Global Independent Analytics
Radostina Schivatcheva
Radostina Schivatcheva

Location: Bulgaria

Specialization: Sustainable development, International relations, Comparative European politics, European integration, Eastern European politics and EU-Russia relations

Abracadabra! The unbearable lightness of the ‘democratic vote’ in the local Bulgarian elections

Bulgaria has just added a different shade of (grey) meaning to the spectre of European democracy.

The results of the local elections, which took place in late October, confirmed the status quo – the party of the current center-right majority government with prime minister Boyko Borisov - Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (abbreviated in Bulgarian as GERB) – also won the local elections. The center-left, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, came in second. In the third place was the Turkish minority party. The right-wing Reform Block ranked fourth.

Yet, special skills are also needed in order to understand the results of the latest round of what is considered to be the “democratic expression of the public choice”. These skills have nothing to do with boring bulletin counting, but necessitate abilities to unravel mathematical mysteries, solve social thrillers, and dispel information abracadabras. After all – in which other democratic EU member-state 102.17% processed electoral bulletins have recently been counted?! The latest trip to the ballot also gave the opportunity to vote on a referendum about allowing electronic voting. The results were a mathematical mystery - at 0.00% processed protocols 71.96% of the voters had voted with “Yes”. These revealing numbers were reported by none other than the Bulgarian Central Election Commission (CEC).

But the latest election round had even more information abracadabras. At the day of the elections down went the computer servers of an impressive list of Bulgarian public institutions: CEC, the Bulgarian police, the Directorates of the Ministry of the Interior, the Regional Citizen Directorates and the Municipal Electoral Committees. Moreover, as late as three days after the elections, there was still no exact data about the actual number of the people, who had cast their ballots. In spite of these seemingly significant obstacles the national media announced the results right in the end of the election day, well before the election protocols had been submitted to CEC.

This electoral mayhem has been accompanied by a certain social thriller.  The covered stadium ‘Arena Armeec’ in Sofia was the place, which hosted the members of the electoral sections committees, who were supposed to quickly count their ballots and submit the election protocols. Yet two days after the elections had officially finished, hundreds of members of the section committees had remained blocked inside the stadium. The slow processing procedure made the quick submission of the electoral sections’ protocols impossible. None of the committee members were allowed to leave the premises, so they had to stay overnight at the stadium, sleeping on bags, filled with ballots, and subsisting on one meagre sandwich. On the verge of their physical strength some of the representatives of section committees placed on the windows make-shift placards, reading ‘SOS’ and called the police. The chaos in the submission of the election papers has been unprecedented.

Mihail Mikov, leader of the center-left Bulgarian Socialist Party, criticized the electoral results from the parliamentary tribune. "The political events taking place in the last five or six years are killing the democracy in Bulgaria and serving on a silver platter the real power in the country to certain non-political subjects; to people who often stand in the shade. All this takes place behind the backs and at the expense of the people," he said. Mikov also criticized CEC for having abdicated its responsibilities and refusing to provide data on the voters’ turnout. ‘The substitution of the vote and the electoral counterfeiting have become a form of government. All people have seen and understood this. People increasingly realize that nothing depends on them. For them, the elections are a sad celebration... Politics has disappeared from the political life and it is being substituted by media PR. We cannot go on like this anymore,’ added Mikov.

Deutsche Welle, a news outlet of conservative bent, agreed with him. The German media cautioned that some small municipalities have become like feudal fiefdoms.  People were threatened or bribed, according to DW, which said that in several municipalities a month before the elections hundreds of elderly people have been sent on seaside vacations at the expense of the mayor.

The BSP leader concluded that: ‘These were the dirtiest elections which took place in Bulgaria since 1989 (the year in which the Iron Curtain fell)’.  Even the conservative media agreed with him. Deutsche Welle wrote: ‘These elections are hardly an evidence of democratic "normalization". They are rather an evidence of the further adaptation to the vicious existing model, in which intertwined political and business interests have taken hold of the institutions, government and life in the local communities’. 

The latest round of Bulgarian elections brought a fresh new meaning to the reality of the ‘really existing democracy’ in the country. The abracadabra of the Bulgarian vote did not result in a fair and democratic outcome. It was a dirty trick.

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