A month after European elections, scant signs Bulgaria is emerging from political quagmire

A month after European elections, scant signs Bulgaria is emerging from political quagmire


By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

June 25 is a month to the day since the turning point of Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections, which saw the Bulgarian Socialist Party handed a sound thrashing, but there are still few if any signs that the country is emerging from its political crisis.

In the wake of its decisive defeat, the BSP at first appeared to go into a form of grim denial that it had been defeated at all, instead trying to portray the outcome as not a true indicator of what Bulgaria’s electorate wanted.

Leaving aside the fact of a year of anti-government protests, which the more reliable opinion polls showed as having majority support, the party with the mandate to govern finally seemed to be being forced towards accepting reality when its ruling axis partner, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, said that the game was up and there should be early elections.

That further turning point came some days after the European Parliament elections, raising expectations that the cabinet appointed with the mandate of the BSP in May 2013 would soon resign. But that cabinet, appointed at the time on the basis of being composed of “experts” – a claim that at the time critics greeted with derision if not outright bitter laughter – is still in place with little clarity about when it will step down.

The closest estimate about when Bulgaria’s cabinet will resign could be the end of July, if the parties with parliamentary groups stick to the agreement on June 29 that the timeframe for early parliamentary elections will be between September 28 and October 12.

Consultations on a precise date for elections, as well as other pressing vexed matters such as the principles and rules that should govern the appointment of Bulgaria’s European Commissioner, have not yet got underway.

First these consultations were delayed because some political party leaders were not available. A June 24 date for consultations also proved a false start.

The BSP now has proposed starting consultations on June 27, but centre-right opposition GERB repeated on June 25 that it did not intend taking part in these consultations.

GERB broke off its engagement towards consultations after it was offended by the ruling axis proceeding in Parliament and in the cabinet with making long-term decisions and appointments, moves that GERB said were in breach of the June 19 agreement.

Derisively, senior GERB MP Krassimir Velchev said in a breakfast television interview on June 25 that the date of early elections did not depend on the BSP or GERB, but what on Ahmed Dogan said. Dogan was the long-time founding leader of the MRF, and stepped down to become honorary president in January 2013, but remains widely perceived as the real power.

One sign of the acrimonious state of relations among political forces was that in just a few hours of the start of the deadly floods in Varna and Dobrich on June 19, a war of words broke out between Varna’s GERB mayor and BSP government officials about who was to blame for what. The undignified exchange earned the politicians involved dressings-down from President Rossen Plevneliev and GERB leader Boiko Borissov.

Media added their own criticisms of politicians who sought to score political points even as corpses were still floating in the streets and buildings of Varna’s devastated Asparouhovo area.

A further sign of the dire state of affairs was that on June 25, the 42nd National Assembly yet again failed to secure a quorum to hold the day’s sitting.

Local media said that two successive attempts to secure a quorum failed because MPs for GERB and far-right ultra-nationalists Ataka were not in the House.

Ironically, one of the agenda items on June 25 was for MPs to vote to approve the notice of resignation as an MP of BSP leader Sergei Stanishev, who on June 23 reversed his oft-repeated promise that if elected to the European Parliament he would not take up his seat as an MEP but would remain a member of the National Assembly.

The move by Stanishev, who also said he would remain leader of the BSP, has been widely condemned – including publicly by a few members of his own party – as a bid to flee the chaos and defeat plaguing the BSP.

The BSP Speaker of Parliament, Mihail Mikov, was asked by reporters in the corridors of the National Assembly whether he expected that the current legislature would reach the end of its life without ever again securing a quorum.

Mikov replied, “My expectations are different. It would be better if you asked individual MPs what they expect, especially those who do not want the 42nd National Assembly to meet”.