Just the Facts – Bulgarian and Latvian Parliamentary Elections

Bulgarian Parliamentary Election

On Sunday 5 October 2014, approximately 50% of Bulgaria’s electorate cast their vote to elect the country’s 43rd National Assembly.

The Bulgarian Electoral System Explained

Established in 1879, the National Assembly is the unicameral parliament and body of the legislative of Bulgaria. The National Assembly is vested with the legislative authority and consists of 240 members, elected directly by the voters for a period of four years. The voting method is mixed: 31 MPs are elected by a majority method (according to the first past the post system) and 209 are elected proportionally (closed lists) according to the largest remainder method. In order to take part in the parliamentary elections, political parties have to gather the signatures of at least 7,000 voters and pay a deposit of 10,000 Bulgarian leva (approximately €5,125), which is reimbursed if they win at least 1% of the votes cast. Independent candidates must gather at least 10,000 signatures in the electoral constituency where they are standing.

Election Issues

Since the demise of the Socialist regime in 1989, Bulgaria has experienced a difficult 25 years including high levels of political turbulence, economic instability, corruption and organised crime. In 2013, Transparency International gave Bulgaria a score of 41/100 on its Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks countries based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be, 0 being highly corrupt and 100 being very clean. Bulgaria has been plagued by instability in recent years, with sluggish economic growth, a loss of investment, persistent deflation and rising unemployment.

Elected in 2009 on a strong anti-corruption platform, former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov of the GERB Party (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) owed his victory largely to his reputation as a tough police chief. Once in office, however, GERB became more and more unpopular as it implemented austerity policies that cut deep into Bulgarian incomes and living standards.

Parties in Contention

Seven coalitions and 22 political parties stood in Bulgaria’s national parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Bulgaria Without Censorship
A populist political party led by Nikolay Barekov, Bulgaria Without Censorship is affiliated with the European Conservatives and Reformists at European level.

Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP)
Led by Mihail Mikov, who was recently elected as Party Chairperson, BSP is a social democratic party affiliated with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats at European level.

Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB)
Led by Boiko Borisov, GERB is a centre-right party, whose last government was toppled in February 2013 by street protests over high energy prices. GERB is affiliated with the European People’s Party at European level.

Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS)
A Turkish-minority centrist political party chaired by Lütfi Mestan, DPS is affiliated with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe at European level.

Patriotic Front
A nationalist electoral alliance which had its electoral debut in this 2014 parliamentary election. The Patriotic Front is affiliated with the European Conservatives and Reformists at European level.

Reformist Bloc
A centre-right electoral alliance, the Reformist Bloc is affiliated with the European People’s Party at European level.

Election Results

The Central Election Commission reported on Monday, 6 October 2014 that with 99 per cent of the votes counted, Borisov’s centre-right GERB had won a majority, but fallen short of a majority to govern alone. GERB won about 33% of the vote, according to preliminary results, more than twice as many as the Socialists, their main opponents. The Turkish minority party, DPS, followed a close third, with 15% of the votes. Voters elected a total of eight parties to parliament, making the formation of a stable governing coalition a very difficult task.

GERB is likely to find itself dozens of seats short of a majority, which may leave Bulgaria with another unstable coalition. The party has said it is ready to form a minority government, either alone or with the support of other smaller parties. If a coalition cannot be formed, Bulgarians may have to return to the polls.

GERB may find it difficult to form a coalition. Its preferred partner on the right, the Reformist Bloc, won about 9% of the vote, meaning that a third party will be needed for a stable coalition. Parties in contention include the Patriotic Front, with about 7% of the votes, and Nikolay Barekov’s Bulgaria Without Censorship party which received 6%.

 

Latvian Parliamentary Election

On Saturday, 4 October 2014, 58.85% of the Latvian electorate cast their votes in the country’s parliamentary election, the lowest ever recorded turnout in a Latvian parliamentary election. 13 political parties and alliances registered to contest the election.

The Latvian Electoral System Explained

The Saeima (meaning a gathering, meeting or council) is the parliament of the Republic of Latvia. It is a unicameral parliament, being made up of only one house. The Saeima consists of 100 members who are elected by proportional representation, with seats allocated to political parties which gain at least 5% of the popular vote. Elections are held once every four years, normally on the first Saturday of October.

Deputies are elected to represent one of five constituencies: Riga (30), Vidzeme (27), Latgale (15), Zemgale (15) and Kurzeme (13 deputies).

Election Issues

The Ukraine crisis loomed over the election as Latvia worried about how best to deal with Russia. After fifty years of Soviet occupation, Latvia restored independence in 1991 and joined the European Union in 2004. Western integration always had less appeal for the country’s Russian minorities, however.

The election was dominated by security issues. Latvia is home to many ethnic Russians, who constitute a quarter of its population of two million people. Many fear that the Russian-speaking communities within Latvia could become manipulated by President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, to destabilise the region and fear that if the country’s Harmony Centre party ever formed a government, it could lead to increased influence for the Russian Government.

Parties in Contention

Latvian Association of Regions
Headed by Mārtiņš Bondars, the Latvian Association of Regions is a centrist political party founded in March 2014. It is not aligned with any European political grouping.

National Alliance
Led by Raivis Dzintars, this nationalist, populist party alliance advocates stricter laws on Latvian citizenship. It is affiliated with the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists party at European level.

No sirds Latvija (To Latvia from the Heart)
This party is headed by Inguna Sudraba, the former State Controller of Latvia, who has prioritised the fight against corruption. To Latvia from the Heart is not aligned with any European political grouping.

Saskaņas Centrs (Harmony Centre)
Led by the mayor of Riga, Nil Ushakov, this predominantly Russian-speaking party experienced a lack of support in the European Parliament elections. They espouse social democratic principles. Although they have won back the electorate of the most radical left-wing Russian-speaking parties, no Russian-speaking politician has taken part in government since Latvia’s independence in 1991. Harmony Centre is affiliated to the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and European United Left–Nordic Green Left at European level.

Vienotība (Unity)
Led by Solvita Āboltina, this is a party alliance founded in March 2010 in a bid to form a counterweight to the left-wing Harmony Centre alliance. Unity campaigned on the results it has achieved over the five years it has spent in government and on the capacity it has shown to improve the country’s economic situation. Unity is affiliated with the European People’s Party at European level.

Zaļo un zemnieku savienība (Union of Greens and Farmers)
Led by Raimonds Vejonis, the Union of Greens and Farmers is a green and agrarian political alliance. It consists of two political parties – the Latvian Farmers’ Union (LZS) and the Green Party of Latvia (LZP). It is the fifth-largest bloc in the Saeima and is a centrist alliance. The alliance is based on a common support for traditional small farms and is unaligned at European level.

Election Results

Latvia’s centre ruling coalition won a clear majority in Saturday’s parliamentary election. Although the opposition Harmony Centre party came out on top securing 23% of the votes and thus 24 of the legislature’s 100 seats, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma’s Unity and their two coalition partners – the Union of Greens and Farmers and the National Alliance – won a combined 61 seats. A breakdown of the results (based on statistics from the Central Election Commission in Latvia) is given below, in order of the number of seats secured.

Harmony Centre 23% 24 MPs
Unity 21.87% 23 MPs
Union of Greens and Farmers 19.53% 21 MPs
National Alliance 16.61% 17 MPs
To Latvia from the Heart 6.66% 8 MPs
Latvian Association of Regions 6.85% 7 MPs

The parties now have a week in which to enter negotiations, with a similar structure to the current parliament the most likely outcome.

 

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