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Sociologist Parvan Simeonov for Radio Bulgaria:

We vote for individuals without knowing their party programmes

Photo: BGNES

The candidates of political parties registered for the forthcoming general elections in Bulgaria have 29 days to convince the Bulgarian citizens that they deserve to represent their interests in the future 45th Bulgarian National Assembly. The first live debates between candidates for MPs have already taken place. Are their speeches and words going to influence the decision of the voters during the polling day and lead to a higher voter turnout?

The personal qualities, not the plans and the programmes of certain political parties encourage the voters to go to the polling stations and cast their ballots the most- the Executive Director of Gallup International Parvan Simeonov explained in an interview for Radio Bulgaria. – However, this is due to one of the persistent clichés in this country’s political debate- the desire to vote for personalities. As a result, we do not become acquainted with what these people write in their political programmes.”

Another important factor that influences the voters’ ambition to exercise their constitutional right to vote is the gap between the liberal and conservative understanding of the structure of the state and its policy. However, we should also take into consideration another longstanding phenomenon observed in this country:

“After the 2008-2009 crisis and the problems with migration and terrorism, the division between the conservatives and liberals has deepened in the entire western world. On one hand, there are nationalism and patriotism. On the other hand, there are alternatives, green policies and global issues. When it comes to such motivation in Bulgarian context, we must also bear in mind some more pragmatic types of incentives such as benefits, coercion, etc. In my view, this affects between 10% and 15% of the votes and is yet to play a bigger role in our pragmatic world.”

Is it easier to decide how to vote now as compared to the beginning of the transition period in Bulgaria (the period after 1989)? The current elections are not as vital as before, which makes it easier for us to decide how to vote, contended Parvan Simeonov and added:

“During the 1990’s, we were choosing a direction and were making a fundamental choice. We were choosing between the East and West, whether to introduce market economy principles quickly or not- explained the political scientist. - Now, our country is not likely to go bankrupt, even if we change our government immediately. This change would not influence significantly our financial status, unlike the necessary government change in 1997 for instance. On the other hand, our choice in the 1990’s was easier, because back then the electorate of the political parties behaved like tribes who could not stand each other. A group of people supported the outgoing political elite and another group supported the pro-reform political forces. Now, there are different divisions in Bulgaria’s political life, although they are generally related to change and predictability.”

It is difficult to predict how the Covid-19 pandemic would influence the voter turnout at the forthcoming Parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, because there is no information about the expected spread of coronavirus pandemic by April 4. A possible sharp increase in the number of coronavirus infections would lead to a lower voter turnout. As a result, some large groups of the Bulgarian society such as the elderly people, who are worried about their health amid the Covid-19 epidemic, would remain unrepresented or less represented at the new National Assembly after the elections, explained Parvan Simeonov. Political parties without core voters would be affected negatively from such a scenario as well. Voter turnout in Bulgaria also depends on whether new and bright alternatives appear on the political stage, contended Parvan Simeonov.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov