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No miracle-makers this time?

Slavi Trifonov [Dnevnik]

Time flies and no new political force has made itself known in Bulgaria as the European elections are getting close. According to sociologists, there is room for a new political force, the usual miracle-maker. Many voters are disappointed with the usual menu, and some say they would vote for a new political force, even though no such exists.

After almost 30 years of experiments in democracy, Bulgarians will be left with minimal choice at the vote, unless they cast it for a party without any chance to obtain representation. As the electoral barrier for the European elections is very high (5.88%), only three forces are certain to elect MEPs. The ruling party GERB of Boyko Borissov is reportedly neck-and-neck with the opposition socialists (BSP), while the party of the ethnic Turkish minority DPS is assured of obtaining the bronze medal.

In the past, new political projects have had different destinies. The most successful was the political party National Movement for Stability and Progress (NDSV) of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Without having planned a serious campaign, it won the elections by a landslide, obtaining 120 of the 240 parliamentary seats. Bulgarians saw the former king as a savior, but were soon disappointed. In 2005 NDSV took 53 seats, while in 2009 their number was zero.

The most recent miracle-maker was the party “Bulgaria Without Censorship” of former journalist Nikolay Barekov.  He founded this force in 2014 and took part in the European elections the same year in coalition with the nationalist VMRO-BND and jointly obtained two seats. He and VMRO-BND politician Angel Dzambazki are affiliated to the Eurosceptic ECR, when the UK Tories and the populist PiS party of Jaroslaw Kacynski sit.

Barekov used unlimited funding from the now defunct Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), which went bankrupt back in 2014. To attract voters, Barekov promised, among other things, that every pupil will receive a computer tablet free of charge. Many took the bait and 10,66% voted for this force, which came from nowhere and is now defunct.

Another miracle-maker from the 2017 parliamentary election was Vesselin Mareshki, leader of the Volya party. Mareshki, a businessman, has sometimes been called the ‘Bulgarian Trump’. He owns a chain of petrol stations and pharmacies and has succeeded in selling fuel and medicines at prices well below the rest of the competition.

In Parliament, where he has 11 MPs, Mareshki positions himself as opposition, but in fact supports the Borissov government, especially since he has been indicted for racketeering. He will run for the European elections, but his chances of being able to send an MEP to Brussels and Strasbourg are close to zero. Strangely enough, Marine Le Pen has chosen him as her Bulgarian partner in the European campaign.

The perceived new miracle-maker is a political force of showman Slavi Trifonov, who has a personal fortune sufficient for a campaign, focusing on the same target group. A comment in Facebook reads “Those who prepare to vote for Trifonov are still waiting to receive their tablets from Barekov”. However, Trifonov is not in his best physical shape and it is unlikely that he would expose himself to the hardship of an election campaign.

Is this possible that a new force would emerge in time for the elections, that it would have sufficient funding or appeal to upset the status quo? The safe answer is no. But who knows? Bulgarian politics have never been so boring, and any anti-system player would benefit from this.

Georgi Gotev

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