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Bulgaria - Politics - Background

As Bulgaria emerged from the throes of communism, it experienced a period of social and economic turmoil that culminated in a severe economic and financial crisis in late 1996-early 1997. With the help of the international community, former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov initiated a series of reforms in 1997 that helped stabilize the country's economy and put Bulgaria on the Euro-Atlantic path.

After a period of deep instability in the mid- and late 1990s, governance in Bulgaria was stabilized in 2000 after Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, son of Tsar Boris III, returned to Bulgaria and established a new party, which won the parliamentary elections of 2001. Simeon, who formed a broad political coalition, was named prime minister, a position he retained until August 2005.

In the early 2000s, the government underwent a series of no-confidence crises and continued economic uncertainty, but economic growth resumed, and foreign relations generally improved. Bulgaria joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004. Bulgaria concluded negotiations for membership in the European Union (EU) in 2004 and its parliament ratified the accession treaty in 2005.

Although Simeons government had lost popularity and party alignments had shifted at the time of the June 2005 parliamentary elections, during the previous four years economic, political, and geopolitical conditions had improved greatly, and a constructive balance had been established between the legislative and executive branches. The broad coalition government of Sergey Stanishev, who replaced Saxe-Coburg-Gotha after the elections of 2005, maintained that balance. New legislation in 2005 and 2006 focused on reforming the judiciary and reducing the crime rate. The prospect of entry into the EU in 2007 stimulated a variety of domestic reforms and stabilized a broad coalition government that included both of Bulgarias largest parties under Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev.

European authorities considered the judiciary in need of substantial reform for Bulgaria to qualify for membership in the European Union (EU). Meanwhile, corruption in all branches of government remained a serious problem. In 2006 the President Georgi Purvanov proposed formation of an independent anticorruption service in response to ongoing criticism of government corruption levels by the EU. A parliamentary anticorruption committee, established in 2002, remained in existence in 2006.

In October 2006, Georgi Parvanov, the former leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, became the first Bulgarian president to win re-election. Despite his limited constitutional powers, President Parvanov played an important role in helping to ensure a consistent, pro-Western foreign policy. The Stanishev government continued Bulgaria's integration with the Euro-Atlantic world and its close partnership with the United States. Bulgaria has attracted large amounts of American and European investment, and is an active partner in coalition operations in Afghanistan as well as in UN-led peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.

In the general election held in Bulgaria July 5, 2009, turnout was 60.20%. Results were as follows: GERB 39.7%, BSP 17.7%, MRF 14.4%, ATAKA 9.4%, Blue Coalition 6.8%, RZS 4.1%, other 7.9%; seats by party were GERB 116, BSP 40, MRF 38, ATAKA 21, Blue Coalition 15, RZS 10. In the July 2009 general elections, Bulgarian voters punished the Socialist-led government for corruption scandals and frozen EU funds. Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) took 116 of 240 seats in parliament, and its leader (and former Sofia mayor) Boyko Borissov became the Prime Minister. Borissov formed a minority government supported by the Blue Coalition, ATAKA, and Order, Law, Justice (RZS), but in the course of its second year in office, these parties gradually withdrew their support for GERB. The government's priorities include: promoting economic stability, unblocking the frozen EU funds, and fighting corruption.

Results of the June 7, 2009 European Parliament elections were GERB 24.36%, 5 seats; BSP 18.5%, 4 seats; DPS 14.14%, 3 seats; ATAKA 11.96%, 2 seats; NDSV 7.96%, 2 seats; Blue Coalition (SDS-DSB and other right-wing parties) 7.95%, 1 seat (turnout: 37.49%).

Presidential and local elections were held in October 2011. Turnout for the first round was 51.8%; the top three vote winners were Rossen Plevneliev (GERB) 40.11%, Ivailo Kalfin (BSP) 29%, and Meglena Kuneva (independent) 14%. Plevneliev defeated Kalfin 52.6% to 47.4% in the runoff and took office in January 2012.

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Page last modified: 19-09-2016 20:07:42 ZULU