Bulgarian socialist leader seeks to speed pace towards ‘programme government’

Bulgarian socialist leader seeks to speed pace towards ‘programme government’


By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

Sergei Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which while having run second in the May 12 parliamentary elections appears to have the best chance of forming a cabinet, is pushing for the new National Assembly to meet as soon as possible to get the process underway.

In the elections, former ruling party GERB got the largest share of votes, 30.5 per cent, but currently it appears highly unlikely that the party headed by Boiko Borissov will find any allies among the other three parties elected.

This is in the overall context of the outcome putting a question mark over whether any sustainable administration can be formed, but Stanishev appears determined to see the constitutional process move as fast as possible – to get his envisaged “programme cabinet” of “experts” in place and possibly too, to leave as little time as possible for Borissov’s GERB to manoeuvre.

President Rossen Plevneliev was expected to hold a news conference on May 15 to outline the steps that he, as head of state, would take next and when he would take them.

Stanishev said that he had asked the President to convene the first meeting of the new Parliament, Bulgaria’s 42nd National Assembly, before the long weekend starting on May 24. Media reports on May 15 suggested that the first meeting of Parliament would be on May 22.

Parliament’s first business will be to elect a Speaker and then to agree on its rules of procedure. With the legislature officially constituted, the President can proceed with the process of offering mandates to govern.

With GERB having won the largest share of votes, it has the right to be offered a mandate to attempt to form a government first. Borissov is expected to go through with this, even though chances of his proposed cabinet getting sufficient support in Parliament are seen as effectively nil.

Next to be handed a mandate by the President will be Stanishev’s socialists, which got 26.65 per cent.

Stanishev, who was prime minister in a socialist-led tripartite coalition government from 2005 to 2009, has said throughout the election campaign that he does not intend returning to that post. Instead, he has said that he would put forward former finance minister Plamen Oresharski to be prime minister.

A complication is that Stanishev has indicated that the cabinet will be made up of “experts” and there will not be shares of cabinet seats for parties supporting the government. The parties from which the socialists will seek support are the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, and Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalists Ataka. Stanishev also has said that he would seek to draw in “experts” from the ranks of parties that did not win seats in Parliament.

According to Bulgarian-language website Mediapool, there were doubts in socialist ranks about whether this idea was politically viable. “How can we expect the MRF and Ataka to support us if they don’t have posts?” the website quoted socialists sources as saying.

Stanishev poured scorn on the idea that he would try to recruit experts from GERB’s ranks and was reluctant to say from which parties outside Parliament he would attempt to recruit.

Two parties that did not win seats, one centrists and one rightist, already have said that they were not interested in co-operation with the “programme cabinet” envisaged by Stanishev.

Stanishev said that it was difficult, in some cases, to know with whom to negotiate because three leaders of parties that did badly in the elections had resigned.

Meanwhile, from within the ranks of his party, Stanishev faces some opposition to his continuing as leader.

He became leader in 2002 after Georgi Purvanov resigned from the post because he had been elected president. Purvanov failed in an attempt to win back the leadership from his former protégé Stanishev after Purvanov’s two terms as president came to an end, but remains an influential figure in the party, with a number of senior figures loyal to him.

One of those senior figures, former interior minister Roumen Petkov, reacted to the BSP running second in the May 12 elections by calling for Stanishev to quit as party leader. “Stanishev is the master at losing elections,” Petkov said.

From 2002 to 2013, the socialists have lost all elections with the arguable exception of two. Purvanov was re-elected as president in 2006 but stood as an independent, in spite of his socialist party background. In 2005, the socialists became the majority partner in the tripartite coalition, but only after a protracted process after failing to win a decisive majority. In all other elections for parliament, the presidency and mayoralties of major cities, Stanishev’s socialists have been defeated.

Stanishev responded to calls for his resignation by saying that the socialist party had increased its percentage and share of seats in Parliament in this election.