AIM: start

TUE, 27 NOV 2001 17:10:13 GMT

The Leftists Brought Georgi Prvanov to the Presidential Post

Former Communist to Continue Euro-Atlantic Orientation of Bulgaria

AIM Sofia, November 24, 2001

Bulgaria has a new president and his name is Georgi Prvanov. The 44-year old leader of the Socialists won in the competition with the current President Petar Stojanov in the second round of the elections on November 18, having collected almost two million votes - more than the ruling Simeon the Second National Movement (NDSV) had won in parliamentary elections on June 17. The so-called imperial movement had then wiped out the government of the League of Democratic Forces (SDS), which has now backed Stojanov as the independent candidate together with NDSV and some of the other minor formations, but nevertheless failed to ensure his re-election.

That is the reason why many observers tend to speak not only of the defeat of Petar Stojanov, but of that of SDS. Although he ran in the elections as an independent candidate it was impossible not to link his candidacy with SDS in which he had begun his political career and the hostage of which he has ultimately turned out to be. His hardly audible appeals to stop with corruption in the government of Ivan Kostov during his term in office had no effect and were interpreted as an attempt to improve his own presidential rating.

Indeed, just a month before the elections, Stojanov's rating was really high. And perhaps that is the reason why forecasts said that he would be his own rival in the race for the second term in office, especially after he had got the support of NDSV. However, after kicking the ball through his own goal a few times during the election campaign, one can say that Stojanov has indeed successfully defeated himself.

It turned out that the expectations of the observers that the elections would be boring were completely wrong. They have brought the greatest surprise of all in the recent history of Bulgaria.

First, there were many mistakes in these elections. The mistakes were enabled by sociologists who forecast in the first round that Prvanov would practically be eliminated from the rest of the race and that Stojanov would rank first, and Bogomil Bonev, leader of the Civic Party of Bulgaria, second. Prvanov became first, however, while Bonev did not even partake in the decisive duel on November 18.

In fact, Bonev and Stojanov themselves contributed to the largest extent to such configuration of forces. On the eve of the first round they entered into an angry debate in which they used compromising material about each other. Voters were shocked by the behavior of both and this greatly affected the outcome of the vote in the first round of the elections on November 11 when almost 60 per cent of the citizens renounced their right to vote. Many of them who did go to the polls, avoided the ballots with Stojanov's and Bonev's names on them. In the second round, the turnout of the voters increased so that on November 18 it was by 15 per cent higher. This denies the allegations that the voting in favour of Prvanov was unconvincing and not representative enough.

Out of almost two million voters who gave their support to Prvanov, less than 40 per cent could be marked as "red". Therefore, the support to the former Socialist leader should not be characterised as "red". Indeed, the same refers to the support Stojanov was given, which cannot be characterised as altogether "blue" either. This leads to the conclusion that this was a case of majority vote.

In the foundation of Prvanov's victory lies the fact that the electorate of NDSV split into two halves which became clear in the first round of the elections: the first half voted for Stojanov as Prime Minister Simeon of Sax-Cobourg, their leader, had asked them to do, and the other half - for Bogomil Bonev. In the second round two thirds of these voters voted in favour of Prvanov.

However, what was decisive for the convincing victory of Prvanov was the support of the voters of the Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS) - the party of Bulgarian Turks which called its voters to give their support to him in the second round. After it had provided a place for itself in the executive authorities (DPS is a coalition partner of NDSV), the movement has now secured a post for itself in the presidency. On the list of diplomats of Bulgaria, one could even expect to see names that do not sound Bulgarian. However, what is more important when speaking of the support of DPS to Prvanov is something completely different. Ahmet Dogan's men made a true accomplishment by making peace with the successors of former communists who were guilty for their suffering. They will, of course, always remember the forcible change of Turkish names during the so-called revival process in the eighties. Nowadays they have, however, turned their backs to the past in order to show what the people really want.

It cannot be denied that the difficult economic situation of the Bulgarians has also greatly determined their voting in favour of Prvanov. He had promised that he would pursue social policy although he will not be able to change the situation - simply because the post of the president does not give him such prerogatives.

Now that the former communist has become the president of the country and the former emperor its prime minister, the West has begun to look upon this quite exotic configuration with a certain amount of unease fearing changes in the foreign political orientation of Sofia although it has so far been crystal clear - EU and NATO.

Prvanov hurried to set them at ease confirming his commitment to this orientation. In view of the role he played in the shift of his party towards social democracy, it is difficult to believe that he could change foreign policy, especially because the head of the state does not have very broad prerogatives that would enable him to make a mistake in this sense.

Perhaps the only intrigue in Prvanov's five-year long term in the office of the president will be his relations with the party he was the leader of until now. Although the leadership of BSP seems to be reformed, this cannot be said about its membership and certain factions among the party elite. This will greatly depend on Prvanov's successor at the post in the party - on his capability to overcome the anti-NATO disposition that is quite strong in the ranks of BSP.

It should not be expected that possible tensions between the Socialist Party and the President could affect the behavior of the new head of the state when speaking of the foreign political orientation of the state.

The change of the president came in general outlines in the manner in which former emperor Simeon Sax-Cobourg had come to the head of the executive power. He came to power with leftist messages, because he felt that people were asking for a radical change of their position.

Like at that time, the Bulgarians seem to have been looking for a patron again. They did not find one in the former emperor who like a good prince from a fairy tale arrived with a sack full of beautiful promises about miracles. The miracles are not happening yet. Perhaps the new president will hasten to fulfill them. That is what is expected - after he takes over the highest post in the state - that he will keep the promise that he would abide by what is written in the Constitution: that Bulgaria will be a state that takes care of its citizensí welfare.

Plamen Kulinski