The weekend of a meeting of the national council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party saw further open criticism of party leader Kornelia Ninova in the wake of the BSP’s European Parliament election defeat, with a week to go to a congress that will decide on the leadership question.
Ninova, BSP leader since May 2018, announced her resignation after the party ran second in Bulgaria’s European elections, though she is standing to be re-elected at the congress on June 16.
Sergei Stanishev, a former long-time leader of the BSP and who has tense relations with Ninova, has pointed out that the May 2019 vote was the second election since 2017 when the party had expected to win, but lost.
Ahead of the European Parliament elections, already there had been tension when Ninova sought to ensure Stanishev, who leads the EU-wide Party of European Socialists, was not even on the BSP MEP candidate list.
This bid failed at a previous national council meeting, but post-election, Stanishev has not been named the head of the BSP group of MEPs, the post going instead to a lightweight, Petar Vitanov.
Ninova has denied that she was behind the move, saying that the group of five BSP MEPs had elected Vitanov in a secret ballot.
The BSP running second in the May 2019 European Parliament vote has given further ammunition to the so-called “internal opposition” in the party to Ninova, but it is questionable that her days as leader – for now – are over.
At the June 8 national council meeting, Stanishev – who himself stepped down as BSP leader after the latest in a long succession of electoral defeats of the party – poured scorn on the internal party “analysis” report on the European Parliament elections.
“What I saw was not an analysis,” Stanishev said. “It is reporting of some activities that were carried out in relation to the campaign, with no real depth and no answer to the questions all of us are excited about.”
“Why, for the second time since 2017, elections, which had all the preconditions for being won by the BSP, have been lost?” Stanishev said.
Following up his criticisms in a June 9 interview with Bulgarian National Radio, Stanishev said that the battle within the BSP was not about cutting off someone’s head, but about the political line of the party and its internal democratic functioning.
“The dispute is whether the BSP remains in socialist in ideology and a pro-European political forces, or becomes a populist conservative party,” he said.
“The unified style of decision-making, often a policy of stubbornness, without properly assessing public opinion, overthrows the collective nature of the BSP, ” Stanishev said.
He said that no one would elect the party into government while its internal dissension continued. “If you cannot provide peace in your own party, how will you provide peace and prospects for the state?”
Stanishev said that he did not see the political logic in the nomination of Vitanov to head the BSP delegation to the European Parliament, though he said he would help him, because Vitanov knew nothing about the mechanism and relations.
Atanas Merdzhanov, of the “internal opposition” told journalists that the choice of Vitanov was illogical and inappropriate.
It was “more than natural” that the head of PES – Stanishev – should be the head of the BSP delegation, Merdzhanov said.
Angel Naidenov described it as yet another course of action by Ninova that was confrontational and inappropriate. He dismissed Ninova’s resignation as “theatrical”.
Georgi Gergov, long a BSP strongman in the city of Plovdiv, said: “I do not know the boy…this guy (Vitanov) does not know where Strasbourg and Brussels are, but he will lead the group, and this group is a group of parachutists”.
Georgi Bozhinov said: “What does it mean, to burden this little boy, Petyo (a familiar form of the name Petar), who does not know the corridors, to lead the group – just nasty, primitive stubborn behaviour”.
BSP veteran Roumen Ovcharov hit back on Ninova’s behalf at the “internal opposition”.
Naming people like Gergov and Stanishev, he said that when they had led, the BSP had had no future, and Ninova had turned it into “an opposition and an alternative”.
The “hysteria” after the European Parliament elections was unjustified, Ovcharov said.
Ovcharov said that they only one who was enjoying what was going on in the BSP was Boiko Borissov – the Prime Minister and leader of the centre-right GERB party, which placed first in the European elections./ibna