Reuniting Europe

Bulgaria events

This post was long overdue. It’s been more than two months since I haven’t blogged. Indeed, I have tweeted a lot in the meantime. The reason is probably that the developments in Bulgaria, overwhelming for me, have been too confusing. And probably they deserved short messages rather than longer texts which risk proving wrong.

For those familiar with my blog I don’t need to repeat who is Borissov, leader of his party Citizens for Democratic Development of Bulgaria (GERB).

First was the early election, held on 12 May. The result was the worst possible: The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), which represents the ethnic Turk minority, obtained 120 of the 240 seats in Parliament.

The election was “won” by the Borissov’s GERB, who obtained 97 seats. BSP came second with 84 MPs, followed by DPS with 36 and the extremist party Ataka with 23. As no other party wanted to be in coalition with GERB, BSP and DPS formed a minority government, supported by Ataka.

Let me explain how the support worked. For the government to be elected, at least 121 MPs need to register, by casting a vote. As GERB boycotts the parliament, BSP and DPS needed at least one MP from Ataka to register. This is exactly what happened, with Ataka leader Volen Siderov registering, even though he voted against the cabinet.

There is a discussion whether BSP should accept Ataka support. I am one of those who say: better no government, rather than Ataka-supported. But other people close to me say – without this undesired support, GERB will return to power. And they remind me that Ataka had supported GERB’s minority government formed in 2009, without the European Peoples’ Party objecting.

On one occasion before the government was formed I asked Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva to say whether she finds an Ataka-supported government acceptable, but she declined to comment.

This is how the present cabinet led by PM Plamen Oresharski, a technocrat, was put in place on 29 May. But then a surprising vote in parliament took place on 14 June, installing Delyan Peevski (see photo), a media mogul and a shady power broker, as head of the county’s National Security Agency DANS. (At the election Peevski largely won a seat as MP from the party DPS.)

The shock was so big that even many of the prominent supporters of BSP expressed dismay at the attempt to create a political Frankenstein with probably more powers than J. Edgar Hoover in the USA and Lavrentiy Beria in the USSR altogether.

The resentment was of course bigger on the side of those who dislike BSP and DPS. Many of these people didn’t vote at the May election, as they think there is no political party they could trust.

49.77% of the registered voters in Bulgaria didn’t cast a vote. And exactly 30.15% of all the Bulgarians who voted at the May 2013 election (1.067.887 out of the total of 3.541.545) did not send a single MP in Parliament, either because of the 4% threshold, or because 90.047 of them voted blank or invalid ballots.

Isn’t this a symptom of very deep political crisis?

The volcano was about to erupt, so they started protests immediately after the news of the Peevski vote, protests that continue for a 15th day as I write. I must say however that the protests are mainly in Sofia.

Faced with what was probably for him an unexpected development, Peevski resigned from DANS, but also lost his MP seat, as he had been sworn in the meantime as DANS head.

Sergei Stanishev, leader of BSP, but also from the Party of European Socialists, was asked to resign not only from his political opponents, but also from heavyweights from his own party. He made his mea culpa, but made it plain that he would nor resign.

Stanishev said that he had thought that the unusual situation in his country required unusual remedies, and that he had thought that Peevski was the best positioned to defeat the enemy, as he was willing to put his own life at risk.

It is widely assumed that Peevski, in tandem with recently elected Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov, would constitute a power centre to match the one built by Borissov, and try to defeat it.

It is also assumed that Peevski has facilitated the recent revelations against GERB – leaked wiretaps suggesting that Borissov’s government had massively spied political opponents, and the discovery of a large number of illegal blank ballots in a printing house belonging to a GERB activist.

As leading journalist from Sega daily Svetoslav Terziev said on national television days ago, the issue appears to be that “Bulgaria is two small for two mafias” which are apparently waging their wars, disguised as political in-fighting.

Do politicians realize it?

Stanishev recently received support from the PES party which held its Council meeting in Sofia on 22 June. Parliament President Martin Schulz, who is expected to be the PES candidate for Commission President at the European elections in May 2014, said that Stanishev had shown strength by admitting his mistake.

Protestors tried to mar the PES gathering, but police kept them at distance from the Palace of culture, when the event was held.

In the meantime, an EPP summit held in Vienna on 20 June provided no support for Borissov, who is an addict to compliments for foreign VIPs. My sources tell met that EPP is fearful from possible criminal charges against GERB VIPs.

On 21 June Oresharski mad his first Brussels meeting, received by small groups of Bulgarian nationals waving banners reading “Mafia” in front of the Bulgarian Permanent Representation of the EU and of the European Commission Berlaymont building.

Oresharski had a meeting with Barroso, reportedly telling the Commission President that he made a mistake with the nomination of Peevski, “because he had listened to others,” and pledging to act independently in the future.

On 27 June Oresharski was back in Brussels for the EU summit, attending before that the PES pre-summit meeting. I met with him following the summit, as I didn’t have the privilege to know him personally before. He appeared to convey the message that it was not up to him to mediate for calming down the situation. He didn’t mention the role of the president, but it was obvious that he pointed out at Plevneliev.

President Plevneliev has called the protests “likeable” (“sympatic”), much to the resentment of the BSP supporters. The fact remains that one of the most often heard slogan of the protestors is “Red trash”, seen as offensive by almost one million of Bulgarians who voted for BSP, me included.

But Plevneliev has a role to play, and so does Kristalina Georgieva. She wrote in her blog that “in times of crisis, the impossible becomes possible” and that political enemies find “a way to understanding”. She basically advises “the two largest parties”, without naming GERB and BSP, to sit down and prepare “the unavoidable next elections”.

Analysts agree that early elections are unavoidable, the question being if they should be held in autumn or in spring, possibly on 25 May, the day of the European elections in Bulgaria.

But analysts also agree that what was possible in Italy where a Berlusconi-leftist coalition was put in place is not possible in Bulgaria.

And the main problem remains: the protestors have no representatives for the elections. Obviously time is needed before the force they represent could be streamlined and play a role in the real politics, not only in the streets. Besides, a deep reform of the election law is needed, in order to avoid “phantom votes”, vote-buying, false ballots and what have you. Basically elections tomorrow will not solve the problem, they would only make it worse.

Kristalina Georgieva is in charge of the world’s disasters, flying at the scenes of the worst quakes and floods in real time. I hope she will not need to fly to her county to deal with a political disaster. But it is probably she who could consolidate the Bulgarian traditional centre-right.

The former SDS and DSB are in shambles, do I need to elaborate?

And she doesn’t need to fly when the boat collapses. She better goes now.

Dalia Gribauskaite is a strong leader in Lithuania, because she left her Brussels job to help save her country.

I cannot imagine a GERB-BSP coalition. But Kristalina and Stanishev, why not? Please write if you have other ideas.


Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva @KGeorgievaEU reacted to this text with the tweet:

@GeorgiGotev Txs for sharing your views. As long as I am in my current job it has my full attn and I won’t make comments abt the future

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