Bulgarian PM postpones decision on resignation until after presidential runoff

Bulgarian PM postpones decision on resignation until after presidential runoff
By Dimitar Koychev in Sofia November 7, 2016

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has postponed a decision on whether his government will resign until after the second round of the presidential election, even though the ruling party's candidate Tsetska Tsacheva was pushed into second place by former air force commander General Rumen Radev in the first round of voting on November 6. 

In early October, Borissov said that the government would resign immediately if parliament speaker Tsacheva, the candidate for his Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), did not win the most votes in the first round. However, now the prime minister now claims that GERB is the party with the best standing, because Radev was not nominated by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), but is only supported by the party. Still, Borissov added that if GERB loses the runoff, there will be an early parliamentary election.

Borissov had appeared confident that Tsacheva would be in the lead in the first round, even if she failed to secure enough votes to win outright. However, former air force commander General Rumen Radev, who is backed by Bulgaria’s biggest opposition party the BSP, took a lead of almost four points. The general has 25.93%, versus a dismal 21.56% for Tsacheva, according to preliminary results with 44.47% of the votes processed. The two will now face each other in the runoff on November 13.

Borissov also stated that GERB will seek support from all political parties, except for the BSP and the opposition predominantly ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) in advance of the second round of voting. Meanwhile, the BSP does not plan to launch talks on support for the November 13 vote.

The outcome of the second round is hard to predict, especially since polls forecasting that a slight edge for Tsacheva in the first round were proved wrong. According to the polls, Radev looks to be in a strong position to take the presidency as they anticipated a victory for him in the second round even with Tsacheva ahead in the first. 

Assuming Tsacheva and Radev go to a second round, Radev may win by 53% to 47%, forecast a Gallup International Balkan poll taken before the first round. Another poll by Mediana also saw a small advantage for Radev in a potential runoff. Mediana experts said at the time that Tsacheva’s potential to win voters beyond the traditional electorate of her party was smaller than Radev’s. Many Bulgarians were disappointed with Tsacheva’s candidacy, and her performance in the presidential debates are believed to have led to a further decline in her support even among voters that traditionally support GERB.

However, now that the two candidates now face the challenge of winning over Bulgarians who backed other candidates in the first round of voting, the spread of the vote indicates that Tsacheva could in fact be in a stronger position than her rival. 

Out of the six remaining candidates, three are likely to support Radev and three Tsacheva. Those who are likely to support the general received a combined total of just 11.21% of the votes, while the potential backers of Tsacheva attracted 32.35%.

These include the third ranked Krassimir Karakachanov, who was nominated by the nationalist Patriotic Front and the opposition nationalist party Ataka. He has 15.45% of the votes so far, according to the preliminary results. The Patriotic Front usually supports the government.

The fourth ranked presidential candidate is businessman Vesselin Mareshki with 10.7% of the votes. He said that he would not advise his supporters whom to support at the second round, but he personally will vote for Plamen Manushev, the vice-presidential candidate of GERB.

Traicho Traikov, the presidential candidate of junior ruling partner Reformist Bloc, ranks fifth with 6.2%. It seems that most of the bloc’s members will support Tsacheva.

The sixth ranked candidate is former prime minister Plamen Oresharski with 5.77%. He is supported by DPS. As expected, DPS indicated that it would support Radev, Dnevnik reported. DPS is considered one of the parties with the most disciplined electorate.

Ivaylo Kalfin, the presidential candidate of left-wing Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV) has 3.48% of the votes according to the preliminary results. ABV left the government in May. The party said that there will be consultations about its support for one of the two candidates that will compete on November 13.

The next ranked presidential candidate is Tatyana Doncheva with 1.96%. A former lawmaker from BSP, Doncheva is now the leader of the party Dvizhenie 21.