Yes Bulgaria scrambles to register for March general election

Yes Bulgaria scrambles to register for March general election
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia February 7, 2017

Activists from Yes Bulgaria, a new party launched by former Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov, were out on the streets gathering signatures on February 7. The party had just one day to gather 3,000 signatures to be able to register for the March 26 early general election as a coalition, after three legal challenges were filed against its registration as a party the day before the deadline. 

The attempt to block Yes Bulgaria from standing is seen as a sign that the new party could become a factor in Bulgarian political life and unite other small parties that have not been the subject of corruption accusations and want to break the current status quo in the country. 

Ivanov was justice minister in former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s latest cabinet, but resigned when the ruling majority approved constitutional amendments watering down planned judicial reforms.

His party was established in January and submitted its registration application on January 30. However, on February 6 three appeals were filed against the party’s registration. In two of the cases the appeals were filed on behalf of party members who claimed that they had never signed such documents and that the signatures were fake. 

Nonetheless, the party cannot register to stand in the election until the court rules on the appeals and this is unlikely to happen before the February 8 deadline for all parties to register for the election, as the court has 14 days to complete the procedure.

Yes Bulgaria's only other option is to register for the election as part of a coalition. The party plans to form a coalition under the name Movement Yes Bulgaria, and has said it will start talks  with The Political Party of the Greens (The Greens).

“Yes Bulgaria is going out on the streets on February 7 in the biggest civil action to gather more than 3,000 signatures in just one day. After the mafia tried to stop us, this is the only way for the Movement Yes Bulgaria to participate in the election,” the party said in a statement on its website.

Meanwhile, many volunteers called on Bulgarians to help the new coalition by spreading the message on Facebook.

“They tried to screw us up… but many people are coming specially to support us and to sign. Many carry full lists of signatures of their friends, colleagues and relatives,” a Sofia-based volunteer who wished to remain unnamed, told bne IntelliNews.

He added that by early afternoon just one of the volunteer posts had gathered roughly half the signatures needed.

“The Greens have proven that are protecting consistently the public interest for the reform of the judicial system, protecting the Bulgarian nature by the mafia and the oligarchs,” Yes Bulgaria said in the statement.

The Greens also decided to support Yes Bulgaria’s attempt to gather the 3,000 signatures needed by calling on their supporters on Facebook to support the coalition by giving their signatures.

“We thank very much to everybody who has so far signed for The Greens. We cannot use those signatures for the coalition. If you agree with its registration, please give your signature again,” the party said in a Facebook post.

Yes Bulgaria also said that it will start talks with a third party for the new coalition, but did not name it. The new formation around the right-wing Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB) is seen as a likely partner.

Among the founders of Yes Bulgaria are many people who protested in Sofia in the summer of 2013 against the then Socialist-led government of Plamen Oresharski. The protests that lasted for months erupted after the parliament appointed the prominent media mogul Delyan Peevski to the key post of head of national security. This was seen as symptomatic of the nepotism of Bulgarian politics and triggered the street activism, which was organised on social media.