By Krassen Nikolov
Bulgarians used their right for preferential vote in the European elections. Nearly 37% of the people voted preferentially by ticking a box corresponding to their favorite candidate from the party list of their choice. The most active were the voters of the preferential vote critics – the VMRO nationalist party and the liberal pro-European coalition Democratic Bulgaria. More than 50% of their supporters used preferential vote.
Expectedly the preferential vote created a political conflict in the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The president of the Party of European Socialists, Sergei Stanishev, was first removed from the election list at the insistence of BSP leader Kornelia Ninova. The BSP National Council opposed this decision and put Stanishev back in the list, although on the fifth position. The voters had a different opinion – with their preferential vote, they pushed Stanishev forward, to N.2 in the list, right after his former partner, Elena Yoncheva.
Stanishev’s success added insult to injury for BSP’s leader Kornelia Ninova. She resigned because of the electoral loss to GERB. The preferential vote for the PES president highlighted Ninova’s mistakes which seriously weakened the party just before the elections. The internal division in the party contributed to the loss. Ninova is expected to run again for BSP leader, but her misjudgment about Stanishev will be used as an argument against her.
The other big storyline of the European elections was the media mogul Delyan Peevski. The big question was whether he would take his MEP seat or give up again. Peevski was second in the DPS election list after the party leader Mustafa Karadaya. Before the campaign had started, Karadaya was honest to announce that if elected, he would not take his seat in the European Parliament. Conversely, Peevski kept silent until the end. Three days after the elections, Peevski announced that he would not take his seat, just as he did in 2014, and will remain a member of the Bulgarian Parliament because he is “needed for his country”. His presence in the ALDE group would have caused serious problems because of his controversial image. Peevski’s media group is named by Reporters Without Borders as one of the main reasons for the poor state of media freedom in Bulgaria.
A big winner of the preferential vote is the N. 4 in the list of VMRO, Andrei Slabakov. The actor is known as a heavy smoker and critic of the smoking prohibitions. He got nearly 9,000 preferential votes, which is about 8% of all votes for VMRO. This propelled him to N.2 and he will be the second representative of the nationalists in the European Parliament. The first is Angel Dzhambazki, who was an MEP till now. He was leading the VMRO list and gathered nearly 48,000 preferential votes in the elections.
In the ruling party GERB, most votes were cast preferentially for the EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, who led the election list. She got 79,000, or 13% of all votes for GERB. The second most preferred candidate for MEPs is Lilyana Pavlova, who was the minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. However for now Pavlova will not become an MEP. She was the seventh in the list, and GERB got six seats. Pavlova has gathered just over 26,000 majority votes in her favor with 28,000 votes needed. To move forward, at least 5% of the votes for GERB must be given preferentially for her. Thus, Pavlova will have to wait for Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s decision for the future Bulgarian Commissioner. If Borissov decides to nominate Mariya Gabriel, the latter would leave the European Parliament and Palova will become an MEP. If the Bulgarian Prime Minister decides to opt for Kristalina Georgieva, Pavlova will not get the seat.
Who are the new Bulgarian MEPs
The European People’s Party (EPP) will have seven members from Bulgaria. Six of them are stemming from GERB and one is the representative of “Democratic Bulgaria”. They are:
Mariya Gabriel – the incumbent European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society;
Andrey Kovatchev – third time member of the European Parliament. Former Vice-president of the Union of European Federalists;
Andrey Novakov – second term member of the European Parliament;
Eva Maydell – second time MEP. President of the European Movement;
Asim Ademov – MEP from 2017 when he took the seat of Mariya Gabriel, then elected as European Commissioner;
Alexander Yordanov – a member of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS). He was nominated after GERB and SDS signed an agreement for joint participation in the European elections. Former Speaker of the National Assembly.
Radan Kanev – leader of the list of the pro-European coalition Democratic Bulgaria. Former leader of the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria party, part of the coalition. Radan Kanev is a lawyer. First term Member of the European Parliament.
The Socialists & Democrats will have five members from Bulgaria – the elected MEPs from the Bulgarian Socialist Party. They are:
Elena Yoncheva – MEP for the first time. Former investigative journalist and former partner of Sergei Stanishev;
Sergei Stanishev – President of the Party of European Socialists. Second mandate MEP;
Petar Vitanov – first term member of the European Parliament. He is currently a BSP MP;
Tsvetelina Penkova – first term member of the European Parliament. Former Deputy Chairman of the Millennium Club Bulgaria, an NGO of young Bulgarians living abroad;
Ivo Hristov – first term member of the European Parliament. Former journalist and head of the Cabinet of President Rumen Radev.
The DPS will send three representatives to the liberal ALDE group. They are:
Ilhan Kyuchyuk – MEP for the second time;
Iskra Mihaylova – second term MEP. Former Minister of Environment and Water in the Government with Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski;
Atije Aleyeva – Veli – first-ever member of the European Parliament. At present she is the vice chairman of the State Fund “Agriculture”. The institution was at the center of a scandal involving the misuse of European money under the Rural Development Program just before the elections.
VMRO won two seats in the European Parliament.
Angel Dzhambazki – MEP for second time. The first time he was sitting with the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
Andrey Slabakov – first term MEP. He is an actor by profession.
The results are still unofficial. The Central Electoral Commission’s final decision is expected by Friday.
P.S. A forecast by Georgi Gotev on 25 April got right 13 out of the 17 names.