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17 commitments for a clean Bulgaria – will politicians sign on?

Bulgaria’s voters will head to the polls in a snap parliamentary election on 26 March. This is Bulgaria’s third major election since 2013 – an ‘election rollercoaster’ that shows ‘Bulgarian citizens are disappointed with the functioning of institutions,’ notes Transparency International Bulgaria.

Our Bulgarian chapter is urging political parties to commit to 17 targeted reforms in order to bring about needed improvement.

Persistent unaddressed problems including dirty money in politics, unregulated lobbying, a lack of uniform anti-corruption policies in public institutions, non-transparent appointments to key public offices and no clear ethics policy for the parliament.

Recent parliamentary rules around ethical conduct have yet to yield desired results, as nobody has a clear mandate to oversee and enforce them.

Calling for commitment

In response to citizen demands for accountable politics, Transparency International Bulgaria is calling on all political parties to adopt 17 commitments in their platforms for the upcoming elections. To guard against empty campaign promises, the chapter will monitor progress on the commitments after the election and report findings to the public and the media.

Transparency International Bulgaria is seeking specific, strong commitments from political parties in the following areas:

  • Legislative changes to enable effective investigation and sanctioning of illegal financing of political parties and election campaigns, as well as curbing political patronage
  • Shedding light on lobbying activities, by introducing a common definition of lobbying and registers of lobbyists, as well as creating an oversight body to sanction lobbying misconduct
  • Implementation of a standard anti-corruption policy for all public authorities, to clear up existing problems with overlapping mandates and shortcomings in institutional oversight
  • A policy for standardised, transparent appointments to public office, to reduce the inefficiencies caused by politically motivated placements
  • Strengthening of the Parliamentary Ethics Commission, to reduce ad hoc procedures, increase integrity and enhance its sanctioning powers
  • Measures to counter conflict of interest
  • A comprehensive policy to protect whistleblowers to enable the reporting of misconduct by civil servants
  • Implementing transparent management of public resources, including checks on public procurement and increased use of electronic tendering

The election comes months after the installation of a caretaker government precipitated by the mass resignation of the previous centre-right GERB government after its presidential candidate lost out to the rival Socialist-backed candidate.

Bulgaria ranked 75 out of 176 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016, bottom of the 28-state European Union. Fifty-four per cent of Bulgarians think their government performs poorly at fighting corruption within its ranks, according to our Global Corruption Barometer 2016 for Europe and Central Asia. The country remains under European Commission monitoring for its slow progress in anti-corruption and judicial reforms.

Without firm commitments by politicians to reform, Bulgaria could be stuck on the election rollercoaster for years to come. That’s a ride few Bulgarians can stomach.

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Image: Creative Commons, Flickr / aliarda

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For any press inquiries please contact press@transparency.org

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