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Bulgaria - Political Parties

Party 05 Jul
12 May
05 Oct
26 Mar
04 Apr
GERB - Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria 11797849529%
BSP - Bulgarian Socialists / CB Coalition for Bulgaria4084398024%
Ima Takuv Narod [There Is Such a People]----13%
DPS Movement for Rights and Freedoms3736382612%
Democratic Bulgaria ----6%
Izpravi Se! Mutri Vun! [Rise Up! Thugs Out!]----4%
VMRO United Patriots / Bulgarian National Movement---274%
Volya / Will ---12...
ATAKA Party 212311-...
RZS Order Lawfulness Justice Party 10---...
Bulgaria Without Censorship Party -15--...
NFSB National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria----...
Blue Coalition (BC) 14---...
Reformist Bloc (BAP, DBG, DSB, VVD, UDF) -23--...
Patriotic Coalition [Volya + NFSB)----...
Patriotic Front coalition (NFSB + VMRO) -19--...
Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV) coalition -11--...

Political parties are dependent for financing on unregulated cash donations. Many of the richest people in the country -- and therefore the main patrons of political parties -- made their money through organized crime or misuse of public resources. Add to this a judicial system that is inefficient and subject to corruption, and you have an "iron triangle" of corruption, criminality and judicial inefficiency that is extremely difficult to break.

Simeon II, exiled son of Tsar Boris III, was 54 years old in 1991, healthy, and popular with many Bulgarians. In the difficult reform years, he was the center of a small but significant movement that saw restoration of the monarchy as a solution to the dilemmas of governing society. Simeon encouraged the movement by agreeing to return if his people wished a restoration. Newly available publications on the history of the Bulgarian monarchy, especially Boris III, had evoked considerable public interest by 1991. A referendum on monarchy-versus-republic was scheduled for July 1991, then cancelled by the National Assembly because of its potentially divisive impact and because of strong opposition from the BSP and most UDF factions. The new constitution's description of Bulgaria as a republic ended official consideration of restoration in 1991, but Simeon's personal popularity preserved monarchism as a political option for many disillusioned Bulgarians in the early 1990s.

The Bulgarian Social Democratic Party (BSDP) was an offshoot of the movement that produced the BCP. The main socialist party in Bulgaria between the world wars, the BSDP was disbanded by the communists in 1948. It resurfaced in 1990, resuming its advocacy of government reform and elimination of social privilege. The BSDP saw a freely elected National Assembly as the chief instrument of popular democracy. The BSDP party platform also called for close economic ties with Europe, disarmament, and respect for private property. The BSDP was a founding member of the UDF and, under the controversial leadership of Petur Dertliev, one of its most active participants.

The history of the BSDP followed closely that of the communists, except that the latter had a larger following. The BSDP recovered official status in 1990 after being disbanded in 1948. Representing the middle class, the party stood for private property rights, a multiparty parliamentary system of government, radical reduction of the military budget, and active participation in the European Community. Membership in 1991 was 25,000 to 30,000.

The Petkov branch of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU), the third of the prewar parties to emerge as an independent entity after Zhivkov, was the part of the agrarian movement that had actively opposed the communists between 1944 and 1947 and thus did not survive the postwar communist consolidation. The "official" BANU, showpiece opposition party to the BCP from 1947 until 1989, also was revitalized in 1990. In 1990 and 1991, efforts were made to reunite the two factions. (Petkov himself was officially rehabilitated by the National Assembly in 1990.) In its new incarnation, the Petkov branch advocated complete government decentralization, extensive support for agricultural privatization and investment, punishment of the communists and "official" agrarians for crimes against the Petkov branch, and a general return to the populist ideas of Stamboliiski.

The BSP won the first post-communist parliamentary elections in 1990 with a small majority. The BSP government formed at that time was brought down by a general strike in late 1990 and replaced by a transitional coalition government. Meanwhile, Zhelyu Zhelev, a communist-era dissident, was elected President by the Parliament in 1990 and later won Bulgaria's first direct presidential elections, in 1992. Zhelev served until early 1997. The country's first fully democratic parliamentary elections, in November 1991, ushered in another coalition government, which was led by the pro-reform Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) in partnership with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF).

This coalition collapsed in late 1992, however, and was succeeded by a technocratic team, put forward by the MRF, which governed at the sufferance of the BSP for 2 years. The BSP won pre-term elections in December 1994 and remained in office until February 1997, when a populace alienated by the BSP's failed, corrupt government demanded its resignation and called for new elections. A caretaker cabinet appointed by the President served until pre-term parliamentary elections in April 1997, which yielded a landslide victory for pro-reform forces led by the UDF in the United Democratic Forces coalition.

The parties and coalitions that appeared in postcommunist Bulgaria remained relatively consistent through the first 15 years of that period, although coalitions and alliances changed frequently. In the 2001 parliamentary elections, four parties gained 85.5 percent of the votes. The parties that retained dominant positions from the 1990s were the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP, as the Bulgarian Communist Party renamed itself in 1990), the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF, a coalition formed in 1989 as the chief opposition to the communist government), and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF, founded in 1990 to represent the Muslim minority). Since the 2001 parliamentary elections, the BSP has been the largest faction in a leftist grouping called the Coalition for Bulgaria, which won 49 seats in those elections and 82 seats in the 2005 elections.

The UDF, which during the 1990s was the major opposition to the BSP and won several national elections, won 51 seats in the 2001 elections, but it fragmented badly after 2001 and gained only 20 seats in the 2005 elections. The Simeon II National Movement (SNM), which former king Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha founded on his return to Bulgaria in 2001, won exactly half of the 240 seats of parliament in the 2001 elections and gained a majority by forming a coalition with the MRF. However, the SNMs public approval dropped dramatically in its four years of rule; it did not perform well in the 2003 local elections, and some of its representatives left the party in the early 2000s. In 2005 the SNM showed significant rifts among coalition members, and in the 2005 elections the coalition lost 67 seats and its dominant position.

Some 33 parties and coalitions registered to participate in the parliamentary elections of June 2005, and seven exceeded the 4 percent minimum. Among them was the newly formed nationalist Ataka (Attack) coalition, whose antiminority platform gained 21 seats. Also entering parliament in 2005 was the Bulgarian Peoples Union, an agrarian movement founded in 2001 that gained 13 seats. The new parliament was dominated by a coalition of the three largest partiesthe Coalition for Bulgaria, SNM, and MRFwhich together held 167 seats and were united on the fundamental issue of Bulgarian accession to the European Union.

The emergence of the extreme nationalist party Ataka paralleled a surge in anti-Roma reporting that added to a troubling increase in ethnic tension. Ataka won a surprisingly high nine percent of the national vote in June 2005 and continued to fan negative attitudes towards Roma and other minorities. The group's success coincided with a series of sometimes violent clashes involving Roma and ethnic Bulgarians. Sensational media coverage and inflammatory comments by some mainstream politicians further exacerbated the perception of growing intolerance.

The emergence of the extreme nationalist group Ataka represented a new phenomenon in Bulgarian politics, fueled in part by anti-Roma rhetoric. Ataka won 8.9 percent of the vote in June 2005 and became the fourth-largest political party in the new parliament. According to analysts, Ataka capitalized on popular discontent over crime involving Roma and popular perception that Roma receive more state "handouts" than other groups. Ataka's leader, journalist Volen Siderov, called for voters "to take a stand against the occupation of our country" by Turkish and Roma minorities and "return Bulgaria to the Bulgarians."

Although Ataka's entry into Parliament was condemned by all major political parties, its sudden success coincided with more frequent expressions of ultra-nationalistic sentiment. Inflammatory rhetoric against and physical confrontations with Roma had become more commonplace. Ataka successfully exploited tensions between ethnic Bulgarians and Roma in Sofia, where Bulgarians staged protests after a university professor was killed in a race-related brawl. Ataka filled an electoral niche for a group that is perceived as an alternative to the mainstream parties, talks in plain language and offers easy solutions to painful economic and social problems.

The party continued to draw support from people discontented with the mainstream parties and from those who have suffered from the post- communist transition to a market economy. It successfully exploited negative feelings among ethnic Bulgarians toward the Roma minority and growing discontent with the political influence of the ethnic Turkish MRF, which is widely perceived as corrupt. Ataka's electorate also includes leftist hardliners displeased with BSP's reformist course, as well as disenchanted rightists; it attracts people from all ages and social strata.

There are more than 650,000 self-identified Roma voters registered in Bulgaria, and Roma votes have often been manipulated in various ways by mainstream political parties. Ahead of the 25 June 2005 general elections, all major political parties opted for a Roma partner. As in the previous elections the Roma party led by MP Toma Tomov signed an agreement with the Socialist-led Coalition for Bulgaria. The chairman of the predominantly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), Ahmed Dogan, also joined the fierce battle for Roma votes. In a populist effort to secure votes, Dogan promised to restore electricity to the Stolipinovo ghetto in Plovdiv, which was suspended several years ago because Roma inhabitants had not paid their bills.

A new European style of political behavior was seen in all three major opponents in the 2011 presidential elections Rossen Plevneliev of the ruling party of GERB, Ivailo Kalfin of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, and the independent candidate Meglena Kuneva. These candidates relied on democratic principles and European-style communication. This new style, however, coexisted with the old-fashion political behavior, mostly relying on demagogy. A typical example was nationalist candidate Volen Siderov.

After the traditionally rightist Blue Coalition lost its positions, the ruling party of GERB became the dominant rightist party. The Bulgarian Socialist Party is the main opposition party, despite its defeat in parliamentary elections in 2009. Despite the attempts of both parties to present a modern European image, they are still related to the deformed political and economic model.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms, traditionally supported by Bulgarian ethnic Turks, also demonstrated it was a leftist party. The election results of GERB and BSP, however, showed both parties had probably reached the maximum number of supporters and a niche opened for alternative candidates, such as Meglena Kuneva. Kuneva is not seen as part of the corruption schemes from the past and that is why she now has the opportunity to establish a centrist or liberal party that would not count on populism and would promote European values. Such a centrist party could receive the support of young and well educated people, as well as of some of those 50% of Bulgarian voters who did not use their right to vote at the elections.

The goal of BSP is to become the first political force after the elections. Kornelia Ninova, BSP leader, accompanied by a large number of BSP leaders of lists from the country, submitted the documents to the Central Election Commission for registration in the vote 11 February 2021. The coalition's application documents were supported by 10,000 signatures. She pointed out that their election platform was made with care for the people. The priority areas are health, education, social policy and the economy. After the elections, BSP will conduct an internal poll, in which the regular members will determine which are the possible parties with which the BSP can form a coalition. "The policy I have been pursuing since I became chair of the party has been to fight against the behind- the-scenes politics, within the country and within the party. We will not allow lobbyist, group or private interests to distort the will of the people who have empowered us to form a governing and post-election coalition", Ninova said.

Speaking at a press conference on 27 March 2017, businessman Vesselin Mareshki, the leader of Volya (Will) party, which according to preliminary results won about 4,6% of the votes in the early elections said that Bulgaria could go forward if it formed a stable government that would focus on two properties - the demographic crisis and governing Bulgaria to the benefit of the people. According to him, the party would participate in talks for forming a government, if invited. Mareshki said it did not matter whether the invitation would come from the centre-right GERB or the centre-left BSP. The important thing he said was the government's programme to be to the benefit of the people and the state.

On 10 February 2021, Volya party leader, Vesselin Mareshki, and National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) leader, Valeri Simeonov, announced the formation of a coalition between their parties. Volya and NFSB leaders announced that they decided to join forces because they see great similarity in their priorities.This comes only days after the IMRO party said that they would run in the elections on their own ticket, and so the current "United Patriots" alliance disintegrated. In the present Parliament, Volya party has 12 MPs. NFSB has 8 MPs and has been a constituent member of part of the power-sharing United Patriots alliance with VMRO (11 MPs).

On 10 February 2021 Volya leader Vesselin Mareshki and National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) leader Valeri Simeonov unveiled the formation of a coalition between their parties. Mareshki told a news briefing that the move was prompted by "Bulgaria' need of an alliance of patriotic forces". "We expect to earn support and be part of the next government," Mareshki said, apparently referring to the April 4 parliamentary elections.

Simeonov hopes that Volya will embrace the key priorities that NFSB has been pursuing so far and that these priorities will underlie a common action programme. They include raising Bulgarian citizens' income and economic development. "Last but not least, we prioritize preventing the Movement for Rights and Freedoms from regaining power and from acting yet again as a balance holder at the National Assembly," the NFSB leader said.

Mareshki said that Volya entirely backs these priorities. In the present Parliament, Volya has 12 MPs. For four years now, the NFSB (8 MPs) had been part of the power-sharing United Patriots coalition with VMRO (11 MPs).VMRO said it will enter the forthcoming general elections on a straight ticket.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:22 ZULU