The political season in Bulgaria is over. Or is it?

Photo: BGNES

August is vacation month for many Bulgarians, it is vacation month for Bulgaria’s politicians as well. Parliament is in summer recess and will officially resume its work on 4 September. The elections for mayors and municipal council members being scheduled for 27 October, that leaves less than 2 months, a fact that is affecting political life in the country, and raising the question: Is the active political season really over, or does it just look that way?

One week after the start of the parliamentary summer recess, the Council of Ministers approved a decision on preparations for the elections and mandated Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donhev to coordinate the organizational and technical work connected with them. The deadline for registering of candidates running in the local elections is 26 September, but GERB party has already nominated its candidate for mayor of the town of Pazardzhik, bringing the number of contenders for this post up to four. The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, has not nominated a candidate of its own for this town because it says it has not yet decided whether to stand in the elections independently, or in coalition. There are a host of unanswered questions for the socialists in Sofia as well. According to unofficial information, Ombudsman Maya Manolova looks like being a BSP favourite at a party structure level in the capital city, but the central BSP leadership is making no comment on the matter. Manolova herself, until recently reluctant to say whether she would run for mayor of Sofia, is now saying that if she were to do so, she would expect support from anyone, as long as they are not racist or xenophobic. She is also saying that she wouldn’t want any party support for her possible candidacy, words that are hardly likely to be pleasing to the ear of the BSP, the party Manolova herself used to be a top-notch member of. The post of mayor of Sofia is seen as a stepping stone to higher positions, something illustrated abundantly by the political career of the leader of GERB Boyko Borissov. That is one of the reasons why anything to do with the race for mayor of Sofia is followed so keenly.

As the deadline for registration of candidates for the local elections looms closer, tensions among parties and within them will escalate. Tensions have reached a high point in any case between the ruling GERB and the opposition BSP over the hacker attack scandal against the National Revenue Agency and the dramatic consequences of the African swine fever epidemic in the country, which local communities are particularly sensitive to. The BSP is criticizing GERB that with its actions or inaction, the party should be held responsible for the leak from the National Revenue Agency of the personal data of millions, as well as for the catastrophic consequences of the culling of pigs across the country on a massive scale. The National Revenue Agency leak and the pig swine outbreaks have caused such an uproar that the electoral support for GERB has been shrinking.

But at the previous local elections GERB won in 21 district towns, the Reformist Block – in 3, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS, - in 1, while the BSP was left with no first position in any of the major towns. With all of the strife within the party, it does not seem very likely that the BSP will improve its positions in the local bodies of power in any way, unless it pools its efforts with other left-wing formations. The socialists are already conducting election coalition negotiations with ABV party.

The right-wing formations have not yet launched any active preparations for the elections but they too do not seem averse to the idea of coalitions. The Union of Democratic Forces, SDS, which formed a coalition with the ruling GERB party for the EP elections, is not going to do so this time around, though it is not ruling our local alliances with Democratic Bulgaria and the nationalist VMRO. The Bulgaria for Citizens Movement is also open to alliances, but only with rightist partners.

Over the remaining weeks of the summer vacation these ideas are expected to crystallize and a tempestuous political autumn to set in.

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