Alpha Research: Covid-19 fears dampen Bulgarians’ desire to vote

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A poll done by Alpha Research in December has found that fears of a worsening Covid-19 pandemic and a focus on measures to address the health and economic consequences pushed down the number of Bulgarians who said that they intended to vote in the coming parliamentary elections.

The poll, one in a regular quarterly series by Alpha Research, was done between December 15 and 21 by interviewing 1017 adult citizens across all parts of Bulgaria.

About 49.6 per cent of those polled in December said that they intended to vote, a decrease of about 10 per cent compared with Alpha Research’s September 2020 poll.

Twenty-eight per cent are hesitant about whether to vote and 22 per cent do not intend to vote.

Alpha Research found that there was no consensus about whether it was better to hold the elections as soon as possible or to postpone them.

In late 2020, President Roumen Radev said that he intended to decree March 28 as the election date. However, following consultations on January 5 with Bulgaria’s top health officials, he did not confirm this intention.

The polling agency found that 42 per cent believed that the parliamentary election should take place as soon as possible, because postponing it would only benefit the government.

The agency said that lower voter turnout would lead to electoral bonuses for the major parties and an outflow of support for smaller and newer parties.

Alpha Research said that were the election held today, the most likely result would be a National Assembly with six political parties, an unstable majority and a difficult governing coalition.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party had 24.3 per cent support and Kornelia Ninova’s opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party 21.9 per cent support among those who intended to vote. Support for GERB was up from 20.5 per cent in September while support for the BSP had risen from 19.6 per cent in the previous poll.

In third place was television presenter Slavi Trifonov’s party with 10.2 per cent, down from 14.9 per cent – of any party with a prospect of winning seats in the next National Assembly, the largest decrease.

In fourth place was the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, with 7.2 per cent, down from 9.9 per cent in September, and in fifth, the reformist Democratic Bulgaria, with 6.1 per cent, down from 9.4 per cent in the previous poll.

Sixth was former Ombudsman Maya Manolova’s political formation, with 4.9 per cent, up from 4.6 per cent.

Winning seats in Bulgaria’s National Assembly requires crossing a threshold of a four per cent share of the vote. The ultra-nationalist VMRO-NFSB, currently the minority partner in Borissov’s government, has fallen further below that threshold, from 3.8 per cent in September to 2.7 per cent in December.

Alpha Research said that the approval rating of Radev has risen from 42 to 46 per cent and his disapproval rating had fallen from 29 to 24 per cent.

However, given Radev’s active involvement in the 2020 anti-government protests, support for him was based largely among left-wing parties such as the BSP and Alternative for Bulgarian Revival and emerging formations such as Manolova’s party, Trifonov’s party and the pro-Russian Vuzhrazhdane.

Voters who supported right-wing and centrist parties had a mainly negative view of Radev.

Since the summer months, criticism of Borissov’s goverment had cooled. Its disapproval rating had dropped from 60 to 50 per cent, while its approval rating remained largely unchanged at 14 per cent.

Bulgaria’s Parliament remains the least popular institution, with a 51 per cent disapproval rating and a seven per cent approval rating.

For the first time in the past decade, the approval rating of the judiciary had increased, to 16 per cent. The judiciary had a 35 per cent disapproval rating, while that of Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev was 52 per cent.

Alpha Research said that the police were one of the few institutions whose work in recent months had received predominantly positive evaluations – 32 per cent approval against 22 per cent disapproval.

Forty-three per cent expected that the elections would not produce a clear winner and a coalition government would be necessary.

About 27 per cent wanted a coalition government involving GERB and about the same percentage wanted one involving the BSP. The likelihood of a coalition without either seemed slim.

Since the autumn, the approval rating of Borissov had risen from 20.3 per cent to 23.5 per cent, while that of Ninova had risen from 19.8 per cent to 20.5 per cent.

The polling agency noted that the fragmentation of the protest vote had deepened, with a growing share of those who had not decided who to vote for, from 10.1 per cent to 16.3 per cent.

Forty-two per cent of those polled believed that there may be irregularities in the elections, but not to an extent as to affect the result, while 20 per cent did not believe that the election process would be unfair.

Twenty-four per cent believed that the elections would be completely manipulated. This view was held mainly by the groups associated with the 2020 anti-government protests.

Covid-19, the economic difficulties and the ability of the parties to clarify the nature of the next government are the factors that will have a decisive influence on the outcome of the vote for the 45th National Assembly, Alpha Research said.

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