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Cablegate: Bulgarian Elections: Preliminary Results

O 180926Z JUN 01
FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0473
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY BELGRADE
USOFFICE PRISTINA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SOFIA 003033

BELGRADE FOR DAS SWIGERT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV BU
SUBJECT: BULGARIAN ELECTIONS: PRELIMINARY RESULTS

REFS: A) SOFIA 2949, B) SOFIA 2903, C) SOFIA 2950

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SUMMARY
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1. PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF BULGARIA'S JUNE 17 ELECTIONS
SHOW A COMMANDING LEAD FOR THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT SIMEON
II, WITH AN OUTRIGHT MAJORITY IN PARLIAMENT SEEMINGLY
LIKELY BUT NOT YET ASSURED. THE UDF OF PM KOSTOV HAS
SUFFERED A SERIOUS DEFEAT, AND HE IS EXPECTED TO RESIGN
AS PARTY LEADER SHORTLY. THE SOCIALISTS AND THE ETHNIC
TURKISH MRF DID SLIGHTLY BETTER THAN EXPECTED. A FIFTH
POLITICAL GROUPING, GERGYOVDEN-VMRO, FELL JUST SHORT OF
THE NECESSARY FOUR PERCENT OF THE VOTE TO ENTER
PARLIAMENT, BUT MAY REQUEST A RECOUNT. FINAL RESULTS
ARE EXPECTED ON JUNE 20, BUT TALK OF POSSIBLE
COALITIONS HAS ALREADY BEGUN. END SUMMARY.

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PRELIMINARY RESULTS
-------------------

2. WITH OVER 99 PERCENT OF PRECINCTS REPORTING, THE
NATIONAL MOVEMENT SIMEON II (NMS2), POLITICAL VEHICLE
OF THE FORMER TSAR, HAS A COMMANDING LEAD IN ELECTIONS
TO BULGARIA'S 240-SEAT UNICAMERAL NATIONAL ASSEMBLY.
BALLOTS CAST ABROAD HAVE NOT YET BEEN COUNTED AND
OFFICIAL RESULTS ARE NOT EXPECTED UNTIL WEDNESDAY, JUNE
20, BUT IF THESE NUMBERS HOLD UP, NMS2 WILL PROBABLY
HAVE AN OUTRIGHT MAJORITY (SUBJECT TO THE VAGARIES OF
BULGARIA'S 31-DISTRICT PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
SYSTEM).

3. PRELIMINARY RESULTS ANNOUNCED BY THE CENTRAL
ELECTION COMMISSION EARLY ON THE MORNING OF JUNE 18 ARE
AS FOLLOWS (A PARTY OR COALITION MUST RECEIVE 4 PERCENT
OF THE VOTE NATIONWIDE TO ENTER PARLIAMENT):

PARTY PCT. SEATS (ESTIMATED)
----- ----- -----
NMS2 43.05 121
UDF 18.24 51
BSP 17.35 48
MRF 6.75 20
GER-VMRO 3.67 0

4. BASED ON THESE FIGURES, FOUR COALITIONS ARE CERTAIN
TO ENTER THE NEW PARLIAMENT: NMS2; THE UNITED
DEMOCRATIC FORCES (UTDDF) LED BY OUTGOING PM IVAN
KOSTOV'S UNION OF DEMOCRATIC FORCES (UDF); THE
COALITION FOR BULGARIA LED BY THE BULGARIAN SOCIALIST
PARTY (BSP); AND THE MRF-LIBERAL-EUROROMA COALITION LED
BY THE PREDOMINANTLY ETHNIC-TURKISH MOVEMENT FOR RIGHTS
AND FREEDOMS (MRF). THE FATE OF THE FIFTH COALITION,
GERGYOVDEN-VMRO, AND WITH IT A POSSIBLE NMS2 OUTRIGHT
MAJORITY, HANGS IN THE BALANCE.

5. COMMENT: THE NMS2 VICTORY WOULD HAVE BEEN EVEN
MORE RESOUNDING WERE IT NOT FOR VOTER CONFUSION. TWO
FRINGE COALITIONS UNAFFILIATED WITH THE TSAR ADDED THE
WORDS "SIMEON II" TO THEIR NAMES, AND MANAGED TO GRAB
MORE THAN 5 PERCENT OF THE VOTE BETWEEN THEM (ONE CAME
WITHIN HALF A PERCENT OF ENTERING PARLIAMENT!). IN
OTHER WORDS, ALMOST 50 PERCENT OF VOTERS TRIED TO CAST
THEIR BALLOTS FOR SIMEON. END COMMENT.

--------------------------------------------- ---
VOTING FREE AND FAIR AT HOME, PROBLEMATIC ABROAD
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. THE OSCE ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION WILL HOLD A
PRESS CONFERENCE LATER TODAY (JUNE 18). BASED ON MEDIA
ACCOUNTS AND THE REPORTS OF EMBASSY PERSONNEL WHO
PARTICIPATED IN THE OBSERVATION EFFORT, THERE WERE NO
SERIOUS IRREGULARITIES IN BULGARIA ITSELF. COMPLAINTS
HAVE BEEN MADE, HOWEVER, ABOUT THE CONDUCT OF THE
ELECTION ABROAD. THESE CONCERN MAINLY A LACK OF
ORGANIZATION AND INSUFFICIENT QUANTITIES OF BALLOT
PAPERS AT POLLING PLACES IN TURKEY, SPAIN, GERMANY AND
ELSEWHERE.

---------------------
HARD LOSS FOR THE UDF
---------------------

7. THE UDF DID SOMEWHAT WORSE THAN EXPECTED, AND CAME
PERILOUSLY CLOSE TO FALLING PAST THE BSP INTO THIRD
PLACE OVERALL. NMS2 BEAT UDF IN EVERY REGION,
INCLUDING THE PARTY'S TRADITIONAL STRONGHOLDS SOFIA AND
PLOVDIV. TO MAKE THE PILL EVEN MORE BITTER FOR PM
KOSTOV, UDF TOOK SECOND PLACE IN ONLY 11 OF BULGARIA'S
31 ELECTORAL REGIONS, AND WAS BEATEN INTO FOURTH PLACE
IN THREE OF THEM: SILISTRA, TARGOVISHTE AND SHUMEN.
THE BOTTOM LINE: FOUR YEARS AGO THE UDF COALITION WON
125 SEATS IN PARLIAMENT; NOW IT WILL HAVE 51.

8. KOSTOV CONCEDED DEFEAT AND IS EXPECTED TO TENDER
HIS RESIGNATION AS PARTY LEADER SHORTLY, ALTHOUGH HE
MAY WELL STAND FOR THAT POST AGAIN. IN CONGRATULATING
SIMEON, KOSTOV SAID HE EXPECTS NMS2 TO CONTINUE TO
IMPLEMENT NECESSARY BUT PAINFUL REFORMS INITIATED BY
HIS ADMINISTRATION. BECAUSE OF THESE REFORMS, KOSTOV
CONCLUDED, THE UDF LOST THE CONFIDENCE OF VOTERS BUT
BULGARIA WON THE CONFIDENCE OF THE WORLD: "WE BUILT AN
INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION, AND A GOOD BASIS FOR EUROPEAN
AND EURO-ATLANTIC INTEGRATION."

------------------------------------------
MRF BOUNCES BACK; GERGYOVDEN-VMRO IN LIMBO
------------------------------------------

9. THE MAINLY ETHNIC TURKISH MRF BOUNCED BACK STRONGLY
IN THE LATTER STAGES OF THE CAMPAIGN, AND DID BETTER
THAN MOST POLLSTERS HAD EXPECTED. IN FACT, THE MRF WAS
THE ONLY PARTY TO DO BETTER THAN NMS2 IN ANY REGION:
IT WON A MAJORITY IN KURDZHALI AND A PLURALITY IN
RAZGRAD, BOTH DISTRICTS WITH LARGE ETHNIC TURKISH
POPULATIONS AND IN WHICH NMS2 DID NOT CAMPAIGN
ACTIVELY. IT APPEARS THERE WAS VERY HEAVY VOTING IN
TURKEY AS WELL, WITH PEOPLE STANDING IN LINE AS LONG AS
SIX HOURS AT POLLING STATIONS IN ISTANBUL AND
ELSEWHERE, ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS.

10. PENDING THE RELEASE OF FINAL RESULTS, THE
COALITION OF TWO MILDLY NATIONALIST FORMATIONS -- THE
GERGYOVDEN MOVEMENT AND THE INTERNAL MACEDONIAN
REVOLUTIONARY ORGANIZATION (VMRO) -- REMAINS IN LIMBO.
EARLY RETURNS SHOWED THEM ABOVE THE FOUR PERCENT
THRESHOLD FOR ENTRY TO PARLIAMENT, BUT BY EARLY MONDAY
MORNING IT APPEARED THEY HAD FALLEN OUT OF CONTENTION.
GERGYOVDEN LEADER LYUBEN DILOV JR. SUGGESTED HE MIGHT
DEMAND A HAND RECOUNT. IF THE RESULTS STAND AND
GERGYOVDEN-VMRO DOES NOT GET INTO PARLIAMENT, AN
OUTRIGHT MAJORITY FOR NMS2 APPEARS LIKELY.

11. COMMENT: THE MRF, FOR ITS PART, CLAWED ITS WAY
BACK FROM THE EDGE OF POLITICAL OBLIVION, AND PARTY
LEADER AHMED DOGAN MUST BE BREATHING A SIGH OF RELIEF
AND RELISHING THE PROSPECT OF THUMBING HIS NOSE AT
KOSTOV FROM A LIKELY POSITION INSIDE THE GOVERNMENT.
GERGYOVDEN-VMRO, MEANWHILE, IF IT FAILS TO REACH FOUR
PERCENT, WILL PROBABLY SPLIT INTO ITS CONSTITUENT
PARTS. VMRO -- WITH A LONG HISTORY, COHERENT IDEOLOGY
AND REPRESENTATION ON SEVERAL MUNICIPAL COUNCILS --
WILL PROBABLY SOLDIER ON AT THE FRINGES OF POWER.
GERGYOVDEN -- A MUCH LOOSER FORMATION THAT COUNTED ON
THE PROTEST VOTE SUBSEQUENTLY VACUUMED UP BY SIMEON --
IS MORE LIKELY TO FADE SLOWLY AWAY. END COMMENT.

-----------------
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
-----------------

12. UNDER THE BULGARIAN CONSTITUTION, THE NEW
PARLIAMENT MUST ASSEMBLE WITHIN ONE MONTH. PRESIDENT
STOYANOV IS OBLIGED TO OFFER THE NMS2, AS TOP VOTE-
GETTER, THE FIRST OPPORTUNITY TO FORM A GOVERNMENT.
SPOKESMEN FOR SIMEON SAY THE TSAR HAS NOT DECIDED
WHETHER TO SEEK THE POST OF PRIME MINISTER. THE NMS2
LEADER IN PLOVDIV AND POSSIBLE FUTURE FINANCE MINISTER
MILEN VELCHEV SAID NMS2 WILL SEEK A BROAD COALITION
WITH PARTIES THAT CAN SUPPORT THE FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENTS
OF THE TSAR'S PROGRAM (REF A), BUT WILL NOT WORK WITH
"CORRUPT OR DISCREDITED" INDIVIDUALS. HE AND OTHER
NMS2 REPRESENTATIVES STRESSED THAT THE NEW GOVERNMENT
WILL PURSUE CONTINUITY IN FOREIGN POLICY, PARTICULARLY
AS REGARDS MEMBERSHIP IN THE EU AND NATO AND STABILITY
IN THE BALKANS.

13. SERIOUS COALITION NEGOTIATIONS ARE UNLIKELY UNTIL
FINAL ELECTION RESULTS ARE ANNOUNCED, PROBABLY ON JUNE
20. IN THE MEANTIME, HOWEVER, FEELERS ARE ALREADY OUT.
JUST DAYS BEFORE THE ELECTION, KOSTOV DECLARED THAT HE
WOULD NOT ACCEPT A COALITION WITH NMS2. AS THE RESULTS
CAME IN SUNDAY NIGHT, HOWEVER, OTHER PARTY LEADERS LEFT
THE DOOR OPEN. UDF GENERAL SECRETARY EKATERINA
MIKHAILOVA SAID THE UDF IS WILLING TO TALK ABOUT A
COALITION WITH THE NMS2 IF THE LATTER INITIATES THE
DISCUSSION, AND PROVIDED THAT SUCH A COALITION DOES NOT
INCLUDE THE BSP. FOR THEIR PARTS, THE LEADERS OF BOTH
THE BSP AND MRF SAID THEY ARE PREPARED TO DISCUSS A
COALITION WITH NMS2.

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COMMENT
-------

14. WITH RESULTS STILL UNOFFICIAL AND A TSARIST
MAJORITY NOT YET CERTAIN, THE ONLY THING THAT CAN BE
SAFELY SAID ABOUT THE NEXT BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT IS THAT
IT WILL BE DOMINATED BY THE NMS2. REFTELS ADDRESS THE
STATED PRIORITIES OF THE MOVEMENT (FOREIGN POLICY
CONTINUITY, ACCELERATED ECONOMIC REFORM AND MORE
ATTENTION TO SOCIAL NEEDS) AND THE DIFFICULTIES IT IS
LIKELY TO FACE IN PURSUING THEM. AS NOTED IN REF B,
AND REITERATED BY NMS2 REPRESENTATIVES AS THE RESULTS
CAME IN, THERE ARE NO PLANS TO SEEK A RESTORATION OF
THE MONARCHY (AT LEAST FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE).

15. AS FOR THE OTHER PARTIES, THEY MUST LICK THEIR
WOUNDS AND AWAIT A CALL FROM SIMEON. THIS WAS A
HUMILIATING DEFEAT FOR THE UDF, AND KOSTOV IS ALL BUT
CERTAIN TO OFFER HIS RESIGNATION, BUT HIS RETURN TO THE
HELM OF THE PARTY CANNOT BE RULED OUT. MUCH MAY DEPEND
ON HOW MUCH NMS2 WOULD BE PREPARED TO OFFER THE UDF TO
BRING IT INTO A NEW GOVERNMENT (OR AT LEAST SECURE ITS
SUPPORT ON KEY ITEMS OF SIMEON'S LEGISLATIVE AGENDA).

16. THE SOCIALISTS DID SLIGHTLY BETTER THAN EXPECTED,
WHICH SHOULD BOLSTER THE POSITION OF THEIR REFORMIST
CHAIRMAN GEORGI PURVANOV. BUT THEY REMAINED BEHIND THE
UDF, THE PARTY'S UNRECONSTRUCTED LEFT IS ALREADY
CALLING FOR PURVANOV'S HEAD, AND THE PARTY COULD SPLIT.
STILL, FEW IN THE BSP EXPECTED TO WIN THE ELECTION, AND
THEY CAN TAKE SOLACE IN THE FACT THAT SIMEON ACHIEVED
THEIR MAIN OBJECTIVE FOR THEM: REMOVING KOSTOV AND
COMPANY FROM POWER. WHILE AN NMS2-BSP COALITION IS
UNLIKELY, THE SOCIALISTS MAY STILL FIND COMMON GROUND
WITH SIMEON ON ISSUES SUCH AS WAGE AND PENSION
INCREASES, WHILE WORKING TO ESTABLISH THEMSELVES AS THE
MOST CREDIBLE OPPOSITION PARTY. (IN THAT CONNECTION, A
SECONDARY RESULT OF THESE ELECTIONS IS THAT THE BSP
FINDS ITSELF, FOR THE MOMENT AT LEAST, WITH NO SERIOUS
COMPETITION ON THE POLITICAL LEFT: THE BULGARIAN EURO-
LEFT PARTY, WHICH HAD HOPED TO EMERGE AS A SOCIAL
DEMOCRATIC ALTERNATIVE TO THE BSP, GOT JUST ONE PERCENT
AND ITS LEADER, ALEXANDER TOMOV, PROMPTLY RESIGNED).

MILES

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