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Bulgaria’s eve-of-election polls show victory for Plevneliev

23. October 2011. | 08:18 08:24

Source: Sofia Echo News

Author: Clive Leviev-Sawyer

More than 6.5 million Bulgarians will hold in their hands on October 23 the choice of the country’s new head of state and of who will run their city, town or village – but in some significant cases, the voting is not expected to be decisive.

More than 6.5 million Bulgarians will hold in their hands on October 23 the choice of the country’s new head of state and of who will run their city, town or village – but in some significant cases, the voting is not expected to be decisive.

The presidential election is widely expected to go to a second round. If a variety of recent polls are correct, the contest will be between Rossen Plevneliev, the nominee of ruling party GERB, and Ivailo Kalfin, the candidate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. But at least one polling agency, Mediana, cautioned a few days before the elections that surprises were possible. That possibility is one on which the camp of Meglena Kouneva, nominated by a non-party committee, will be banking.

Assuming that Plevneliev holds his decisive lead, the October 23 presidential election is, in effect, a choice between who will compete against him in the second round – Kalfin or Kouneva. If the polls are wrong and Kouneva beats Kalfin, arguably the most profound implication would be the resultant slap in the face for the former ruling socialists. In turn, the socialists, like all other of GERB’s rivals, are hoping for a shock to the system of Boiko Borissov’s ruling party, which they label as obsessed with becoming omnipotent.

In the local government elections, across 264 municipalities, a total of more than 46 000 candidate councillors are competing while all major cities are seeing contests among lengthy lists of would-be mayors, not least the capital Sofia, where there are 25 mayoral candidates. For the second time since Bulgaria joined the European Union at the beginning of 2007, citizens of other EU states are eligible to vote, and stand as candidate councillors, in the country’s municipal elections but a low rate of registration has been recorded – just 248 non-Bulgarian EU citizens have registered to vote, and no more than five are candidate councillors.

For all parties involved, the presidential and municipal elections are inevitably also a proxy contest, explaining why most parties have campaigned as if the fight is about who will run the country’s national Government. The ruling party has emphasised what it portrays as its track record in developing infrastructure, maintaining fiscal stability and making effective use of EU funds, while opposition parties decry these claims as false and have sought to discredit the GERB Government on issues such as the Katounitsa incident, which coincided with the official start of the election campaign and which some sought to use to inflame ethnic tensions.

The economy also has been a key theme, with opposition parties also seeking to enhance their performance by getting disgruntled Bulgarians – going by EU statistics and surveys, the poorest and unhappiest people in the bloc – to the ballot booth to register protest votes.

Bulgaria’s eve-of-election polls show victory for Plevneliev

The final round of opinion polls ahead of Bulgaria’s October 23 presidential elections indicate a second-round victory for ruling party GERB nominee Rossen Plevneliev, but with his socialist rival Ivailo Kalfin having made significant gains in recent days and pollsters divided on the question of whether surprises are possible.

But the last of the "big three" – the strongest candidates among the many competing this year to become Bulgaria’s head of state – Meglena Kouneva, is placed third in all poll results made public on October 20 and 21. This means that, going by the polls, a runoff on October 30 is most likely to be a Plevneliev – Kalfin face-off.

Bulgarian National Television quoted Alpha Research as predicting voter turnout in the presidential elections of between 55 and 60 per cent, with Plevneliev getting 21.5 per cent, Kalfin 16.4 per cent and Kouneva 9.5 per cent.

Mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa quoted the Centre for Analysis and Marketing as saying that Plevneliev would get 40 to 45 per cent, Kalfin 28 to 33 per cent and Kouneva 12 to 17 per cent. Plevneliev would defeat Kalfin at the second round, the polling agency said.

"I do not expect surprises," the daily quoted the agency’s Yulii Pavlov as saying, "in these elections, those voting mainly will be solid supporters of their respective parties. Nothing can change their vote."

Mira Radeva of MBMD saw Plevneliev as getting 41 to 43 per cent, Kalfin 28 to 29 per cent and Kouneva 16 to 17 per cent.

Vassil Tonchev of Sova Harris said that the ration between Plevneliev, Kalfin and Kouneva would be 3:2:1, but added that Kalfin could do well in the second round, especially given that Kalfin had narrowed the gap and depending on the voters of Ahmed Dogan’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the mainly ethnic Turkish party that previously was in government with the socialists.

Yuri Aslavnov of Afis agency was quoted by 24 Chassa as saying that Plevneliev and Kalfin would go to a second round, and he noted that recently their polling results had been in a process of convergence. He said that the difference between the two was "small and surmountable", and added the MRF factor.

The National Centre for the Study of Public Opinion saw voter turnout as likely to be between 50 and 55 per cent, with Plevneliev getting between 35 and 39 per cent, Kalfin between 27 and 31 per cent and Kouneva between 11 and 13 per cent.

Bulgaria’s October 23 presidential elections are to elect a head of state would will, in January 2012, take office for a five-year term. The constitution limits the President to two terms. In this election, about 6.9 million Bulgarians are eligible to vote, while about 6.5 million are eligible to vote in the municipal elections being held the same day. Bulgarians abroad who have registered will be able to vote in the countries where they have stated they will do so, but will be able to do so only in presidential and not in municipal elections.

Large numbers of political parties, coalitions, initiative committees and independents are competing in the presidential and municipal elections. In major cities, the number of candidates for the post of mayor runs into double figures – in Sofia, there are 25 mayoral candidates.

Voter education campaigns run on public broadcasters have emphasised a number of rules for these elections, including that voters may cast their votes only by making a blue cross in the box.

Public broadcasters and, as required by the Election Code, all parties have run notices that buying and selling of votes is a crime. Vote-buying has been a continuing concern in this election campaign, as in all recent elections in Bulgaria.

October 22 is the Day of Contemplation, on which election canvassing and the publication of election-related materials and political opinion polls are forbidden by the Election Code.

The first exit polls are expected shortly after voting ends at 7pm on October 23.


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