🇧🇬 Bulgarian elections megathread (next up: stupidity goes fourth, 2 Oct 2022)

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By the powers vested in me by, uh, being Bulgarian, I designate this the Bulgarian Elections Megathread.

Here is a collection of all the previous Bulgarian election threads, which may or may not be useful reading for anybody who wants to gain some understanding of Bulgarian politics:

Presidential elections: 2006, 2011, 2016
Parliamentary elections: 2005, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2017
Local elections: 2011, 2015/2019

I have designated this the elections thread, not 'politics and elections' thread. In the past, GMantis and I have tried to put in a lot of detail about the parties, personalities and policies that factor in Bulgarian politics, but I don't think I'm going to do that anymore. There are three main reasons and I think it will work as a sort of explainer for a lot of what follows in the upcoming posts.

1) A chronicle of Bulgarian politics will read a lot like a classical Russian novel – a bunch of loathsome characters doing loathsome things to other loathsome characters without any plot twists, dei ex machina, happy endings or redeeming features whatsoever, to the point where the reader, which would be you, wishes that the entire cast is hit by a train (but only one train, wtf, Tolstoy) - including the narrator, which would be me.

2) Over the past few years I've had a lot first and second hand observations which lead me to firmly believe that much of the Bulgarian political theater is actually kabuki between various patronage networks that bear increasingly less allegiance to their ostensible ideologies. I am not going to expound on this other than butchering the English language a bit – hopefully you'll understand what I mean:

Everybody who is somebody has somebody who has an 'in' with anybody who is somebody

3) Most importantly,  policies and personalities and even scandals matter little when according to a reputable poll, when asked 'How much attention do you pay to political news', 75% answered with “None at all”. Flooding the zone with sh*t has always come naturally to GERB and, especially considering the horrendous media landscape, this has lead to people – understandably - tuning everything out. Approximately half of those 3 out of 4 are at least semi-regular voters, though, and AFAIK they base their vote on their personal feelings for and against Boyko Borisov – the latter camp may be actually larger, but it scatters their vote between the opposition parties.

As to the election where polls open in less than 24 hours – 240 seats in parliament will be voted on in 31 multi-member districts with mostly closed lists and 4% threshold and will be distributed through Hare-Niemeyer (on the national level).

Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic – it bears repeating, since the outgoing parliament has been by far the weakest wielder of legislative power since Communist times. Borisov last made an appearance in the parliament hall back in October 2019 and has refused to answer any opposition queries since then, and it's not like there has been that much opposition. When you also take into account Covid restrictions, the fact that 3 out of the 4 expected top parties' leaders refuse to debate or give interviews, as well as the poor weather outlook, this will without a doubt be the lowest turnout parliamentary election since 1990. The general assumption is that low turnout favors the established parties, while ITN and IS! MV! would be hurt.

Here's where I think things stand (my expected range is based on polling, taking into account the known biases of the pollsters, the trend is over the past 30 days of campaign)

GERB (leader: Boyko Borisov, 2017 – 32.6%)
Expected range – 26-32%
Trend: slightly upward, mostly because of 'better the devil you know' low propensity voters

BSP (leader: Kornelia Ninova, 2017 – 27.2%)
Expected range – 18-24%
Trend: sharply downward, although it must be said that the two 'red' pollsters are both owned by people who are very much opposed to Ninova and may not be overestimating the BSP support like in the past

ITN [Ima takav narod, “There are such people”] (leader: Slavi Trifonov, 2017 – N/A)
Expected range – 14-18%
Trend: upward, mostly from 'a pox on both their houses' voters
[for more on Trifonov, see the 2016 presidential and the 2017 parliament election threads]

DPS (leader: Mustafa Karadayi, 2017 – 9%)
Expected range – 12-20%
Trend: stagnant. I mean, there are literally tens of thousands who are voting for DPS tomorrow but won't know it until the money exchanges hands, but the DPS voters are generally not swayable by political campaigning

DB [Democratic Bulgaria - the 'Old Right', a coalition between Yes, Bulgaria, the Greens and DSB] (leader: no individual leader; 2017 – 2.9 for Yes, Bulgaria and the Greens; 2.4% for DSB)
Expected range – 5-7%
Trend – N/A, all parties in this range are too close to the MoE to make out any discernible trend

IS!MV! [Izpravi se! Mutri van!, “Rise up! Thugs out!”] (leader: Maya Manolova, 2017 – N/A)
Expected range – 3.5 – 6%
[for more on Manolova, see toward the end of the the 2015/2019 local elections thread]

VMRO (leader: Krasimir Karakachanov, 2017 – 9,3% as part of the United Patriots coalition with NFSB and Attack)
Expected range – 2.5 – 4.5%

[origin stories for the more creatively named parties available upon request]

There are no less than 7 additional parties about whose entry in parliament I can create a plausible narrative, but as the reputable polling suggests they will stay below the 4% threshold, I will cover them only in case the exit polls tomorrow show they have a reasonable chance of making it. But I would be remiss if I didn't point out how it is common across the world for politicians to make a big show of signing a contract/covenant with the country, but what happens if they break that contract? Well, Vesselin Mareshki, leader of the Volya party (who are running an opportunistic coalition with another party currently in parliament – NFSB), has a contract with Bulgaria available at his gas stations and pharmacies.  If you sign it, and Volya-NFSB come first or second in your district, and within 2 years you don't have a state- or privately owned gas station within 30 kms of your home where you can buy gasoline at least 7.5 eurocents cheaper than the average for the area, Mareshki, who is a multimillionaire, will personally pay you 5000 BGN (approximately €2.5k). And when will ur flop parties, huh?

Government formation is going to be a nightmare, as there are no two parties who appear likely to be able to have a majority on their own– not even the suicide pact that would be a GERB-BSP 'grand' coalition. The only three parties that have expressed willingness to work together are the three extra-parliamentary parties, who even in a best case scenario for them will not come close to 120 seats. Right now everybody is playing a waiting game to see which parties actually make it – a 5-party parliament is going to be a different universe from a 7-party one. Most of the tea leaves readers seem to agree that unless a clear coalition is available – which appears extremely unlikely today – there will be a 'technocratic' government to last until the Presidential election in November, in which an 'axis of evil' of GERB, DPS and parts of BSP will attempt to knock off the incumbent Radev. It is considered anathema for GERB to yield power to a caretaker government appointed by Radev, so they might be willing to support even a rather unfavorable government until – they hope – another president is inaugurated in January. The problem is that Borisov – who clearly wants the position – is presumably smart enough to realize that unless something radically changes until the autumn, he'd lose and he'd lose ugly.

In any event in a few days Slavi Trifonov will, in all likelihood, be kingmaker. I am, unfortunately, the worst person to ask about what he is going to do, since the last time I watched his show was 2004, I was home alone sick from school and the cat was sleeping on me so I couldn't get up to get the remote. I hated every minute of it and I've never watched him again. Since all candidates of his party are strictly prohibited from giving interviews or making TV appearances on channels other than the party's own and since they are by and large political unknowns, ITN is a riddle wrapped in an enigma... but I'm pretty sure there is organized crime in the kernel.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have.

I'm aware that Romania and Bulgaria have less in common than people often assume, which might make comparisions between them iffy, but it's kind of strange to see where the countries were politically in the Ceaușescu/Zhivkov days and where they are now. Contrary to what would have been expected, Romania now seems to have a healthier democracy than Bulgaria, with an actual anti-corruption party as a major player, a draconian National Anticorruption Directorate, stable-ish party system and so on.

Do you have any idea why?

I recommend this very useful Twitter thread about basic information about the parties running on tomorrow elections:
https://twitter.com/politics_bg/status/1376138761843716102var scriptTag = document.getElementsByTagName('script');scriptTag = scriptTag[scriptTag.length-1];atlas_tweetCheckLoad(scriptTag.parentNode, "tw_0_5992702751438403829", "tw_2_905082920128692885", "https://twitter.com/politics_bg/status/1376138761843716102");

Maybe relevant how the "new" parties (ITN, ISMV) will perform and if one or both nationalist right-wing parties (VMRO and/or Volya-NFSB ticket) will surpass the 4% threshold, expect low turnout due to political apathy rather than corona as they reports.


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