Our turnout, speed of coalitions impress Europe, says Indian envoy to Bulgaria

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Sofia (Bulgaria), Jun 8 (PTI) India’s election turnout and speed of coalition formation have impressed European countries like Bulgaria as they conclude their voting processes this weekend, the Indian envoy to Sofia has said.

In an interview with PTI ahead of the country’s two-in-one elections on Sunday – where voters will elect members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and also members of their own National Assembly (MPs) – Ambassador Sanjay Rana expressed the hope that the outcome would enhance bilateral cooperation and lead to a greater two-way flow of high-level visits.

The elections, which come days after India completed its own multi-phased general election, are undergoing a “day of reflection” on Saturday as Bulgaria’s Election Code prohibits canvassing from 24 hours prior to polling day.

“Bulgaria, like many European countries, has been facing the issue of low turnout in elections and they all congratulate me on the high turnout we see in Indian elections,” shared Ambassador Rana.

A voter turnout of 65.79 per cent was recorded in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections in India.

“Everyone is highly impressed by this mammoth election exercise which we have and there is a great deal of appreciation for the Indian voter and the nuanced messages they send. This general election has underlined our position as the greatest and the biggest functioning democracy today in the modern world,” he said.

Bulgarian politics has been dominated by coalitions in recent times, with varying degrees of success, ending in another set of snap polls called earlier this year.

“People here are also surprised how quickly the coalitions form in India and how stable our politics tends to be. Though we have a large number of parties and electorate, the government formation is relatively quicker, and our governments tend to be very stable compared to what we see here in Bulgaria,” reflected the envoy.

“Also, this time the elections in Bulgaria will be coinciding with the European Parliament election, so there is more enthusiasm in the sense,” he said.

Bulgaria will be electing 17 MEPs to the European Parliament, a relatively simpler process than the coalition formation at the national level.

“The mandate that comes out has been fractured but this time, hopefully, it will be much more clear and a coalition will be quickly formed. This will also give a boost to relations between our countries," Rana said.

"We have very close and warm relations between India and Bulgaria and once we have a stable government here, we hope to see more exchanges of high-level visits and delegations, both political and business delegation, and more signing of the many MoUs and agreements which we have been planning,” said Ambassador Rana.

“So, we hope that the coming elections here, and the recently concluded elections in India would both give a big fillip to our bilateral exchanges and cooperation,” he noted.

On exchanges in the field of business and trade, the envoy pointed to India’s top IT companies setting up offices in Bulgaria and also recruiting a large number of local talent.

“Indian companies are interested in making investments here because in a way, many of our companies see Bulgaria as an entry point into the European market. If you see geographically, Bulgaria is one of the closest to the Indian subcontinent. It is well connected to the Indian ports, and they have developed their two ports in Burgas and Varna, which provides good connectivity,” he shared.

“There are some challenges because of recent events in the Red Sea, increasing insurance costs, but still Bulgaria’s importance as a gateway into the European market remains,” he said, adding that a lot of “untapped potential” remains even though India-Bulgaria business has more than doubled in the last five years.

The ambassador, who has been based in Sofia for over three years, described “warm and friendly” Bulgarians as having a great affinity to India.

He added: “A major aspect of friendship between India and Bulgaria is also the close cultural relations. Bulgarian people have a high appreciation for Indian culture, especially Yoga and Ayurveda.

“When we mark International Day of Yoga (June 21), it is celebrated in almost 40 cities with many events, seminars and conferences. I try to travel around the country and meet the various Yoga groups and join them in the Yoga sessions.” Unlike many other European nations, the Indian diaspora in Bulgaria is rather compact – estimated at around 1,000 and made up of Indian students and IT professionals – but the appetite for greater two-way exchanges remains extremely high.

“We are in talks with the Bulgarian government on a Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement. Such agreements streamline the movement of people, and the process does need to be streamlined as it still takes a lot of time to recruit people and bring them here from India. But we are working on it because there is a great deal of demand for Indian workers by Bulgarian businesses,” he said. PTI AK NSA NSA NSA