DARK CLOUD WITH TINY SILVER LINING

DARK CLOUD WITH TINY SILVER LINING

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 12:49

EU elections generate domestic acrimony, further instability

None of the Bulgarian parties standing in the EU elections in May, except Ataka – which said it was opposed to "Euro perversions," meaning same-sex partnership rights – had any stand on any of the major issues Europe is faced with. No political party in Bulgaria was even remotely concerned about unemployment, climate change, the fate of the euro, immigration (as opposed to asylum-seeking) and all that. Going to the ballots in May was a purely domestic affair. The 25 May event in Bulgaria was played out primarily as a litmus test for the popularity of those in power at the moment.

Some Bulgarians thought that the anti-government street rallies that had gone on for several months the previous year would have convinced a larger number of citizens that going to the ballots was the only way in a democracy to make a real change to the way this country was run. They were wrong. Just 35 percent of the Bulgarian voters bothered to turn out and cast their ballots on election day.

The parties they elected show a disturbing picture of a Bulgaria that is increasingly at unease with itself and its elected representatives, and that is still run not by able policymakers that spawn meaningful action to address the country's many problems but by a bunch of people who use TV screens and street billboards to convince voters that they stand for things that are at closer inspection exactly the opposite of what they are claimed to be.

As the election results rolled in, those supportive of GERB, the political organisation run by former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, rejoiced. GERB garnered 30.4 percent of the vote, compared to 19 percent for the BSP, or Bulgarian Socialist Party, its avowed arch-enemy and at present the senior partner in the ruling coalition. Had this been a general rather than an EU election, GERB would have emerged as the largest party in parliament – if you go strictly by the numbers. Because Bulgarians sometimes like to go strictly by the numbers without analysing the background against which these numbers emerge, the GERB leadership was quick to proclaim itself the big winner.

In fact, nothing can be further from the truth. If this had been a general election, the 30.4 percent GERB cashed in would not have enabled it to form a government of its own. It would not have been able to come to power at all as its main opponents, the BSP and the DPS, would still command the majority in the Bulgarian parliament. Even with these 30.4 percent, GERB would have firmly remained on the sidelines – in "unconstructive opposition," doing nothing to influence the course of Bulgaria's development except standoffishly demanding votes of no-confidence and calling for snap elections.

The case of GERB is interesting because no other party in Bulgaria's quarter of a century of parliamentary democracy has been so able to manipulate public opinion to represent itself as something it is not. GERB says it is a rightwing, pro-Western party that embraces the values of democracy, conducts sound economic policies, respects human rights, encourages free media, and builds asphalt roads.

In actual fact, it is none of these. It is not rightwing, at least not in the Western sense of the word, because instead of encouraging free enterprise and entrepreneurship, while it was in power, it boosted the significance and wealth of a few hand-picked "businessmen" with a close relationship to its leadership, did everything it could to stifle competition and rendered Bulgaria's inchoate market economy unable to overcome the severe economic crisis that GERB itself did nothing to handle. GERB can hardly be billed "pro-Western" either. While it is true that its lieutenants, epitomised mainly by former Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov who is currently on trial for embezzlement and abuse of power and has already been convicted in one of the cases, gladly offered police cooperation to the West, domestically they did nothing but amalgamate organised crime with the state. The recap of GERB's rule is sorry. If international research is anything to go by, Bulgaria is now rock-bottom of the EU in terms of income levels, freedom of speech, journalism independence and so on and so forth.

The big winner, if there was one, is the Turk-dominated DPS, or Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which won 17 percent. It added to its popularity, which is now almost the same as that of the BSP. It shows no signs of weaknesses and though it is persistently vilified by contestants as being a syndicate of corporations rather than a political party, it is likely to remain firmly in power – or at least as a power broker – for many years to come.

Another "big winner" is, obviously, the curiously named Bulgaria Without Censorship grouping led by Nikolay Barekov, a former journalist and erstwhile pal of Boyko Borisov. Barekov emerged straight out of his TV studio and successfully ran an election campaign. His promises varied from reintroducing the military draft to reinstating the Communist-era name of the country, People's Republic of Bulgaria. He garnered 10.69 percent of the vote.

Against this background – and owing to GERB's renewed calls for the incumbent government to resign and an early general election to be called – more political instability is in the offing. While in opposition, GERB has made clear its reluctance to do anything constructive in the political process. However, none of these seems likely. This means continuing and perhaps increasing tensions and further division lines in Bulgarian society.

The only piece of good news from the EU elections was that parties like aforementioned Ataka and other extremist organisations with pronounced xenophobic, anti-Semitic and nationalist agendas failed to break the election threshold. Ataka took only 3 percent, and so did the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria. This means that if there was a general election now, none of them would have been able to enter the Bulgarian parliament.

Issue 92

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy https://vagabond.bg/privacy-policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

0 comments

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Discover More

Prof Dr Kosta Kostov, MD
BULGARIAN POLITICS OF HEALTH BELIE HEALTH OF POLITICS IN BULGARIA
Professor Kosta Kostov is one of Bulgaria's leading pulmonologists. He has specialised in Germany, Switzerland and the UK, and has taught for many years at the Medical Faculty of St Kliment of Ohrid University in Sofia.

01052014-5980.jpg
ISSUE OF NORTH MACEDONIA
In Bulgaria, Winston Churchill (who held southeastern Europe in contempt) is sometimes quoted as saying the Balkans have more history than they are able to stomach.

15072009-1170053.jpg
TRAVELS IN DOGANLANDIA
A circle of privileged companies formed around whoever happens to be in power? Construction of EU-funded guesthouses that in reality are luxurious private villas?

CAUSE WITHOUT REBELS
Things in Bulgaria are rarely what they seem to be, but of course there are exceptions. Look at Boyko Borisov's government and his most loyal GERB-ers.
A rare appearance: Ahmed Dogan after the 2009 general election
CRACKING THE AHMED DOGAN CODE
For the past 30 years there has been one unavoidable factor in Bulgarian politics: Ahmed Dogan and his DPS, or Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

LIBERAL DEMOCRACY SUSTAINS FURTHER BLOWS IN BOYKO BORISOV'S BULGARIA
Yet few expected something as dramatic as that: iPhone snaps of a half-naked prime minister sleeping across his bed, a bedside cupboard full of wads of 500-euro bills. Plus several gold ingots. Plus his favourite gun positioned on top.
BULGARIA, IN THE MEANTIME
Predictably, the coronavirus emergency has made all other events in what remains the EU's poorest and least free state look like insubstantial tidbits. With very few exceptions all media have focused exclusively on the alarmist pr
BULGARIA'S RESPONSE TO COVID-19
Since 13 March 2020 Bulgaria has been run by three generals and a sheriff. First and foremost comes General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski.
BALANCING OUT IN CORONAVIRUS CRISIS
Political science students all over the world are being taught in the early stages of their studies that the best way for an authoritarian government – any authoritarian government – to enhance its own powers is to use a crisis – any crisis – as a justifica
BULGARIA'S 'DEMOCRATORSHIP'
For a few weeks last autumn Central Sofia was paralysed by mass protests.
WHY BULGARIANS ARE LEAVING BULGARIA
You don't have to be in the construction business, or in any other sort of business for that matter, to see that Bulgaria over the past decade has increasingly experienced workforce shortages in anything from service personnel in the restaurants and the hot
FOOTBALL PITCH OUTRAGE HIGHLIGHTS DEEPER PROBLEMS
Those Bulgarians old enough to remember 1994 are now appalled because in 2019 Bulgaria marked its worst ever loss, 0-6. To add insult to injury, the loss happened in Sofia, at the Stalin-era national stadium called Vasil Levski.