Resignation signals woes for Bulgaria’s Reformist Bloc

Resignation signals woes for Bulgaria’s Reformist Bloc

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe

The August 4 resignation of Radan Kanev as spokesperson for the Reformist Bloc is an indication of serious differences within the group over its strategy for coalitions with other political groupings, notably Boiko Borissov’s GERB.

The Reformist Bloc was formed in 2013 after the May elections in which none of its founding parties won seats.

The process towards unity, or at least a broad front of co-operation among a diverse range of centre-right minority parties, was fraught with complications and internal differences. Whatever the difficulties, however, the Reformist Bloc won a seat in the European Parliament when Bulgaria elected its 17 MEPs in May 2014.

The Reformist Bloc is seen by the more reliable polls as having a reasonable chance of winning seats when Bulgaria elects a 43rdNational Assembly in ahead-of-term elections on October 5, but Kanev’s August 4 announcement of his resignation was a sign of the fractiousness that has been a long tradition in Bulgaria’s centre-right politics and that has long bedevilled prospects of unity.

Kanev, who remains leader of the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, said that the common future of the Reformist Bloc and its unification into one political power, as declared in the constituent agreement, did not enjoy the support of some of the partners in the coalition.

He said that the unity of a parliamentary group of the Reformist Bloc was in question while the executive board was isolated and delegitimised by the (individual) party leaderships.

Kanev took particular exception to what he saw as key evidence of the problems in the workings of the group, when leaders said on August 1 at a meeting with President Rossen Plevneliev that they supported the proposal to revise the national Budget – before holding a sitting of the executive board on the issue.

Perhaps most significantly of all, Kanev expressed strong misgivings at leaders making deals with centre-right GERB leader Borissov, saying that Borissov was really leading the Reformist Bloc.

Borissov, who led his party to electoral victory and into government in 2009, again won the most seats in the National Assembly in May 2013 but was unable to form a government, and in May 2014, saw his party gain a persuasive victory in the May 2014 European Parliament elections.

Seen as the likely victory in Bulgaria’s October 2014 parliamentary elections, Borissov frequently has spoken of the Reformist Bloc as his coalition partner of choice.

But Kanev said that in the current state of affairs, the Reformist Bloc could not achieve its mid-term goal to be an alternative to the parties in the now-outgoing Parliament and to consolidate all Bulgarian voters who do not accept the participation of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) in power.

“I believe that it is not too late for the Reformist Bloc to return to the road outlined in July 2013.

We are the hope for more than half a million Bulgarian citizens, who want change and the life for their children and themselves that they deserve

“We do not have the right to gamble away their hope and leave them without an alternative at the forthcoming parliamentary elections.”

In a television interview the morning after his resignation, Kanev said that he had had a private conversation with Borissov in which he asked him to stop talking to the parties of the Reformist Bloc individually.

Kanev said that he did not blame individual leaders of the bloc and did not believe that it would disintegrate. He said that polls indicated that while other parties showed no growth in support, the Reformist Bloc was the exception, adding that he believed it could grow from its current seven per cent to 12 to 13 per cent.

The Reformist Bloc has not yet agreed on a replacement for Kanev as spokesperson – after a meeting on close to nine hours. The bloc’s leadership was due to meet again on August 5, for discussions including the issue of whether the bloc should formally have a president.

By the morning of August 5, none of the other four political parties leaders of the bloc had comment publicly on Kanev’s resignation.

Borissov said that he was tired of being blamed for other people’s problems and reiterated that he saw the Reformist Bloc as the most likely future coalition partner of GERB.

Recently, Borissov said in a television interview that unnamed members of the Reformist Bloc had sought to make a coalition deal with him that in the next cabinet, he would not be prime minister.