Mixed Political Reactions after Run-Off in Bulgaria's Local Elections

Domestic | November 2, 2015, Monday // 12:37|  views

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov (L) with his deputy in GERB party, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, at a press conference following local elections on October 02, 2015. Photo by BGNES

Results of the second round of local elections held in Bulgaria have prompted mixed reactions among leaders of political parties.

The run-off vote brought about major gains to the main ruling party, conservative GERB, in a number of regional centers across the country, with victories also declared by its junior coalition partner, right-wing Reformist Bloc (RB) in a few bigger towns across the country.

Radan Kanev, leader of the Reformist Bloc, described the victory in Pleven and Dobrich as “sweeping the fortress of DPS and BSP out of the big regional enters.”

This comment irritated the Prime Minister and leader of GERB, Boyko Borisov, who called for “tolerance and humbleness.”

“What are those expressions ‘to sweep away,’ to ‘remove’, to ‘dismiss,’ said Borisov and added that GERB has “purposefully fought for its loss in Pleven because of tolerance.”

The RB and GERB competed in several major towns, of which Pleven and Dobrich are regional centers.

According to Borisov, the elections confirmed GERB’s power on a regional and national level and the stability of the current coalition in government.

“This elections showed that there can’t exist a better coalition than ours,” said Borisov.

Another important outcome of the local elections which Borisov underlined was that GERB was elected also by the Muslim population.

“We are very happy of the fact that more Bulgarian Muslims start to lessen their fear towards us, because this move guarantees an ethnic model,” said Borisov.

The PM noted the 2015 local elections were the first time GERB managed to break DPS’s monopoly in the Southern region, securing seats for its mayors of big towns such as Smolyan and Dimitrovgrad, otherwise known as “strongholds” of the DPS.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was left outside the circle of power at the elections. It won only in 13 municipalities, compared to 93 at the previous local vote held in 2011.

Atanas Merdzhanov, chairman of the parliamentary group of BSP and the party’s spokesperson, admitted BSP’s “failure at these local elections.” Merdzhanov expressed his fear for citizens' freedom of expression and argued many Bulgarians were oppressed by local authorities.

“Despite the big victory, we have to think about what is awaiting Bulgarian municipalities,” said Merdzhanov.

It is not the first time that BSP accuses authorities of control over citizens. After the first round of the elections, Mihail Mikov, leader of BSP, accused political parties of buying votes for BGN 30 M.

“There can't be any assessment – and this is being shared by all leadership members – other that [election results] are a heavy loss,” the party's chair Mihail Mikov said at a press conference on Monday.

He voiced his concern over the process of erasing “BSP from the electoral map of the country.” Mikov, however, also attributed the outcome to the “money-powered democracy” in Bulgaria, referring to his previous vote-buying allegations.

Half an hour before the BSP's press conference, Lyutvi Mestan, leader of the liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), gave his own account of the two rounds, downplaying widespread comments that his party had come out as “the big loser” in the local vote.

He warned that, if one only looks at results of the biggest parties according to votes for party tickets with candidates running for the respective party, the DPS can easily be singled out as the country's second-largest political force, warning it had made gains across the country at the level of municipal councilors and mayors of towns and villages, contrary to statistics.

After the two rounds, the DPS only won the mayoral seat in one regional center (Kardzhali), losing the others to GERB.

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Tags: Radan Kanev, Boyko Borisov, Mihail Mikov, Lyutvi Mestan, GERB, BSP, RB, DPS, local elections, runoff, run-off vote, Atanas Merdzhanov


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