Bulgaria’s main political parties pledge to tackle crime, boost economy in election programmes

Bulgaria’s main political parties pledge to tackle crime, boost economy in election programmes
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia February 5, 2017

The two main political parties in Bulgaria have announced their election platforms, both pledging to raise salaries, fight corruption and improve the living conditions of all Bulgarians. 

The platforms of both the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) seem similar to what they pledged in previous campaigns, and failed to complete when in power. The two parties are closely tied in the polls ahead of Bulgaria’s March 26 general election. 

GERB, which won the previous general election, pledged on February 3 to maintain low rates of corporate and income tax and to raise the average salary by 50% if it is re-elected.

The previous government under GERB leader Boyko Borissov resigned in November after its candidate for president lost to Rumen Radev, backed by GERB’s main opponent the BSP, in the second round of the presidential elections.

BSP also pledged to improve the economic status of Bulgarians, setting its primary goal to increase the population to 8mn people with none of them below or on the poverty line. However, the party leader Korneliya Ninova explained that its programme is long-term and should be completed in the next 20-30 years. GERB also plans to improve the demographic situation in the country, whose population has dwindled mainly due to emigration.

Both rivals also focused on fighting corruption and improving the judicial system in the country. GERB once again promised to make reforms and fight rampant high-level corruption. The party also pledged to demand that the chief prosecutor report to the parliament every three months. However, GERB has been strongly criticised as it has failed to complete similar promises while ruling the country.

On the other hand, in a speech to party delegates on February 4, Ninova said that BSP will take decisive actions in the fight against the mafia and in tackling everyday crime. Ninova also pledged that her party will shut down the parallel state created by the mafia in Bulgaria and will lay the grounds for a regulated state.

While GERB pledged once again to reform the healthcare system in Bulgaria, by focusing on medical prevention and improving the effectiveness of medical institutions, BSP said that it will make healthcare free for everyone who has paid their health insurance contributions and will set up a special fund to pay for healthcare for poor people.

GERB has put its focus on education, pledging to fully reform it and make sure that all children attend school. The party also plans to double the salaries of teachers and motivate young people to become teachers. On the other hand, BSP plans to revise GERB’s earlier education reform programme. Both parties claim that their plans will modernise the education system so that it meets the actual needs of the business.

GERB plans to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by providing financing and stimulating foreign investors. At the same time, the party pledged to cut spending on state administration in order to have funds to stimulate the economy.

To boost Bulgaria’s economic development, BSP also plans to focus on SMEs with a set of measures including a reduction of the profit tax for new companies with annual turnover below BGN150,000 (€76,694) and a fund that will finance young Bulgarian specialists who want to start innovative new businesses.

Bulgaria’s economy grew by 3.4% y/y in Q3 2016. In January, the World Bank raised its estimate for Bulgaria’s GDP growth in 2016 to 3.5% from 2.2% forecast in June last year. The global lender has also projected that the economy will expand by 3.2% in 2017 and 3.1% in 2018.

One area the parties diverged was on Bulgaria’s positioning vis a vis the EU and Russia. BSP pledged to ask the EU to lift sanctions against Russia. On the other hand, GERB will seek to put the country in the eurozone waiting room.

According to two polls released at the end of January, the two parties will get similar results in the March 26 election. Gallup International’s poll showed that the BSP will lead by a small margin (28.7% versus 27.6% for GERB). A poll released by Alpha Research showed that GERB would lead with 32.6% support versus 28.8% for BSP.