What did Bulgarians in Romania vote for?
Interview at the end of Election Day, Sunday, October 2, 2022
Radio Varna, 2 October 2022
On the evening of 2 October 2022, at 8.30 pm – half an hour after the end of the Bulgarian parliamentary election day – Radio Varna spoke to the National Radio of Bulgaria correspondent Vladimir Mitev, who is the editor of the newly established Romanian section at Radio Bulgaria. The interview reflected on the election day in Romania, the attitude of some of the Bulgarians interviewed towards the two countries and the people’s motivation to vote.
The interview was taken by Radio Varna presenter Valeri Velikov. The title, subtitle and introductory text belong to the Bridge of Friendship blog.
There are 755 polling stations abroad in 62 countries. In Romania, where we are going now, there is only one polling station and it is in our embassy in Bucharest. Bulgarian National Radio’s special correspondent in the Romanian capital, Vladimir Mitev, is now live with us by phone. Good evening!
Good evening, Radio Varna listeners.
Tell us how the elections in Romania went?
I think it went very well, with a higher turnout than in the previous elections. Usually around 200 people vote. Now about 235 people voted. And I had the impression that people came to vote even from further away, for example from Constanta or even Cluj-Napoca, which is about 450-500 kilometres from Bucharest.
500 kilometres from Bucharest. Some people in Varna didn’t bother to walk 500 metres to the school where the polling station was. I know such cases.
Well, perhaps we can understand the motivation better if we listen to the survey I have done, which we will present in a moment as a summary of what we have heard. The people who come to vote, at least those who talk to us, are very often educated people, professionals in their field, and somehow they feel that they see in Romania a direction of social development that they want to see in Bulgaria. And many people have talked about wanting to have a rule of law in Bulgaria and more Europe.
I wonder what the comparison is between Bulgaria and Romania in terms of the rule of law? Because we know what happened there with Laura Kövesi and many other things.
Well, this issue is complicated. We can’t exhaust it like that, even in a two-minute speech. I think a large number of Romanians are unhappy with what is happening in their country. In the sense that the so-called old parties are now in power here. And this is a long story, which perhaps we should sum up sometime more seriously, but despite the impression of Kövesi’s time, it clearly the Bulgarians I spoke to remain with the impression of great anti-corruption succeses in Romania. There is a feeling that to a greater extent Romanians, and I quote, “know their rights”, have more discipline, have respect for the law, etc. And maybe these things make a good impression. Including the fact that I felt in discussions with a number of voters that they feel in Romania a calmness and security that they lack in Bulgaria. They mentioned that there is a sense of tension in Bulgarian society, and not just at present.
Perhaps we should also mention here the much desired and much discussed judicial reform. Because this calm, this security, this faith in the law is directly linked to it. I do not know whether, in Romania, things have calmed down in this respect following the numerous arrests a few years ago.
I think that we in Bulgaria did not understand very well what was happening in Romania, because even now there are arguments for and against this approach that was used in the fight against corruption in Romania, and that is why I said that it is a long story. In short, maybe in Romania the political elite of the transition has been replaced to some extent and maybe this has been combined with more foreign investment and more opportunities for the middle class. And I think this is one of the explanations why people who are professionals in Romania, people with professions that make them members of the middle class, somehow feel Romania as their country and want to see in Bulgaria the same changes that they saw in Romania.
Very sad. Bulgarians with their minds feel Romania more as their country than Bulgaria. But replacing the political elite is a good start, as the lawyers joke goes. But we should comment on something else that appeared in the press this morning, about the Bulgarians stuck at Bucharest airport on a Lufthansa flight. If I’m not mistaken, they managed to vote?
That’s right. That’s one of the interesting things about today’s vote in Bucharest, because it’s actually much easier for a Bulgarian who hasn’t declared beforehand that he will vote abroad to vote in another city abroad than in Bulgaria. And there was such a curious situation where Bulgarians on this flight voted and even one of them, who is a professor of European law at a prestigious university in Bulgaria, wrote a Facebook post saying that Bulgaria has one of the easiest legislations, the easiest in terms of possibilities and rules to vote abroad. At the same time, there was a case where a couple from Ruse, i.e. where one person was from Ruse and the other from another town, came to Bucharest so that the other person, who was not from Ruse, could vote, because they had not declared that they were going to vote in Ruse and this was the way to cast their vote, i.e. by coming to Bucharest. Perhaps this is a case that was accidental and perhaps the legislator will reflect on this experience in the future.
By the way, did you vote? How did you vote at the polling station in Bucharest?
Yes. I did not apply to vote abroad. And yet, I had no problem voting. Those are just the rules. Here you fill in a declaration on the spot stating, among other things, that you will not vote in another place in Bulgaria. I voted. It wasn’t complicated at all, it only took a few minutes of effort.
That’s right. A few minutes of effort from the listeners would also be worth it to listen to the very interesting people you recorded. Tell them in a few seconds when we’re going to hear them?
Well, we’ll hear from one person who impressed me because he travelled the distance from Constanta early in the morning to get to Bucharest so he could vote somewhere around 9am. And also two women who seem to be building a career in Romania, one with a PhD in laser technology. If I understand correctly, it’s a complex science – optoelectronics. And the other woman is a veterinarian and has a journal about people in her field in the Balkans. So we get to hear theirs. What motivates them to vote? I also tried to ask different people about some parallels between Romania and Bulgaria, because I think this is an opportunity to understand ourselves, to some extent, through the eyes of Bulgarians abroad.
Yes, here are these recordings that Vladimir was talking about, let’s listen to them together now.
There’s no election in which I didn’t vote. I travelled 250 kilometres by motorbike from Constanta to vote.
Vladimir Mitev: And, in fact, there was only one official request to vote from Constanta.
Yes, it’s mine.
What is the point of voting in Romania? What motivates a Bulgarian in Romania to vote?
I am not a Bulgarian from Romania. Circumstances are such that I have been living here for 7 months. Soon I might not live here anymore. Well, I have a job, but nothing motivates me, except that I want a more normal Bulgaria.
What does Romania offer you in terms of experience and opportunities now that you live here?
Romania shows me that things can happen differently and better. Otherwise, yes, I work for a Bulgarian company. I work in Constanta, I have been working for 7 months. I should stay here for a few more months of work and then I don’t know where I go.
What motivated you to vote today?
I really want Bulgaria to be like Romania.
In what area does Romania excel?
They deal with corruption here. They have it, of course, but they fight it better than the Bulgarians.
And as a Bulgarian in Romania, what is your general impression of Romania as a society compared to Bulgaria?
They are disciplined, they are a bit more organised and they know their rights.
I would confirm the same. Romanians are quite protective of their rights when there is something wrong, also in the market. Otherwise, yes, I would like to go back to Bulgaria one day, but to a nice country, where everything is in order, where there is a functioning judiciary, where the roads are repaired. Finally, I have a PhD. I work in a research institute in Măgurele. We study different cultural heritage sites.
I am a veterinarian.
These were the Bulgarians who voted in Romania’s capital, Bucharest, recorded by Bulgarian National Radio special envoy Vladimir Mitev.
Photo: The voting section in the Bulgarian embassy in Romania is signified correspondingly (source: Vladimir Mitev)
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