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The European elections in Bulgaria: To vote or not to vote

By Georgi Gotev

I just became a “recruiter” in the campaign “This time I’m voting”, in the Bulgarian language section of the EU-wide initiative. It’s easy: it took a few seconds online.

I did it for two reasons: first, I think it’s important that we should all vote, and second, as a journalist, I would like to see how the initiative works and what will happen. Later, I could write a story about my experience.

Why is it necessary to vote? First and foremost, if we don’t vote, other people will decide our future. It’s the same with national and with European elections: it’s about the future of our country and the future of Europe. If we vote, we could (and we should) hold our MP or MEP accountable. I know it’s easier said than done.  Although we should hold them accountable, I’ve seen that in other countries.

But this is in an ideal world.

In the real world, I have a problem: I don’t have for whom to vote. I will explain. In Bulgaria, the threshold for a political force electing an MEP is extremely high: 5.88%. According to opinion polls, it is very likely that only three political forces will elect MEPs: the ruling party GERB, the opposition BSP, and the DPS party of the Turkish minority, which is always on power, being an official or hidden partner of BSP or GERB.

But what happens if you don’t want to vote for any of the three? This is precisely my case. I fear that my vote will be lost, or worse. My preference is for a smaller force, but since this force has no real chance to elect an MEP, my vote will be re-distributed among the expected three winners, meaning that most of my vote will go to the best-ranked party. I would be extremely disappointed if that would happen again.

Another inhibiting fact is that in Bulgaria, the campaign is already dominated almost exclusively by national politics, while the unprecedentedly important European challenges are seen as something remote and to be decided by others. In an ideal world, we should discuss what future we want for the EU: do we want Europe to play a major global role, or shall we return to nationalism of the type that fomented two world wars. And we should discuss whether we want a more social Europe, or maintain and develop the liberal model.

Strange as it may seem, DPS is the force that uses more the pro-European rhetoric, but this is because the European values are its best protection. Otherwise, DPS has one ideology: clientelism. GERB and BSP don’t use too much European rhetoric, because these forces don’t always align with their European political centrals. In my perspective, both forces are simply populist and also clientelistic. BSP flags geopolitical sympathies which run counter Bulgaria’s status as NATO member. But maybe BSP are hypocrite, maybe they just want to get the pro-Russian vote, and will play another tune if they return to power.

Having said this, I’m still optimistic that something will change in the meantime and I will be inspired to vote. If all people would vote, I’m sure more than the three parties mentioned would be represented in the European Parliament.

Actually, these three parties do everything they can to keep the turnout low.

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