Elections: Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a Presidential election this weekend. There’s no question who’s going to win, but there’s still some nail-biting suspense.

Why? Well, the current President is former Socialist Georgi Parvanov. (“Former” Socialist because the Bulgarian President must not be affiliated with any political party.) He seems to be a decent enough fellow. The Bulgarian Presidency doesn’t have a lot of power, but Parvanov looks good, says all the right things, and has generally acted Presidential. Earlier this year, he acknowledged that he’d “cooperated” with the State Security Service back in the days of Communism; perhaps because he was quick to admit it, nobody seems to hold it much against him.

Parvanov is reasonably popular. He’s not considered brilliant, but he’s energetic, peripatetic, and constantly in the public eye. (There’s a joke that if you want to see him, build a doghouse, and he’ll show up to cut the ribbon.) So, he will almost certainly win the election this Tuesday.

But. Under Bulgaria’s election law, Presidential elections go to a second round if (1) nobody wins 50% of the votes cast, or (2) 50% of eligible voters don’t turn out. Parvanov will probably get well past 50%, but low turnout seems likely — in the last national election, only 42% of the voters showed up. So there will probably be a second round.

This raises the interesting question of who’ll come in second.
Continue reading

Meanwhile, in Romania

One country over from the Ukraine, Romania is also about to have elections. Election day is tomorrow, Sunday the 28th.

Romania is a sort of borderland right now. It joined NATO last year, and it’s an EU candidate member, with full membership scheduled (at the moment) in 2007. The economy has been growing briskly, and foreign investment is rising rapidly (albeit from a very low base).

But the country is still desperately poor — per capita income, even adjusted for the lower cost of living, is less than a third of the EU average. Corruption is still pervasive. Political life is still dominated by the old Communist nomenklatura.

So whether Romania is doing well or badly is very much a relative question. Compared to, say, Hungary or Poland, they’re very much the poor Eastern cousins. Compared to Ukraine, never mind Belarus or Moldova, though, Romania is an economic and political success story.

And then there are these elections. Let me start with an obvious question: could the Romanian elections be stolen, in the same way that the Ukrainian elections have been? Will the incumbent government allow its candidates to lose?
Continue reading