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Long weekend to impact on European elections in Bulgaria

Kolyo Kolev on BNT on 11 May 2019.

By Georgi Gotev

Bulgarians will vote for the European elections on 26 May (Sunday), the third day of a long week end. 24 May is a national holiday in Bulgaria, unique in its kind. Bulgarians celebrate “the day of the letters”, dedicated to Cyril and Methodius. But the holiday could impact on the election turnout – and even determine the winner.

According to Kolyo Kolev, head of the opinion poll agency Mediana, 39% of respondents say they will “certainly” vote, 33% that they would “probably” vote, 14% say it is more likely that thy would not vote, and 14% that it is certain that they would not vote.

The May 2014 EU election saw the lowest voter turnout on record across the Union – 42.54%. In Bulgarian the turnout was even lower – 35.84%.

The Mediana opinion poll has been conducted in the first week of May. Previous opinion polls have shown that a bigger percentage of Bulgarians said they would vote. Kolev, who spoke to the public TV channel BNT, interpreted this trend by a new mood that the European elections are not so important after all. One month ago, 51% said these elections were “important”, while now only 38% say so. Another reason for the drop of interest was reportedly that people resented being targeted by the campaigns.

Kolev said this big shift was due to people getting tired of the so-called “apartment scandal”, but added that any new scandal could change the situation again.

If elections are held today, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) would win with 31.9%, followed by Boyko Borissov’s GERB at 29.9%, the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS) at 10.7%, Vesselin Mareshki’s populist Volya party at 4.9% and the nationalist VMRO at 4.7%. The election threshold is 5.89%.

A number of small parties lag behind, but Kolev said that each one of them had the chance to elect an MEP, in case of favourable turn of events for them before election day: the nationalist National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria of Valeri Simeonov at 3.9%, Coalition for Bulgaria or ABV- the party of former President Georgi Parvanov at 3.8%, the centre-right Democratic Bulgaria at 4.5% and far-right Ataka at 2.6%.

More significantly, Kolev said that the long week-end could benefit to BSP.

“GERB has a problem – it’s the pensioners”, said Kolev. He explained that if only pensioners would vote, GERB would lose to BSP at 1 to 5. Conversely, if only the state and local administration voted, GERB would win overwhelmingly, the pollster said.

He explained that many Bulgarians were going to use the three days off for excursions, one of the favourite destinations being Greece’s Aegean coast. In his words, it is very likely that many of the holiday-goers would not vote. Many of them, he said, were from the GERB power base.

Conversely, all the pensioners are expected to vote, as in his words one of the few chances for them of playing a social role is casting a ballot.

“Mobility on election day will play a huge role”, Kolev said, referring to the holiday-goers.

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