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Tremors send ripples across relatively stable political landscape in Bulgaria

БНР Новини
Photo: BGNES

After a period of relative calm, tremors have been rippling across the domestic political front in Bulgaria that seem to signal the coming of changes in the political landscape. The government coalition lost one partner and dominant parties like the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) have new leaders. The unexpected antics by the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB) provided an expected answer unexpectedly early on - President Rosen Plevneliev will not be running for a second term of office.

Where is all this leading? The answer from Neno Dimov from the Right Wing Policy Institute which published an analysis of the political situation in Bulgaria.

To be absolutely fair, the political landscape in Bulgaria after the changes in 1989 continues ideologically murky. Judging by its legislative initiatives, the left-wing party that inherited the former communists, the BSP frequently acts like a right-wing formation. And after the split in the anti-communist Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), the conservative parties in this country have, more often than not been vying for centre space instead of advocating purely right-wing ideas. The liberal DPS is, to all intents and purposes, an ethnic-based party, and on top of that it recently found it had to face an unequivocal rival for the votes of its hard-core voters - DOST - after splitting up itself. The socialists too suffered a political split when ex-president Georgi Parvanov set up a formation of his own - ABV. Still, it is as yet difficult to say whether, as an alternative to the socialists, the ABV is a social-democratic formation or a straightforward one-leader party. The current parliament is just as incongruous, as is the Borissov cabinet it has endorsed. At this time, Boyko Borissov is leader of the only stable party in the country - GERB - though the situation has been growing more and more unstable. But even GERB is ideologically murky, though the reason for this seems to be the frequent about-turns political circumstances have been forcing Borissov to, in order to keep his cabinet from falling. In view of all this, one of the principal conclusions of the Right Wing Policy Institute is that the bi-polar political model is, expectedly, being reinstated in Bulgaria. And in this Neno Dimov sees a chance of dredging the ideologically murky waters.

Neno Dimov“We hope that at this time this will be possible, after the ABV left the ruling coalition. This can be seen as something positive because one of the principal problems Bulgaria has faced was how to break up the bi-polar model in 2001. Its reinstatement will revive the alternative in Bulgarian politics and will offer a choice between individual policies, something we haven't had in 15 years. All advanced democracies have a well-developed bi-polar model. Moreover, a bi-polar model ensures the existence of clearly defined majorities based on ideology.”

The cabinet, a complex conglomerate made up of eight parties, won its first battle one year after it was formed - the local elections last autumn. The next test will be this coming autumn with the presidential elections. And though the president's powers in Bulgaria make him a figurehead more than anything else, the upcoming vote will still be a test for the ruling party, GERB whose parliamentary support has been waning. The Right Wing Policy Institute's analysis indicates we could expect a consolidation of the right-wing parties but only if the same thing happens with the parties in the left portion of the political spectrum. The BSP now has a new chair - Kornelia Ninova - and she has already sent out the message that the party would open up to other, smaller left-wing parties.

“For Kornelia Ninova it is essential that their presidential candidate reach the runoff,” says Neno Dimov. “How this can be done, whether the BSP will pursue broader support is a question of political maturity. The way the BSP and ABV have been communicating does not bode well for the prospect of having a single left-wing presidential nomination.”

According to Neno Dimov, this time round the DPS will not be holding the key to the presidential elections, depending on which candidate it will give its support to; the vote will be more of a test for the party in its bid for influence among the Turkish minority in the country, after the former DPS chairman Lyutvi Mestan split away to set up a party of his own. The BSP and DPS, now in opposition, are still plagued by the anti-government protests of three years ago. The citizens' energy generated then did not produce a new political entity that could have been built upon. Instead, what we are once again seeing is political breakup. Neno Dimov:

“This citizens' protest had two sides to it: one was purely moral - a protest against the government of the BSP and DPS and its methods in placing certain figures in key positions, notably DPS MP Delyan Peevski. But the other, deeper aspect is a tendency unfolding in Bulgaria but also elsewhere, leading to one more political split between conservative and liberal. The gulf between conservatives and socialists is still very wide, though socialism is losing ideological ground and being replaced by liberalism, which is making a comeback in the left portion of the political spectrum. That is where the roots of the protests are to be found. An evolutionary process will unfold, which is always a slow thing and though we would like to see things happen more quickly evolution as such takes time.”

English version: Milena Daynova

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