Published by Wikileaks & Bivol.bg
 date: 6/2/2009 8:34 refid: 09SOFIA264 origin: Embassy Sofia classification: CONFIDENTIAL destination:  header: VZCZCXRO8051 OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHSF #0264/01 1530834 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 020834Z JUN 09 FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6035 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE   C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 SOFIA 000264    SIPDIS    FOR EUR/NCE ERIC GAUDIOSI, TOM YEAGER    E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2019  TAGS: PGOV, BU  SUBJECT: BULGARIAN ELECTIONS: GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT    Classified By: Ambassador Nancy McEldowney for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).    1.  (C)  SUMMARY:  Bulgaria is staggering toward the finish  line of a tawdry year-long campaign that has ushered in new  lows in mudslinging and slander.  Neither of the top two  contenders, Sofia Mayor Borissov and Socialist PM Stanishev,  have any chance of winning an absolute majority.  The real  drama will be over their relative margins, as the smaller  parties scramble to compete as coalition partners.  A grand  coalition between Borissov's GERB party and the Socialists is  now the most likely scenario, an outcome that promises  further corruption, lack of vision, and a limited lifespan.  Behind the scenes, President Parvanov is hedging his bets  with contingency planning for a "technocratic" government  that would position him and his business cronies as the  dominant players.  END SUMMARY.    Two Elections, One Campaign  ---------------------------    2.  (C)  The European Parliamentary campaign, officially  kicked-off on May 16, has been dominated by domestic rather  than European issues, as the parties jockey for position  before the more important July 5 national race.  Corruption  and the economy have been the main themes of what is  essentially a single, year-long campaign.  There has been  virtually no debate on the issues, and the campaign has  degenerated to personal attacks reaching new lows even for  Bulgaria.    3.  (C)  The result is that most voters want nothing to do  with the elections and turn-out is expected to reach historic  lows.  This accrues to the direct benefit of protest parties  such as the extreme-nationalist Ataka.  A low turn-out is  also likely to cause the demise of ex-King Simeon's party,  which may drop out of the national election if it fails to  get a seat in the European parliament.    The Main Contenders  -------------------    4.  (C)  THE BULGARIAN SOCIALIST PARTY (BSP): No one expects  the BSP to take first place, but it can make a strong enough  showing to bargain its way into the next government.  The BSP  can claim some real achievements during the last term,  including EU accession and fiscal stability.  But conflicting  interests within the coalition and within the BSP itself  paralyzed structural reform efforts, leaving a mixed  government record that eroded support for the Socialists.  Last year's high-level corruption scandals and subsequent EU  sanctions brought BSP ratings to new lows.  Despite internal  quarrels, the BSP is presenting a united front for the  elections and, following the advice of its U.S. consultancy  firm Greenberg Carville Shrum (GCS), has made Borissov's  personality the key issue in their predominantly negative  campaign.    5.  (C)  CITIZENS FOR THE EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT OF BULGARIA  (GERB): With a roughly 10-percent lead over BSP, GERB will  win the largest share of votes but not a majority and will  have to find partners to form a government.  Though it calls  itself center-right and uses pro-Western rhetoric, the party  is really the one-man show of its founder and leader Boyko  Borissov, former Interior Ministry Chief Secretary and  bodyguard to Todor Zhivkov.  Borissov's mixed record at the  Ministry, alleged past ties with underworld figures, and  unimpressive Sofia city management have not undermined his  popularity.  His strongest weapons are his straight talk and  tough-guy personality.  Campaigning on the slogan "Let's Show  that Bulgaria Can," GERB vows greater transparency in policy  making and swift actions against corruption.  But lacking a  plan and a seasoned team of policy experts to implement it,  and saddled with Borissov's erratic and autocratic leadership  style, GERB will find it hard to seize the reigns of  leadership should it come to power.  GERB's preferred  coalition partner would be the Blue Coalition, which could  provide badly needed experienced personnel.    Ataka and MRP: Each Other's Best Enemy  --------------------------------------    6.  (C)  MOVEMENT FOR RIGHTS AND FREEDOM (MRF): Local  analysts say Ataka and MRF need each other to frighten their  constituents into voting.  The MRF enjoys solid support from  Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish minority.  Its ability to  consistently deliver the ethnic Turkish vote gives it  influence disproportionate to its size, especially when  turnout is low.  MRF's autocratic leader, Ahmed Dogan, is  credited with keeping ethnic peace during the transition but  now uses the party as a vehicle for money-making.  The  party's alleged abuse of EU funds in MRF-controlled    SOFIA 00000264  002 OF 003      ministries are major factors in the party's negative public  image and the current government's low approval ratings.  MRF  will return to parliament with roughly the same numbers,  possibly more if turnout is low.  But this year it may have  to compete for its past role as kingmaker with Ataka or OLJ.    7.  (SBU)  ATAKA: The surprise success of the 2005  parliamentary elections, Ataka continues to attract  extremists from the left and right, former army and security  officers, and those embittered by the transition to a market  economy.  The party's rhetoric is anti-Semitic, anti-NATO and  EU, anti-U.S., anti-government and anti-minority (ethnic  Turks and Roma).  Ataka is the only party to use an EU issue  in its campaign: it is against allowing Turkey to join the  EU.  High profile scandals centered on the autocratic leader  Volen Siderov have not undermined electoral support.  Polling  at about 10 percent, Ataka is certain to return to the  European and national parliaments.  If not acceptable as a  coalition partner, it may still play kingmaker offering  informal support to a minority government.    Lucky to Cross the Threshold  ----------------------------    8.  (SBU)  THE BLUE COALITION: UDF and DSB are remnants of  the once powerful Union of Democratic Forces that led  post-communist changes in Bulgaria.  Formed last March, the  Blue alliance is a last-ditch attempt to save the genuine  center-right, which has become marginalized by corruption  scandals and  ego clashes, many surrounding ex-PM Ivan Kostov.  The parties  hope their reluctant and belated union will regain the  center-right voters who have stopped going to the polls or  defected to GERB.  If they cross the parliamentary threshold,  they can hope to enter government in coalition with Mayor  Borrisov's GERB.  But the center-right campaign is dogged by  a high profile legal battle over court registration.  UDF  leaders blame their troubles on court manipulation by the  Socialists and hope the ongoing controversy will motivate  center-right voters to go to the polls.    9.  (SBU)  NATIONAL MOVEMENT FOR STABILITY AND PROGRESS  (NMS): The party of former King Simeon has been declining  steadily since its defeat in the 2005 election.  To stay in  government the party joined the BSP as a junior partner in  the current ruling coalition, a move that further eroded its  core support.  Its ratings are now below the margin of error.    10.  (C)  ORDER, LAW AND JUSTICE (OLJ): A new player on the  domestic political scene, OLJ is centered on Yane Yanev,  dubbed the clown of Bulgarian politics.  Yanev rose to  prominence in recent months by outrageous media claims.  Yanev has found enough cash from unclear sources to bankroll  top flight consultants for his campaign under the motto Let's  Stop Corruption.  OLJ relies on crude populist rhetoric  similar to that of GERB and Ataka.  Most analysts believe  Yanev is a creation of BSP circles designed to take votes  away from GERB and Ataka.  Yanev claims OLJ has 38,000  member and a national organization.  But lacking Borisso's  charisma and Siderov's drive, there are alread signs his  popularity has peaked.    11.  (C)  LADER: The business party of energy oligarch  Hriso Kovachki had momentum several months ago when seeral  tiny but respectable center-right parties jined its Forward  coalition.  But after a falling ut with these partners,  Leader is again alone an its polling numbers are back within  the margin f error.  LEADER should not be counted out, given  its vote-buying success in last year's local elecions and  talk of a reconstituted coalition in time for the national  elections.    And If They Cannot Form a Government  ------------------------------------    12.  (C)  If the parties cannot form a government there are  two options.  The President may appoint a caretaker  government and schedule new elections within two months.  Most parties believe results of a second election would not  differ from the first and so would rather avoid this option.  The second option, which has been gathering increasing  attention, is a government of technocrats or well-connected  business people, a list of experts acceptable to all sides  and approved by a majority of the new parliament.  Though the  parties -- via the parliament -- approve the list of  ministers, the selection process is outside normal party  procedure and not transparent, allowing more outside  influence.  Bulgaria had one previous Program Government,  formed in 1992, an ineffective and highly corrupt entity  widely believed to do the bidding of a major organized crime  group.  The idea of such a government is not popular with the    SOFIA 00000264  003 OF 003      public or parties, but President Parvanov and business  interests related to him are promoting the idea as a way to  increase their own influence.  The parties may find it  appealing to let a technocrat government take the blame for  the effects of the world financial crisis, expected to hit  with full force later this year.  McEldowney  

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