The political campaign for the Bulgarian elections for president and parliament of November 2021 have become a stage for propaganda and disinformation messaging that have deepened polarization in the society and have exacerbated wide-spread conspiracies. Disinformation and propaganda filled in the power vacuum created by democratic backsliding and the lack of political leadership that can moderate public debates about social challenges, such as COVID-19 and the Green Transition. These gaps have been further exacerbated by the lack of strong independent media and public media regulators.
At a press conference on 12 November 2021, the Center of the Study of Democracy presented an analysis assessing the main propaganda and disinformation narratives and dissemination channels during the pre-election campaign. The analysis showed that political leaders rather followed pre-existing societal divisions than tried to manage and alleviate them in the election campaign. The most broadcasted disinformation narratives related to COVID-19. Similarly, there have been many propaganda and disinformation narratives regarding the European Green Deal and the rising energy prices. These seem to have seeped from social media into popular public attitudes, too. According to data from a nationally representative survey presented at the press-conference a staggering share of Bulgarians believe in popular disinformation or propagandist narratives related to COVID-19 vaccines and the European Green Deal. It is noteworthy that such beliefs mirror closely Russian disinformation efforts in Europe.