Monday, 16 February 2009

What's the price of democracy, Mr. Martens?

The President of the European People's party (EPP) Wilfred Martens is on a two-day visit to Bulgaria. He is scheduled to meet the Bulgarian parties - members of the EPP tomorrow (17.02) but already managed to give some statements to the press, one of which calls for the simultaneous holding of European and national Parliament elections in June.

This option is favored by most, if not all the EPP members in Bulgaria. However the reasoning that Mr. Martens provides is ambigious at best. As he puts it "It is not wise to spend too much in times of financial crisis. You could combine your elections" (quote in English to be available soon).The combining of the votes is estimated to could save approximately 20 mln. leva ( around €10 mln.). Is the price of democracy €10 mln., Mr. Martens?

Opinion polls show that the center-right parties would do better if the elections are held at the same date that could result in one or two more MEPs joining the EPP-ED group in the European Parliament. That seems to be the real motivation behind Mr. Martens position. The question is whether that result would justify the total mixture between European and national campaigns, issues and even candidates that a simultaneous vote will cause. Bulgaria has not held an accession referendum so an outright European campaign is needed even in simply informational sense. The vast majority of people in Bulgaria do not have a clue of what exactly the European Parliament does. The situation will probably not change if parties (including the European ones) continue to perceive European elections simply as a subject of their short-term strategies.

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