Bulgaria’s upcoming general election on Sunday is a chance for suspected criminals to escape legal proceedings against them. Bulgarian law grants immunity from prosecution to candidates, and several facing charges of corruption and organised crime have registered to stand.
Of the mainstream front runners, the conservative opposition leader Boiko Borisov has extended an already strong lead in the opinion polls. The socialist Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev is facing a backlash over job-losses and the government’s failure to tackle fraud. Last year, the global anti-corruption group Transparency International rated Bulgaria the most bent EU nation. Brussels has already frozen milions of euros in aid because of mysteriously disappearing EU funds. Among those who walked free from jail last month to campaign as candidates were the Galevi brothers – a pair who were facing charges of racketeering and running a notorious organised crime gang. Analyst and social anthropolgist Haralan Alexandrov said: “It seems that some organised crime bosses have decided that they do not need to have politicians as mediators, to split the loot, but can enter the power centre themselves and have full control of state resources.” Aware of Bulgaria’s sorry reputation on crime, the president wants parliament to close the legal loopholes that allow suspects to stand for election, and urged people not to vote for them on Sunday.