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Marine Le Pen’s Bulgarian partner spent €725,000 to lose the European elections

By Krassen Nikolov

The political parties’ reports on how much their campaign for the European elections had cost show that the record sum was spent by Marine Le Pen’s partner in Bulgaria Vesselin Mareshki – €725,000. However, he was not elected. According to law, the reports were made public two months after the vote.

Mareshki’s populist party Volya is part of the Europe for Nations and Freedom (ENF) political group. The party was invited by Marine Le Pen to be her political partner in Bulgaria. Le Pen’s idea was to have at least one MEP from Bulgaria for her group (Mareshki as head of the list). But although Mareshki overspent in terms of campaigning, he got 3.62%, much lower than the 5.88% needed to pass the threshold for European elections, which is quite high in Bulgaria.

For these €725,000 Mareshki’s party won only 70,000 votes – €10 per vote. Mareshki’s goal was at least 120,000 votes. Trying to achieve it he spent around €400,000 for media advertising. This is one of the biggest sums spent by participants in the elections, but the money was not a big problem for Mareshki. He is a businessman who owns chains of pharmacies and filling stations in Bulgaria.

For comparison, the ethnic Turkish party DPS has also spent a similar amount in the campaign, but it managed to get three MEPs. It should be noted that the media mogul Delyan Peevski, who owns many of the media in the country, was second in the DPS list (he later decided not to take his MEP seat). In addition, DPS apparently has many supporters willing to make available their cars for the campaign purposes for free. Over 700 cars and buses were used by the party, free of charge, for the elections. Thus the cost of one MEP from DPS is €250,000.

The liberal coalition Democratic Bulgaria, considered an outsider during the election campaign, managed to achieve what Mareshki couldn’t, at a much lower cost. The coalition spent €240,000 for the entire campaign and got one MEP. Radan Kanev is a part of the group of the European People’s Party (EPP).

The good results of the nationalist party VMRO was also a big surprise in the European elections. For about €490,000 spent, VMRO managed to have two MEPs who joined the group of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). So the price for one MEP is also about €240,000.

The two largest Bulgarian parties, GERB and BSP, have spent on the elections almost equal sums – about €900,000. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s party GERB has spent only €425,000 euros on media advertising. But he got a lot of advertising for free. Borissov made a huge Facebook campaign, touring the country riding himself a state-owned SUV, with his closest ministers accompanying. All the Prime Minister’s rides were broadcast live on his social networking page, and re-taken by the main media. GERB managed to get six MEPs – €150,000 invested in a MEP.

For a similar amount of money, but having enjoyed less “bonuses”, BSP won five seats in the European Parliament. The Socialists spent about €570,000 on media advertising, mainly on TV, but Borissov’s Facebook strategy proved to be more successful. The PES leader Sergei Stanishev was one of the biggest BSP donors during the campaign. He has given some €1,450 euros to his party.

The parties and coalitions that have succeeded to send their representatives to the European Parliament have spent a total of €3.2 million on the elections. Thus the average “cost” per Bulgarian MEP is about €190,000.

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