An Empirical Model of Voting Behavior in the Bulgarian Parliamentary Elections of 1994

Article excerpt

Boryana Dimitrova [*]


There are a number of empirical studies which look at the relationship between economic conditions and voting behavior in industrialized democracies. Free elections, however, are a new phenomenon in Eastern Europe. This study observes the relationship between economic conditions and voting behavior for the Bulgarian Parliamentary elections of 1994. The empirical model uses cross-sectional data from 31 constituency districts in Bulgaria to examine whether votes for parliamentary seats were influenced by ideological factors or economic factors such as inflation and unemployment. The results indicate that economic conditions are important determinants of voting behavior in Bulgaria. In addition, ideology was a major influence on votes in the rural areas. Thus, both the pain of the transition process initiated in 1991 by the Democratic government, and the ideology of the rural population explain the electoral victory of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (formerly the Communist Party) in 1994.


In the late 1980's and early 1990's, citizens of Eastern European countries had a chance to cast their vote freely for the first time in 45 years. These elections attracted the attention and interest of a number of scholars. John T. Ishiyama (1997), for example, studied the differences in the transitional electoral systems in Eastern European countries in 1989-1990. He demonstrated that these differences were a result of the degree to which the opposition and the Communist Party leaders viewed their organizations as seat-maximizing political parties rather than as mass movements, at the time when the transitional electoral law was created. Gabriel Partos (1995) examined the victory of the Communist successor parties in Lithuania in 1992, in Poland in 1993, and in Hungary in 1994. He attributed that victory to the pain associated with the transition from a planned to a market economy. Wade, Groth, and Lavelle (1991) made similar conclusions when looking at the influence of the macroeconomic indicators on the electoral outcome of the 1991 Parliamentary elections in Poland.

In the political-economy literature, the relationship between macroeconomic performance and electoral results, first outlined by Downs (1957), is expressed by the electorate's decision to vote for the incumbent if the economic conditions at the time of the elections are favorable, and to vote against the incumbent if the economic conditions are poor. Some of the empirical research for the United States has been done by Stigler (1973), Bloom and Price (1975), Fair (1978), Frey and Schneider (1978a), and Markus (1992). The existing literature on the subject also includes studies which test the same relationship in a number of industrialized democracies. Among these are the works of Frey and Schneider (1978b) on the United Kingdom, Lewis-Beck (1983) on France, Ursprung (1984) on New Zealand, and Panzer and Paredes (1991) on Chile. With the exception of Wade, Groth and Lavelle' (1991) study on Poland, little work on transition economies has been done. There are a number of reasons for the lack of studies in this area for Eastern Europe. In electoral studies examining the developed democratic societies, voting wends are studied over time within the context of well-established government institutions and electoral rules. In transition economies, including Bulgaria however, the search for the underlying motives explaining the electoral results begins without any pre-existing trends of electoral policies or voting behavior. Incomplete data sets and the fact that elections have been held only recently also explain the lack of empirical studies on the voting behavior in Eastern Europe.

This paper is an attempt to look at the voting behavior of the Bulgarian people for the 1994 Parliamentary elections using cross-sectional data on the 31 constituency districts in that country. In particular, the empirical models try to establish whether votes for Parliamentary seats are influenced by ideology or by economic indicators such as unemployment, inflation, and government spending. …