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Opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party torn by infighting ahead of special congress

Opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party torn by infighting ahead of special congress
The leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, Kornelia Ninova, has come under further attack from within her own party ahead of a special congress that she has called for October 28, with critics saying they doubt she could lead the BSP to victory in the event of early elections.

Ninova was elected leader of the BSP in May 2016. A poll a few months later showed that her election had significantly boosted support for the party. Ninova was further bolstered in November 2016 when the candidate backed by the BSP, Roumen Radev, won Bulgaria's presidential elections.

But in Bulgaria's May 2017 early parliamentary elections, Ninova's BSP came in second, with 27.2 per cent, behind Boiko Borissov's centre-right GERB which got 32.65 per cent and went on to form a coalition government with a grouping of nationalist and far-right parties.

In more than 60 recent minor by-elections in municipalities across the country, GERB has won the lion's share and the BSP less than a handful. At a stormy meeting of the BSP national council some days ago, critics of Ninova - commonly termed the "internal opposition" - levelled charges against her of consistently leading the party to electoral defeat. The meeting got so uproarious that, instead of the appointed chairman, Ninova herself had to take the chair in an attempt to calm proceedings down.

Under Ninova, the BSP recently has conducted a campaign of raising allegations in numerous municipalities against GERB leadership there, in an an apparently concerted effort to trigger sundry local elections.

Senior members of the BSP also have been speculating that after Bulgaria's EU Presidency is over at the end of the first half of 2018, the country will go to early parliamentary elections.

The attacks on Ninova continued this past weekend at a conference of the BSP Sofia. Opponents lashed out at the party leader that the party had fallen into isolation, and in the event of early parliamentary elections, the possibility of victory for the BSP was anything but certain.

In September 2017, a poll by Alpha Research - about the most reliable opinion survey agency in Bulgaria - said that Borissov's GERB had 25.1 per cent support, while Ninova's BSP had 19.3 per cent.

The Sofia leader of the BSP, Kaloyan Pargov, criticised Ninova in front of the delegates, saying that solely pointing out the sins of those in power did not make the party an alternative to them.

The decline in confidence in the government did not automatically grow into support for the BSP, Pargov said.

As to the possibility of early parliamentary elections in mid-2018, "the victory of the BSP seems to be uncertain," he said.

Pargov said that the reason was local structures were demotivated, and the party was isolated as a "political and conceptual subject" both in Sofia and elsewhere in Bulgaria.

This alienation had to be overcome and potential partners for a possible future government identified, he said. "No one has any illusions that a one-party government is possible in the near future," Pargov said.

Roumen Ovcharov, a senior member of the BSP and formerly its long-term Sofia leader and still a member of the party's national council, accused Ninova of divisiveness instead of seeking support.

Ovcharov said in a television interview: "A leader such as Kornelia, who wants to remove Boiko Borissov and GERB from power, must consolidate around herself, not divide, but unite - above all, the party." He called on the BSP leader to seek support from all those dissatisfied with the Borissov model of government.

Ovcharov, however, made it clear that he does not think it is possible for the internal opposition to remove Ninova from her post. A great deal more would have to happen, for others to want Ninova out of the leadership post, beyond what he called a "little group of people" who wanted revenge against her.

Since becoming leader, Ninova has moved firmly within the BSP to oust the old guard and loyalists to factions who oppose her, including by changing party rules to have rendered some senior MPs ineligible for re-election in the May 2017 elections.

Ninova, in turn, said that she had convened the special congress on October 28 to clarify what kind of alternative the BSP would be. "It is no longer enough to be an alternative to GERB and those in power," said. She said that she saw an attempt "to divert attention to our internal issues and disputes and away from those in power are doing and will do"./IBNA

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