioti, OP-ECR) finally completely fell apart in 2020, its constituent parties VMRO (ECR) and Ataka (~NI) decided to run separately. The third party from the coalition, NFSB (*), formed an electoral alliance with Volya (ID), a party represented largely with its leader Veselin Mareshki. Mareshki is a businessman who owns petrol stations and has a retail chain of pharmacies in Bulgaria. Together with NFSB they formed an electoral coalition called Patriotic coalition ‘Volya – NFSB’ (Patrioticha coalitsia ‘Volya – NFSB’, Volya/NFSB-ID).

The incumbent ruling party and a presumed winner of the election, GERB (EPP), also formed an electoral alliance, with the oldest anticommunist party SDS (EPP). First they started this cooperation during European election in 2019 and then continued during local elections in the same year. By maintaining the coalition GERB practically receives domestic legitimation as a party on the political right—something which has been contested in the previous years.

What next?

If all the parties in the poll succeed to enter the parliament, it would be more fragmented than the current one. Forming a government would be challenging after the elections since most of the parties declare that they will not cooperate with certain parties in the parliament. It portends long negotiations with an uncertain outcome.

This article was further edited by Julius Lehtinen