By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev is facing calls for his resignation from some within the party for leading it into disaster with the nomination of a controversial MP from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – the so-called “Turkish party” – to head the State Agency for National Security.
The rapid election, with no debate, by BSP and MRF MPs in Parliament of Peevski unleashed large-scale protests at the weekend, bring several thousands of Bulgarians on to the streets of Sofia and other major cities and towns.
With the agreement of Plamen Oresharsi, who sits in the prime minister’s chair in the BSP government, as well as that of the BSP and MRF leaderships, Peevski indicated that he would be prepared to step down if Parliament revoked his appointment. On June 15, it became clear that the BSP and MRF would do this.
Backing down on Peevski, who has family ties to powerful media interests and previously has been the subject of failed investigations into alleged irregularities, hardly stemmed the tide of public outrage at his appointment and after it was reported that he would be stepping down, the street protests turned into demands for the government as a whole to step down.
All of this has left platefuls of egg on the face of Stanishev, who has been the party’s leader since 2002 and was prime minister in the tripartite coalition government – which also included the MRF – from 2005 until 2009.
Even though the socialists were able to take the largest share of seats in the cabinet in 2005 and in 2013 were able to form a government after it became clear that former ruling party, the centre-right GERB, would be unable to do so, Stanishev never has led his BSP to decisive victory and in most elections has led it to defeat.
In 2012, he saw off a challenge by former president Georgi Purvanov, BSP leader before Stanishev. Stanishev used to be Purvanov’s protégé, but that was a decade ago. Stanishev defeated the leadership challenge, but this and the omission of some senior Purvanov loyalists from MP election lists in 2013 has left a fissure of discontent in the party.
The Peevski debacle has led to open rebellion in some quarters, mainly from the Purvanov faction, but also from MPs who spoke openly of their discomfort at having been forced to vote for Peevski in Parliament (and even then, some refused to do so, sitting in the House without casting a vote).
A petition has been begun within the BSP to summon the National Council of the party to examine the question of the leadership.
Even as the petition began circulating – weekend reports said that it already had more than 60 per cent of the signatures required to convene a meeting – some made outright calls for Stanishev to quit.
Roumen Petkov, a Purvanov loyalist, who after the May 12 elections already had said that Stanishev had demonstrated his mastery at losing elections, said on June 14, 15 and 16 that Stanishev should resign. Petkov, the first of two interior ministers in Stanishev’s cabinet before having to step down amid a controversy, said that it had been a “serious blunder” to rush ahead with appointing Peevski without co-ordinating the move with Bulgaria’s foreign partners.
Georgi Kadiev, an MP and formerly repeatedly a failed socialist candidate for mayor of Sofia, said that the resignation of the current leadership of the BSP would avert a repeat of the Peevski case.
Kadiev said that the deal on Peevski had meant that the party had misled the 940 000 Bulgarians who had placed their faith in it by voting BSP in May 2013.
In Sofia, an entire branch of the party, in the central Vitosha area, went into rebellion – issuing a statement condemning its own regional leader for voting in favour of Peevski and also calling for the resignation of Stanishev and the party’s executive bureau.
Stanishev and the party leadership were clearly incapable of finding a way out of the crisis that the government had inherited, the Vitosha regional council said, in a statement detailed to the media by regional leader Strahil Ivanov, who in turn distanced himself from the Peevski decision.
A few voices came to the defence publicly of Stanishev, who let it be known on June 15 that he did not intend resigning.
Socialist MP Atanas Merdzhanov said that now was not the time for the BSP leadership to resign, because there was too much to be done.
Stanishev loyalist Anton Koutev said that there were no grounds for Stanishev to step down, and implicitly blamed the mess on Oresharski.
Meanwhile, organisers of the national protests, on social network Facebook, indicated that they were determined to carry on until the government stepped down. But amid the revival of the heightening of political tensions in a country that has seen plenty of political drama already this year, whether anyone apart from Peevski will pay the price for the Peevski farce remains to be seen.