AIM: start

FRI, 29 JUN 2001 00:49:26 GMT

The Bulgarians Chose to Believe Him

The movement of Tsar Simeon II is the new domineering political force in the parliament

AIM Sofia, June 18, 2001

Bulgarian Tsar Simeon II demanded strong support in order to win the parliamentary elections and the voters have offered it to him in a very resolute way. National Movement of Simeon the Second (NPSD), established two months ago as a coalition of two unknown parties, won 42.73 per cent of the votes. Since in the new parliament, the 39th National Assembly, there will be only four political parties, the achieved results will bring NPSD 120 out of the total of 240 seats. Certainly, not even Simeon Saksoburgotski himself could have expected such a resolute support, nor have sociologists expected anything similar.

For the third time in a row the voters have decided to punish the previous administration by giving power to a single political power again. Just as in 1994 the Bulgarians punished the indecisive rule of the coalition government of Ljuben Berov and ensured absolute majority for Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), in 1997 former communists were punished for economic chaos, and United Democratic Forces (UDS) were also given the possibility to rule on their own. It still is not clear what will come out of this third hasty move. It is certain, however, that Bulgarian voters do not forgive their administrators when they begin to enjoy power and use it for their personal purposes. Now NPSD is faced with the same temptation, since it can practically form the government on its own.

There is no doubt that the voting of the Bulgarians was a punishment, not just of the current Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, but of the entire system. But the biggest losers are the United Democratic Forces which won only 18.17 per cent of the votes, or just one per cent more than the Socialists (17.14%). The statistics shows that 1.4 million less voters voted for ODS than in the elections four years ago.

Although it has stabilised Bulgaria on the economic level, in the past four years, the government of Ivan Kostov has not succeeded in meeting the expectations of the voters concerning transparency and honesty of its rule. The scandals caused by corruption in connection with the sale of state-owned enterprises fundamentally changed the disposition of the Bulgarians. The messages of Simeon II on the new morale in politics, honesty and transparency, on uncompromising struggle against corruption have probably turned out to be the most powerful trump card in his quite inconspicuous campaign. It was founded on a saying of the Tsar and a controversial but considerably ambitious economic platform.

The coalition of United Democratic Forces lost voters even in the last month of the official election campaign. The current administration had chosen a negative campaign built on drawbacks. Its affirmative elements rested on success and popularity of the mayor of the capital, Stefan Sofijanski and Olympic athletics champion Tereza Marinova, but they could hardly be held responsible for UDSís rule in the past four years. The coalition of UDS has lost Ė although it does not rank last - because of the arrogance of its leaders during their term in office. Ivan Kostovís ministers and deputies of the coalition were far away from their voters, from their problems, and they have forgotten to explain the meaning of the carried out economic reforms. All the voters can do is to pay the bill.

The movement of Simeon II hinted that it would not repeat the mistake of its predecessor and announced his intention to form a broad coalition.

At this moment the most probable partner seems to be the smallest political party Ė the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (PPS) which represents the interests of ethnic Turks. But the Tsar does not eliminate the possibility of forming a coalition with UDS as a formation with similar economic ideals.

Whether such a coalition will be possible depends on several factors but primarily on what will happen in the League of Democratic Forces (SDS). Ivan Kostov has given a signal that he might submit his resignation because of the very poor election result the coalition he heads has achieved. Two politicians with the highest rating, President of the Republic Petar Stojanov and the mayor of the capital city Stefan Sofijanski hinted that UDS ought to accept the invitation to a government coalition with NPSD in order to continue with economic reforms and complete negotiations on joining the European Union and NATO. If there is a consensus about any question, it is certainly the success of Bulgaria in foreign policy.

There is still the open question of the future role Tsar Simeon II in political life. He refuses to comment on this topic, but his intention to run for president is increasingly obvious. Lawyers from his team announced a few times that the text from the Constitution of Bulgaria in which it is demanded that the candidate for president be a resident of this country for at least five years would be put on the agenda of the new parliament. A single amendment of the Constitution in that sense will enable Simeon Saksoburgotski to compete with the current President Petar Stojanov in new elections in autumn this year.

And since the ambitions of the Tsar are evidently going beyond the post of the prime minister, it still is not clear who can become the prime minister of the country. It is quite possible that the prime minister may come from UDS, if those who were in the administration so far agree to a broad government coalition.

Things do not look good for the political left either, which is headed by the Socialist Party. Although in majority of electoral districts BSP and its coalition partners rank second, it continues to lose support of the voters. According to the opinion of the leader of the party Georgi Prvanova these elections are a failure because the Socialists have not managed to attract the votes of those discontented with the rule of UDS. Moreover, BSP has lost numerous voters because of the appearance of the Tsarís movement. However, it is not certain that BSP would not have won even if NPSD had not participated in the elections. BSP is at this moment the only opposition force in the parliament.

Georgi Filipov