Political strategist, journalist, editor-in-chief of News.bg, a popular Bulgarian news and analysis portal, Miloslav Josifov shares his view of what may happen in Bulgaria after the last parliamentary elections.
Five parties, the fourth victory of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), the revival of the leftist Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the fiasco of the so-called true rightist (radical anti-Russian and anti-Communist) parties – this is the parliament elected in Bulgaria on Mar 26.
This parliament consists of two major forces: rightist GERB led by Boyko Borisov and leftist BSP led by Kornelija Ninova.
The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) is again the third but this time it lost 70,000 votes to Lyutvi Mestan’s Democrats for Responsibility, Freedom and Tolerance (DRFT), which still failed to get into the parliament despite active interference by Turkey.
The United Patriots will also have a faction in the new parliament and even though this time they are not as strong as before, they are holding the key to the ruling coalition – without them, GERB will not be able to form a Cabinet and to rule the country.
And the fifth party, Volya, is led by businessman Veselin Mareshki, the owner of a network of drugstores and filling stations. He pulled the wool over the eyes of many Bulgarians just to push some of his relatives and employees into the new parliament. And now Borisov will have to negotiate with him if he wants to form a stable parliamentary majority.
Some experts doubt that the new parliament will have a long life. On Jan 1, 2018, Bulgaria is to take up EU presidency. This will last for six month, so, in any case, the Bulgarian parliament will live till June 2018. But the problem is that Borisov has never served his term through so far. He will try to overcome this curse and to rule till 2021.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev is Socialist. So, he will be a firm and consistent supervisor for GERB’s cabinet.
The highlight of the election campaign was foreign policy, with Bulgaria’s huge problems in education, health care and demography mostly neglected. On top of that, Turkey tried to interfere into the course of the elections.
Some experts regard this as part of Erdogan’s referendum campaign, which covered not only Bulgaria but also the Netherlands and Germany. But they can’t say if Erdogan’s manipulations with respect to Bulgaria will end if he becomes a “Sultan” in his country.
The campaign has revealed growing confrontation between pro-European and pro-Russian forces. Experts say that GERB’s victory will make Bulgaria even more pro-European. But with its current configuration, the parliament is expected to also be open to dialogue with Russia.
As regards Borisov, who enjoys the support of the European People’s Party, his position is that Bulgaria is too weak to be able to interfere in the disputes of great powers. Being an advocate of the EU and NATO, he objects to NATO’s fleet in the Black Sea as an obstacle to tourism and keeps calling for the turn of Russian tourism to Bulgaria.
BSP has gone even farther. Ninova advocates the lifting of anti-Russian sanctions as Russia’s countersanctions are crippling Bulgaria’s economy. Traditionally, the Bulgarian Socialists support dialogue with Russia.
The United Patriots doubt that the EU and NATO membership are good for Bulgaria and suggest that the country be more open for Russia. One of its leaders Volen Siderov is a frequent guest in Moscow.
MRF balances between Brussels and Moscow. Some people rumor that Ahmed Dogan’s party has close ties with Russian businessmen.
All this means that despite its EU- and NATO-orientation, the new Bulgarian parliament will keep its door open for Russia. Pragmatic experts warn that Erdogan’s threats to open the Turkish-Bulgarian border for millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are real as one of the roads to rich Western Europe runs via Bulgaria.
Many experts believe that Borisov made a mistake when he resigned after the last presidential election and that the mid-term parliamentary elections were not necessary as the new parliament will not be able to form an efficient government.
The key problem here is that the Bulgarians are tired of elections as they usually cause no progress. Today, Bulgaria is facing a demographic disaster caused by low birth rate and growing emigration.
Good news for Bulgaria is that it remains a factor of stability for the Balkans if compared with politically and economically unstable Greece and FYR Macedonia, non-democratic Turkey and revolutionary Romania. And it is exactly this factor that can help the Bulgarians in their dialogue with the West and the East.