Parvanov win painted as pro-EU triumph Financial_Times - 2006/10/30
Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov’s decisive victory in Sunday’s elections over his far-right-challenger, was on Monday portrayed in Sofia as a triumph for pro-European Union forces on the brink of the country’s EU accession on January 1.
“The re-election of Georgi Parvanov for a second five-year term is in fact a pro-EU referendum of the Bulgarian citizens,” said Sergei Stanishev, the prime minister.
Ognian Shentov of the Centre for the Study of Democracy in Sofia said he was relieved at the election outcome. ”We were fortunate that in spite of a considerable protest vote, the nationalists could not mobilize more than 20 per cent, so we have avoided the danger of nationalism emerging on a much larger scale.”
Mr Parvanov, a former leader of the governing Socialist party, captured almost 76 per cent of the vote to 24 per cent for Volen Siderov, leader of the nationalist Ataka party which ran a racist campaign targeting the country’s large Muslim and Roma minorities.
The incumbent, a former history professor with a record of backing consensus policies, won as much as 91 per cent of the vote in southeast Bulgaria, with a mainly ethnic Turkish population. He said on Monday Bulgarians had voted ”with a sense of responsibility” ahead of EU accession.
Mr Siderov, a former talk-show host, boasted that support for Ataka had doubled since its emergence at last year’s general election. “Whether people like it or not, Ataka is a factor that has to be counted in every attempt to form a government from now on” he said. Analysts said Mr Siderov had managed to capitalise on popular dissatisfaction with the failure of successive governments to tackle poverty and corruption.
Bulgaria came close to having its accession delayed because of the Socialist-led coalition’s slow progress against organised crime. In spite of strong economic growth, driven by foreign direct investment and falling unemployment, Bulgaria’s per capita income will be the lowest in the EU, averaging about 32 per cent of the EU-25. Mr Parvanov’s victory was eased by the lack of a serious challenger from the right-of-centre parties.
Mr Siderov’s strong performance was seen as a blow to mainstream politicians who have failed to address ordinary people’s concerns. His campaign targeted the ethnic Turkish party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which has participated in every government since the collapse of communism. The party’s support has been crucial to coalition governments trying to push through reforms required for EU accessions, but political leaders have been forced as a result to make concessions to ethnic Turkish interests.
Ataka is not a threat to Bulgaria’s credentials as a new EU member-state, according to Daniel Smilov of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, a Sofia think-tank. ”Bulgaria still has no anti-European party. Despite its questionable policies and positions on many issues, Ataka has not claimed the banner of euroscepticism or anti-Europeanism.”


Author: Theodor Troev, Kerin Hope

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