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Elections 2024

Protest mood among Bulgarians abroad reflected in voting patterns

Parvan Simeonov: Many of our compatriots have no political representation

Photo: pixabay

Bulgaria's political crisis led to a surprise in the early parliamentary election - the sixth in less than three years. From a six-party parliament, the National Assembly has gained one more political force - the hitherto unknown Velichie party, which has 13 MPs in the new parliament. However, even optimistic observers see little chance of a stable government being formed. 

Ivelin Mihaylov, co-founder of the Velichie party
The new parliamentary party Velichie (Greatness) was recognised by a large part of Bulgarian voters abroad, as it even outperformed the previous favourite - GERB-SDS. 

"The reason why our compatriots abroad voted for this party is that over time it has become a tradition for them to seek out and vote for personalities who express their own protest sentiments," Parvan Simeonov of the Gallup International agency told Radio Bulgaria. 

Parvan Simeonov
Regarding the mobilisation of votes from abroad, he highlights several facts:

"Parties like Velichie are social media based and have very easy access to these communities. Moreover, like Vazrazhdane, this party has invested heavily in campaigning outside the country. The path blazed by Vazrazhdane seems to have proved convenient for other formations as well. Let's not forget that some people from the Velichie acted together with Vazrazhdane in the early years of their creation".
The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) is the party that won the most overseas votes in the 9 June elections. It has traditionally had strong support from voters in Turkey, which had the largest number of polling stations outside Bulgaria. 

But is that the only reason for its performance? 

"The DPS did quite well, especially considering the key question of whether its new leadership resonated with voters in Turkey," the sociologist explained. "From this region alone, they received around 40,000 votes out of 366,562, which is a significant number. However, there may have been a slight decline in their support, which they may have sought to offset by increasing their Bulgarian vote among non-Turkish voters, although this trend is not readily apparent."

DPS leader Delyan Peevski
Parvan Simeonov points out that the DPS, There is Such a People (ITN) and the VMRO were the only political entities to see a nominal increase in their votes compared to previous elections.

"This is important because it is part of a broader trend where parties adopting a pro-protest or radical-nationalist stance tend to perform better."

Apart from the fact that the winners actually lost support - the GERB-SDS leaders, for example, lost more than 100 000 votes compared to previous parliamentary elections - this vote will go down in history as the lowest turnout since the beginning of Bulgaria's democratic processes. 
The low turnout should be a warning sign for politicians, pointing to voter fatigue and apathy that are affecting Bulgaria's democracy, analysts say. Despite the combined "2-in-1" elections for the national and European Parliament, there was no increase in turnout.

Among the reasons for our compatriots' reluctance to vote, Parvan Simeonov adds, is the fact that some of them remain politically unrepresented. This is the part of our society that feels an affinity with the East - Simeonov points out. Like many other analysts, he sees a political niche for the possible emergence of a new formation linked to President Rumen Radev, who enjoys enviable political credibility in the country. Why does such a new political project have potential?

"The president has the ability to connect with people who identify with the East as well as with centrists, but he faces challenges in appealing to pro-Western liberals. Therefore, there may be a call from the president for the so-called East to align itself with the centre. The reason is that the East in this country has always been somewhat isolated, mainly because of the monopoly of the DPS."

President Rumen Radev
The "2-in-1" election result has also led to high-profile resignations in two political formations. Yesterday, Yes Bulgaria leader Hristo Ivanov resigned, followed today by the Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova. What's next for Bulgaria's political scene - we'll find out soon enough.

Photos: BGNES, BTA, DPS Press Center
Translated and posted by Elizabeth Radkova

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