Bulgaria: A new transition?

Bulgaria: A new transition?


By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

Perhaps somewhat giddily, at least one Bulgarian newspaper ran a piece amid the current political crisis asking whether the country was heading for a new political transition.

It is a valid question, if perhaps reaching in a way towards a new optimism, the notion that Bulgaria may somehow emerge from the national anger against the blundering and increasingly discredited current government to a repeat, to a new transition, this time around more successfully than the ragged and incomplete one of almost 20 years ago.

It is difficult to decide where to start in enumerating the deficit of credibility of the Bulgarian Socialist Party that took office in late May.

Most recently, the newest round of deputy ministers was announced on June 19. After the Bulgarian media made much of the fact that one deputy minister had as a father a person associated with a controversial business group of the post-communist transition, that same nomination was hastily withdrawn, albeit without explanation on the part of the government.

In Parliament the same day, the frustratingly vague “Oresharski Plan” – named for the person put in the prime minister’s chair by the votes of the BSP and Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the latter the party of Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent – was voted “unanimously” in Parliament with the approval of…the BSP and MRF.

Absent were the largest party, centre-right GERB, and there were no votes from ultra-nationalists Ataka.

And in turn, the same day saw a poll by a Bulgarian opinion survey party showing overwhelming support for the anti-government protests.

And in turn again, the same day saw an open question about the constitutionality of the process by which failed MRF candidate for the chairmanship of the State Agency for National Security, Delyan Peevski, sought a return to Parliament as an MP after his taking office as head of SANS was withdrawn. And on top of that, Bulgarian media called into question the rapidity of the process by which Peevski, linked to a powerful family with a dominating share of the media, and with controversies in his background, was given top-level security clearance – even before his candidacy to head SANS was announced.

To compound all this, the government has spoken of the possibility of cutting electricity prices by five per cent from July 1. But it is doubtful that the statutory process of deciding electricity prices by the regulator can be completed by then. And, even though the new government has put in place its own leadership and personnel of the regulator, they seemed uncertain about what would happen after July 1. And the electric cherry on the top was that most informed commentators felt that electricity prices could go only one way – up. Hardly useful to a government that sought to exploit the popular protests against electricity prices.

There is more. No poll so far has said what would happen if fresh elections were held, should it come to that.  But it may be a fair question to ask, against a background of people protesting against “oligarchs” why the current BSP government felt that the most important thing to be doing was to roll back everything the GERB government had done, and to get rid of all those it appointed. It has smacked unpleasantly of a purge, of revenge – with no whiff of a promise to improve the quality of life of Bulgarians discontented with their expenses and incomes.

Whatever a Bulgarian opinion poll may suggest about the possible outcome of a putative election, it is clear from the protests that there is a rejection of the current political power, and to a large extent of the political establishment. It is no coincidence that the person in the prime minister’s chair is lampooned as “Oligarchski”.

No one can say with confidence what will happen next. This includes the poser of the fact that there is an appetite for a new transition – but the question remains open whether one will come to pass, bearing fruit that is healthy and clean, rather than the partly spoiled and not entirely nutritious produce of the past.