The state of votes
The new government – a positive alternative for Bulgaria
A broad and unstable ruling coalition
Antonia NIKOLOVA | 2014. January 01. 00:00
From May 2013 up until now, the end of 2014, Bulgaria has experienced a significant amount of crises leading to the overthrowing of the government.The new elections that took place in October give us hope for the brighter future of the country in the years to come.
Both 2013 and 2014 can be characterized as “unstable” periods for the Bulgarian Government. It all started around May 2013 with vast national protests against the Prime Minister Oresharski, even before he was elected. The Bulgarians took a stance against him, the ministers nominated by him, but they also expressed their discontent concerning “green” topics such as the development of natural sites and the construction of the nuclear power plant “AEC Belene”. There were many other reasons such as supposedly corrupt appointments to public offices, politicians' relations with the oligarchy and organized crime, but one of the last reasons added to the list was the appointment of Deyan Peevski as the chairman of the State Agency “National Security”. It is that that spited the Bulgarians to gather in the center of Sofia.
Many people from other towns all around Bulgaria came to the capital in order to participate in the protest, to show the government they are relentless and will fight for their rights, their beliefs as Bulgarians, as a nation, but also as Europeans. For months, every day, they tended to occupy key places in the center of Sofia, usually during rush hour. That obliged the Government to react by putting a metal fence all around the Parliament and increasing security in order to prevent violence. The protests became massive in no time, thousands of people participating, between 10 000 and 50 000, blocking main roads. Even the media didn’t stay unaffected by it, spreading the news all around Bulgaria but also on an international level, making the protest wave spread to other parts of Bulgaria.
The 43rd National Assembly began its work on the 27th of October with 8 parliamentary groups. In order for one of the parties of the National Assembly to dominate the others, they must have 121 places of the 240 ones. Even though GERB has the upper hand by holding more places than the others, it still can’t impose its opinion, because it does not have a majority. In order for there to be a consensus within the Assembly, there needs to be a coalition formed (preferably between GERB and BSP, because they have the most votes). But during both their governance, they have both proven that they have very different ideologies and approach, which makes it not that possible for them to collaborate. Another reason is the “informal rivalry” between them, both in the aspect of their target groups, goals for the future and representation (the ever popular red vs. blue battle).
But one thing is certain; both parties have proven themselves to be self-accomplished, organized, productive, bringing positive results to Bulgarian people and their country. BSP, part of a triple coalition, was the party that won the elections in 2005, just after Bulgaria was accepted in NATO. This paved the road for the integration of the country into Europe, into the World. The NATO membership permits to be more accessible, regarding economic relations, political ones, and preserving peace on a local and intermodal level. BSP and GERB were the parties that governed Bulgaria just after it joined the European Union, which brought many benefits to the Bulgarian Nation, such as visa-free traveling to the Member States of the European Union. Because of our membership that we worked so hard for satisfying many European Union demands, we received many subsidies, which helped us construct many national and international roads in Bulgaria. One was the “Trakiya” highway, part of the 8th European Corridor, that was finished in 2013 and since then traveling to the more eastern and southern parts of the country became easier. It is also widely used for international transport, so it is more than a Bulgarian beneficial factor. Many cultural and public institutions were constructed, aided by EU money.
So those are the two parties that have aided the prosperity and progress of Bulgaria in the last decade.
At the moment Bulgaria’s full acceptance in the Schengen area is being discussed. It is expected to happen soon, bringing even more benefits to the country. But first Bulgaria has to cover some of the conditions, demanded of the Member States. That should be the primary job of the new government.The collaboration between the two parties, GERB and BSP, will bring a strong stability to the country, politically, economically and culturally speaking, which is very much needed right now. Even though BSP and GERB have different ideologies, they both share the same goal – to bring the country back on its feet, especially after this exhausting year, the effects of the new Russian policy over Bulgarian product export and the protests. I strongly believe that sooner or later both parties will realize the urgent need of a coalition between them in order to satisfy the needs of both the country and its people. But will this happen soon enough and will the positive effects take place immediately? Hopefully yes!
Bisser ANGELOV | 2014. November 15. 20:00
On the 5th of October this year Bulgarians had the chance to elect a new government, the third one to rule in the last two years. And they botched it up again.
In the beginning of 2013 the Bulgarian government resigned in the face of protests, which claimed it to be illegitimate and bought by oligarchs behind the opposition. While the coalition was officially composed of 6 parties, it was de facto dominated by Boiko Borisov, leader of GERB – a relatively new party to the center-right in the Bulgarian political landscape and which held 117 out of 240 seats. The government fell mere months before the end of its term, making way for new elections. The results of the latter were a catastrophy. Four parties made it into the Parliament: GERB with 97 seats, BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party, self-described successor of the Bulgarian Communist Party) with 84, MRF (Movement for Rights and Freedoms, arguably anti-constitutional centrist party, consisting of and catering to the Turkish and Gipsy minorities) with 36 and Attack (nationalist) with 23. With such a distribution of seats an unprecedented coalition was made, between a socialist, an ethnic and a nationalist party, altogether excluding the winner of the elections from state governance. Massive protests followed almost immediately, reaching peak attendance of about 100 000 people in Sofia alone, and going on for months but to no avail. After having completely overridden the voice of its people the government finally resigned over the bankruptcy of one of Bulgaria’s major banks and thus the sparkling of a financial crisis.
The newly elected government contains eight parties with extremely varying political views, and none of them have achieved a runaway success at the election. The winners by far have once again been GERB but this time their 33% translate to only 84 seats, barely above a third of the overall count. Even with the addition of the 23 seats secured by the Reformist Block, a newly formed coalition of rightist parties, this leaves a gap of 14 seats for a majority to be secured. The opposition, classically lead by BSP and MRF was not only represented by 77 seats altogether (39 and 38 respectively). This situation meant that in order for a government to be formed by either of the aforementioned two major forces they would have to seek support from the bottom four parties, constituting of the PF (Patriotic Front, newly formed nationalist party 19 seats), BWC (Bulgaria Without Censorship, newly formed populist party, 15 seats), Attack (now only left with 11 seats) and ABV (Alternative for Bulgarian Renovation, a new center-left party founded by former members of BSP, 11 seats). However such a coalition was viewed as difficult to form and questionable to rule for two main reasons.
Firstly on an ideological level, the parties are too different to be compatible. Neither GERB and RB nor BSP and MRF would be expected to form a coalition with nationalistic parties – the former are supposed to represent modernistic, pro-Western political views which strongly contradicts with the isolationist, pro-Russian position held by the Attack and PF. BSP and MRF on the other hand share similar views on the external policy of Bulgaria as the nationalist parties, but their internal policies could not be more far apart considering the ethnic nature of MRF.
The second reason might be even more important – it is the relations between the parties, and by extension between their electorates. Both the GERB/RB and BSP/MFR have a certain stable base of voters representing the extreme of most social scales. The electorate of the formers is statistically younger people living in the cities with better than average education, who are pro-EU and extremely anti-communist ; according to the statistics the electorate of the latter is older people living in the cities with (below) average education who are eurosceptic and mostly pro-communist. Because of these characteristics of their voters the parties themselves are unable to undertake joint actions in the governance of the state as any such action would necessarily be seen as negative by both their electorates. The lack of tolerance between the parties even led to their pre-elections campaigns being largely based on being « anti-other parties » rather than pro certain concrete goals.
Keeping these two factors in mind it becomes apparent that the wider coalition needed for a functioning government would be difficult to form and even more so to be kept stable. Many even suggested that new elections be held in order to look for a Parliament composition more suitable to rule.
A broad coalition was finally formed lead by GERB (who appointed 11 ministers and the PM) and RB (7 ministers) with the support of ABR (1 minister) and PF (no ministers). While this solution allowed for a working government lead by the parties representing the progressive and educated part of society, the participation of nationalists and socialists (in the Eastern European sense, meaning direct successors of the pre ’90 communists) is viewed by many as too much of a compromise and as tainting the whole coalition. Furthermore how the serious differences in ideologies are going to be addressed remains to be seen.
As a conclusion after yet another elections a new government was created, the third one for the last two years (fifth if provisional governments are to be counted). With so many various parties in parliament this sole fact is a grand accomplishment already but the question remains – is it going to work this time or will we see it collapse before the end of its term ? As much as I want to see it succeed for the sake of finally having a period of political stability in Bulgaria I remain skeptical. Even if it manages to overcome its internal disputes, and that’s already saying something, will this government finally be able to survive the discontent of its people? I doubt it...
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