Bulgarian socialist parties’ presidential electoral alliance fractures into acrimony

Bulgarian socialist parties’ presidential electoral alliance fractures into acrimony

Sofia, August 24, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

The presidential electoral alliance between two of Bulgaria’s socialist parties, that briefly seemed to have seen them drawing closer together, is now instead seeing them distancing themselves from each other with increasing acrimony.

For a few days, it seemed that the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the second-largest party in the National Assembly, and Georgi Purvanov’s ABC, one of the two smallest groups in Parliament, had found common ground in their respective support for former Air Force chief Roumen Radev as their presidential candidate.

But now, BSP leader Kornelia Ninova is accusing ABC of “unprincipled behaviour” regarding the election coalition proposal, while ABC has responded with an accusation that the BSP, by walking away from the coalition proposal, is handing the elections to Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party.

The developments come in the week after, at a meeting lasting several hours, the BSP voted Radev as its candidate – hardly unanimously, as it took a number of rounds of voting to eliminate other candidates.

Ninova, BSP leader since May after being elected to replace Mihail Mikov whose two-year leadership had seen the ailing party’s fortunes worsen, has been irked by accusations that Purvanov, a former BSP leader, former head of state and former State Security agent, got his way in the nomination of Radev.

Ninova has claimed that after BSP local structures nominated Radev – a claim that has raised some eyebrows because the general, commander of the Air Force for two years, was hardly a household name – it was she who phoned him to ask him to make himself available as a possible BSP presidential candidate.

After the BSP vote to name Radev as the party’s candidate, the following day ABC announced that it was endorsing him. All that remained, in the view of Purvanov’s ABC, was to exchange draft election coalition agreements and reach agreement.

A week later, that agreement has not come. Anything but. On August 23, Ninova said that the BSP would not proceed with talks with ABC on the coalition agreement.

The BSP was irked by the ABC proposing a draft that treated the two parties as equals.

Purvanov formed ABC as a so-called “civic movement” while he was still president. After leaving office as head of state, he sought to get back the BSP leadership, and lost. He transformed ABC formally into a political party, and took it into Bulgaria’s early elections in 2014, though not himself seeking a seat as an MP.

In the October 2014 parliamentary elections, the BSP got 39 seats (45 fewer than in the previous early elections, in 2013) and ABC got 11. ABC joined Borissov in government as a minority partner, and the BSP remained in opposition. In May 2016, ABC quit the Borissov government, in what GERB derided as a move with an eye on the presidential elections.

Ninova, in a television interview on August 24, said that the ABC draft proposed allowing each coalition partner to conclude an agreement with other parties without needing to agree on this with the other partner.

She objected to the agreement on a coalition board and coalition headquarters not reflecting the relative support for BSP and ABC, quoting polls saying that support for her party was 17 per cent while that for the party of Purvanov was 1.7 per cent.

Ninova said that Radev was the “best possible candidate” but it had got to the point of explaining exactly whose candidate he was. She said that did not expect Radev to withdraw from the election because of the termination of the coalition, describing him as a “man of honour and dignity”.

Senior ABC member Ivailo Kalfin said that by its move rejecting the coalition agreement, the BSP had lost the election.

ABC said that the BSP had handed the elections to GERB. In the coming days, the party would decide exactly how to approach the presidential election this autumn. The party hinted vaguely that it might nominate an alternative candidate.

According to ABC, it had proposed that Radev be nominated by an initiative committee, but the BSP had refused this.

Kalfin said that the BSP’s refusal to treat the two parties as equals was “a kind of racism and xenophobia”.