The World Today for November 12, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

Round and Round We Go

BULGARIA

Bulgarians will vote in a total of four elections this year. Even so, confidence in the Balkan country’s government is still lacking.

As Balkan Insight explained, citizens of the European Union’s poorest member voted for new parliaments in April and in July that failed to result in stable governments. On Nov. 14, they again will elect a new parliament and prime minister and also vote for a new president.

Only 49 percent of voters turned out in April. In July, turnout was 41 percent. Fears over the coronavirus could depress that statistic to even lower levels. The country is facing a record number of infections and deaths amid low vaccination rates – Bulgaria’s Covid-related deaths per capita are among the highest in the world, Euronews explained. “Each day, Bulgaria loses the equivalent of one plane crash,” said Ruzha Smilova, an analyst at the Center for Liberal Strategies, a Sofia-based think tank. “It is really horrendous.”

Another inconclusive election or weak government could jeopardize Bulgarian leaders’ plans to tackle the pandemic in the short term and, in the medium term, adopt the euro as the country’s official currency – replacing the lev – in 2024, Bloomberg wrote.

EU officials in Brussels are also closely watching the elections because Bulgarian leaders have been holding up EU ascension talks for North Macedonia, its western neighbor, over disputes between the two countries involving their shared languages and histories, Politico added. European elites see the Balkans as a natural place to expand the EU.

After nearly a decade in office, former prime minister Boyko Borissov and his center-right GERB political party lost power in the April elections. But, as Reuters reported, they are projected to garner the largest share of the vote – 23 percent – on Nov. 14. Borissov’s rivals, the left-leaning Socialists, are expected to receive 16 percent.

Meanwhile, incumbent President Rumen Radev is expected to win reelection. He happens to be among Borissov’s staunchest critics. Last year, for example, Radev publicly chided Borissov for failing to devote enough time and resources to combating graft in the country where organized crime organizations wield significant clout, Radio Free Europe reported.

Emotions are running high. A far-right nationalist candidate, Boyan Rassate, attacked an LGBTQ+ community center in Sofia recently, prompting Amnesty International to call for a full investigation after he was arrested on charges associated with the violence. Rassate faces up to five years in jail.

Definitive election results won’t solve these problems but they would be a start.

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