The Progressive Post

🇧🇬 Bulgaria: changes for the Social Democrat movement?


PhD Candidate at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. Her research topic is “Political actors and interest groups, which influenced and shaped the European Pillar of Social Rights”

On 9 June Bulgarians, have cast their votes for the sixth time in a period of three years. The country elected its members to European Parliament and the National Assembly on the same day. The previous five elections produced new political actors, new campaign slogans and coalitions, but no stable majority, able to form a functioning government. During the campaign the political discourse has focussed on national problems, but the two main EU-related issues were Bulgaria’s accession to the eurozone and the full membership to the Schengen area. 

In Bulgaria, the debates during the campaign mainly focused on national problems and the possibilities for forming a government coalition after the elections. Probably, the lack of discussions on European topics is among the reasons most of the political parties filled their lists with candidates who had already been elected in previous EP legislature. 

The European elections votes, and, consequently, the 17 Bulgarian seats in the European Parliament were spread between well-known political actors: first came the coalition GERB–UDF (23,55 per cent – 5 seats); second the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (14,66 per cent – 3 seats); third the coalition ‘Continuing the Change-Democratic Bulgaria’ (14,45 per cent – 3 seats); followed by the party ‘Vazrashdane’ (13, 98 per cent – 3 seats), the Bulgarian Socialist Party (7, 01 per cent – 2 seats); and finally the party ‘There is Such a People’ (6, 04 per cent – 1 seat). 

The preferential votes for certain candidates changed the order of lists, showing that the voters had chosen not only in between political parties, but also well-known candidates who have already worked at the European level have been elected over other politicians. 

Next to Bulgaria’s accession to the eurozone and the full membership to Schengen area, the main European issue during the campaign was the war in Ukraine. The debate around these three topics tried to outline Bulgaria’s international stance and to highlight to which political family the elected members of the new political actors –  ‘Continuing the Change-Democratic Bulgaria’, ‘Vazrashdane’ and ‘There is Such a People’ would go. 

The biggest loss of seats in the European parliament was marked by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) with a result of just over 141,000 votes. The BSP sends only two representatives to the European Parliament (until recently they were four). This, according to the electoral lists, should have been Kristian Vigenin and Rumen Gechev, but the preferential votes put the outgoing MEP Tsvetelina Penkova ahead of Gechev.

The high loss of votes pushed the BSP-leader  Korneliya Ninova to resign. In the last six elections, BSP has been losing voter support, and at the same time other political actors appeared in the Socialist and Social Democrat political spectrum. However, BSP remained the only left-wing political party to pass the electoral threshold in the EP as well as the national elections. 

The outcomes of the European and national elections question the future of the Socialist and Social Democrats in Bulgaria. Will the results bring changes for the Social Democratic movement in the country? Is the new leader of BSP is going to be able to return the left-wing voters and to unite the left in Bulgaria or will a new left-wing political actor appear? 

The most of ‘new’ Bulgarian MEPS are well-known in European affairs and most probably they are going to continue to work in the same areas as before. But the unclear results of national elections also imply uncertainty over who is going to be the next Bulgarian commissioner and who is going to be the prime minister appointing that commissioner. 

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