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Bulgaria: Round two

30. October 2011. | 07:02

Source: Sofia Echo News

Author: Clive Leviev-Sawyer

It may safely be predicted that the next President of Bulgaria will be a man who was born in May 1964.At the second round of presidential elections on October 30, Bulgarians have a choice between ruling party GERB candidate Rossen Plevneliev (born May 14 1964) and his socialist rival Ivailo Kalfin (16 days younger).

It may safely be predicted that the next President of Bulgaria will be a man who was born in May 1964.At the second round of presidential elections on October 30, Bulgarians have a choice between ruling party GERB candidate Rossen Plevneliev (born May 14 1964) and his socialist rival Ivailo Kalfin (16 days younger).

After 16 other presidential candidates were eliminated at the first round of voting, one of the key questions was where those votes would go – and whether any group of voters would plump en bloc either for the Plevneliev or Kalfin camps. Among significant constituencies, those who voted for third-placed Meglena Kouneva were given no guidance by her, and she said that she would be facing a difficult choice when she returned to the ballot box.

In what may prove a political mixed blessing, Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Ahmed Dogan endorsed Kalfin, joking that all he asked in return was a kiss from Kalfin’s running mate, local screen and stage star Stefan Danailov. The Plevneliev camp sought to turn that into a kiss of death, clearly hoping that those Bulgarian voters who deeply dislike the mainly ethnic Turkish party would opt for Plevneliev. Plevneliev quipped that Dogan had kissed many people in his time, a reference to the succession of coalitions in which Dogan’s party had served – notably, most recently, with the socialists.

While continuing to run a mainly positive campaign, Plevneliev had a few negative notes, including that a presidential term for Kalfin would be, in effect, a third term for Purvanov, the former socialist party leader to whom Kalfin is very close.

Endorsements, or lack of them, by lesser political forces were unlikely to have much effect on the outcome of voting. Ivan Kostov’s right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria opted for Plevneliev, qualifying the "endorsement" by saying that it was given because Plevneliev was not Kalfin. Yane Yanev’s Order Law and Justice party, ordinarily a bitter and strident critic of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party, opted for Plevneliev, much to the surprise of many. Ataka leader and failed presidential candidate Volen Siderov took the "a plague on both your houses" line.

The presidential and municipal elections were hit by controversy, with allegations of vote-buying, omissions from voters’ rolls, administrative hiccoughs at ballot-tallying centres and a postponement of the closing of voting.

In Parliament, Dogan’s party called for a parliamentary ad-hoc committee to investigate the conduct of the elections, Siderov called for a public re-count of the presidential election ballot papers and socialist MP Maya Manolova called the elections "unfair, bought and manipulated" in a way unprecedented in the past 20 years.

The socialists were to meet on October 28 to decide on formal challenges to the results. The vice-chairperson of the socialist group in the European Parliament, Hannes Swoboda, wrote to European Commission President Jose Barroso to express concern about the way voting was run.

GERB said that there had been some shortcomings but the elections were conducted in compliance with the law.

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