Bulgaria’s two antagonistic political behemoths, Boyko Borrisov’s GERB and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), have elected women to lead their lists for the European elections. BSP held an internal vote, electing journalist Elena Yoncheva two weeks ago, while GERB announced on Sunday (31 March) its entire list, led by Mariya Gabriel, the current Bulgarian European Commissioner.
Gabriel’s election is not a surprise, nor are any of the remaining politicians in the first seven positions on the GERB list, which stand a chance to be elected. She is the current European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. Previously, she was a Member of the European Parliament from 2009 to 2017. Although Gabriel is little known in her home country which she left as a student (born Nedelcheva), she has gained notoriety in Brussels, in the Commission and the Parliament, and also in the European People’s Party, of which she has been a Vice President.
All five remaining candidates for MEPs from the GERB list are the current MEPs Andrey Kovatchev (N.2), Andrey Novakov (N.3), Eva Maydell (born Paunova) (N.4), Asim Ademov (N.5).
Number 6 is Alexander Yordanov, representing the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), a small center-right party which will run in coalition with GERB.
Yordanov is a politician who got prominence in the early 1990s, having served later as ambassador to Poland and to the current Republic of North Macedonia.
Surprisingly, Liliana Pavlova, who was the minister responsible for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, is only 7th. This position can still be considered as eligible, although the preferential vote could add suspense. Most probably, Pavlova should have hoped for a better position in the list.
This configuration means that the pre-election debates would pit Gabriel against BSP’s Yoncheva, who is considered a much better speaker. The EU commissioner masters the Brussels-speak, but in Bulgaria, she sounds boring.
On previous occasions, GERB has avoided pre-election debates, having realized that their candidate stands no chance of winning a TV dispute. The most notorious example was the presidential election, in which the GERB candidate Tsetska Tsatcheva performed pitifully in a rare debate and lost to the BSP-supported candidate Rumen Radev by 60% to 36%. It is very likely that Gabriel would stay in Brussels as long as possible, and avoid debates.