Books on Bulgaria
% of GDP
Update No: 109 - (29/06/06)
In the autumn, Bulgarians go to the polls to elect a
The constitution allows Georgi Purvanov, who took office as head of state in
January 2002, to seek from the electorate a second term in office.
Purvanov seems, to say the least, well aware of this. For a long time, his
detractors have accused him of running a re-election campaign. Just when this
campaign may be said to have started is difficult to pinpoint. By virtue of his
office, largely a non-executive one with powers that encompass the right of veto
of parliamentary legislation and the role of Commander-in-Chief of the armed
forces, along with the requirement that he be a "president for all
Bulgarians," Purvanov's job entitles him to a steady succession of photo
Apart from the formal photographs of receptions for visiting heads of state and
the bestowal of national honours on the (usually) worthy, events from the
cobbling together of the current governing coalition, to lending a hand with
sandbags during the floods, have propelled Purvanov in front of the cameras. The
latter, at least, may be said to fit reasonably within the job description, as
an expression of solidarity with those hard-hit by the deluges of last summer
More lately, Purvanov has looked a lot more like someone actively seeking media
attention. While he has a track record of intervention - early during his term
of office he invited squabbling members of the judiciary and the Interior
Ministry to a behind-closed-doors session to resolve their differences - we may
look differently at two events in the past few days.
Purvanov stepped into two long-lingering issues. Both are, strictly speaking,
municipal issues, but both have long been the focus of national attention. One
is the question of what Sofia should do with its refuse. The other is air
pollution in Stara Zagora. Both potentially are vote-gainers for Purvanov. The
Sofia issue, firstly because all residents of the city are weary of the prospect
of overflowing street refuse containers should there be yet another blockade by
those living close to actual or potential refuse sites, and second because - to
take the cynical view - offering a solution gave an opportunity Purvanov to show
up Sofia mayor Boiko Borissov.
Borissov, formerly chief secretary of the Interior Ministry and now the capital
city's first citizen, took office last year vowing to resolve the refuse issue.
In turn, this pledge was seen as part of a longer game by Borissov in pursuit of
Purvanov's job. We may think that Purvanov has beaten Borissov at his own game,
if indeed it is true that Borissov's game has as its goal the President's
office, and if we think so, it is very possible that we were meant to.
Stara Zagora is another easy vote-gainer. With adults and children struck by
respiratory problems, with windows and washing left filthy by the foul air, and
with all previous attempts by municipal authorities and Parliament to
investigate and solve the problem having come to naught, anyone who could clear
a path to clean air would surely become the Pied Piper of Stara Zagora. And all
Purvanov would seek would be the city's votes, rather than, as in the legend,
It is not yet official that Purvanov will seek a second term, although there is
a degree of ritual about this. Purvanov, in not yet being officially confirmed
as having the backing of the Bulgarian Socialist Party - the party of which he
was leader before being elected President - is undergoing the same ritual that
was applied to current BSP leader Sergei Stanishev before last year's June
parliamentary elections. It was just a few months before polls opened that the
BSP confirmed its leader as its candidate for Prime Minister.
This time round, the game is a little more complicated. While Purvanov has made
no significant missteps in office, the coalition that he brokered is vulnerable.
It is vulnerable because it has not been the delivery vehicle for the promises
made by the BSP in the election campaign. It is vulnerable, arguably even more
on this point than the previous one, because it was put together to ensure
Bulgaria's entry into the European Union. However the May 16 report by the
European Commission on this country's readiness to join the EU may be
interpreted, it is a glaring fact that the EC report did not specify a date for
accession. The argument that the fact that it did not recommend a delay in
accession until 2008 may be read as implying that accession will be in 2007 is a
valid one, but difficult to encapsulate in a soundbite or a rallying call from
So it has been suggested more than once that Purvanov may run as an
"independent" with the backing of the BSP, among others. He may well
be up against candidates from the other two parties in the governing coalition -
the National Movement Simeon II and Ahmed Dogan's Movement for Rights and
Freedoms - in the first round, with a transfer of allegiance from these parties
to him in the second round. Unless, in the second round, these parties endorse
Boiko Borissov, if he stands, or NMSII leader and former prime minister and
former king Simeon Saxe-Coburg, if he stands. As to the latter, no one seems to
have asked him lately, perhaps because while in office as prime minister
Saxe-Coburg did not distinguish himself as the master of the unequivocal answer,
no matter what the question was.
The performance of the current coalition Government is key to understanding the
dynamics of the race. Purvanov put it together, goes the theory, and by
association it will be a millstone around his neck, the cliché brought to bear
in a June 12 commentary by the Bulgarian-language newspaper, Monitor.
"There is no escaping the image of the person who gave excessive power to
the MRF," said Monitor, in reference to Dogan's party, which is supported
mainly by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent. One may take this point a step
further, Right-wing and ultra-nationalist political forces tap into anti-Turk
sentiment, sometimes with overt reference to the five centuries of Ottoman rule
in Bulgaria. Portraying Purvanov as a collaborator with the vestiges of Turkish
rule would be dirty politics, but that is how the game is played, and vile
racism is the stock-in-trade of parties such as Volen Siderov's Ataka - wherever
and however, by the way, they place themselves in the race.
Monitor was certain on one point. If Saxe-Coburg stays out of the race, and
Borissov does not endorse a candidate other than Purvanov (assuming that
Borissov himself stays out of the race), Purvanov is set for re-election.
It may be in a low poll, and it may be, in political terms, by default, but
someone has to be President.
That the BSP is prepared to see Purvanov returned for a second term of office,
even without the status of official candidacy for the party, was made clear this
month by Sergei Stanishev.
According to a June 12th report by Darik Radio, Stanishev said that the BSP
would support Purvanov even if he stood as an independent. "He really tries
to be the social president as far as he has authority," Stanishev was
quoted as saying, and said that as a party, the BSP was "delighted"
We await Purvanov's own confirmation of his candidacy. The most recent word, or
lack of it, was on June 5th, when he was button-holed by reporters while
visiting Kazanluk for the Rose Festival, and declined to say whether he was
standing as a candidate.
It is difficult to imagine what could make Purvanov resist the traditional
"encouragement" from friends and allies to seek a second term, and it
is difficult to imagine that comments like that of Tsvetosar Tomov, of the Skala
Polling Agency, who said that Purvanov would lose because of discontent with the
Cabinet, would ruffle Purvanov at all.
Rightists need to regroup
Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) leader Petar Stoyanov said that preliminary
elections among party members could help rightist parties select a single
nomination for the upcoming presidential elections.
The preliminary elections should be organised as soon as possible to mobilise
the right-wing electorate, Stoyanov told Darik Radio.
The rightist parties in Bulgaria have been trying for months to unite around a
single presidential nomination and win back the public support. Negotiations
were hindered because of the complicated relations between various rightist
parties and the lack of a nomination gathering unanimous support.
Stoyanov said that the delay was not a setback for the rightist parties and that
the relations between the rightist parties remained good.
Current President and Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) member Georgi Purvanov was
in 'a favourable position' to be re-elected as he had the full political and
financial support of both BSP and its coalition partner Movement for Rights and
Freedoms (MRF), Stoyanov said.
Bulgaria's Cabinet is determined to do its best and ensure the country's EU
membership on January 1st 2007, Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev told European
Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Hubner.
Stanishev pointed out that the country has the necessary political will to
fulfil all commitments it has made, in order to be prepared for the EU accession
in 2007. The prime minister said that the government has mobilized its efforts
to the maximum degree and the reforms in the country will not stop after the
The prime minister also told EU Commissioner, Hubner, that the country had
adopted the required legislation, ensuring transparency and accountability in
the absorption of the Structural Funds - the adopted laws include those on
financial management and control, the public sector audit and on public
Bulgaria needs to stay in the fast lane of reforms to join in 2007, the European
Commissioner for Regional Policy said.
Danuta Hubner noted that Bulgaria has made significant progress but needs to
take decisive action in certain key policy fields to be able to join the
European Union in 2007.
She added that Bulgaria can take full advantage of the benefits that come
together with the accession only if the Bulgarian authorities manage to complete
their reforms and preparations in time.
"We are actively and promptly establishing administrative structures on
central, regional and local levels for the successful absorption of the EU
Structural Funds in 2007-2008", Stanishev said.
All institutions managing public funds have already had internal audit
Stanishev acquainted the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy with the
Decentralisation Strategy 2006-2015 adopted by the government and with the
program for its implementation until 2009.
The Commissioner also met with President Georgi Parvanov, EU-Affairs Minister,
Meglena Kuneva, and members of the Bulgarian government concerned with
Ultra-rightist given his comeuppance
The National Assembly removed the political immunity of Volen Siderov, MP
and leader of the ultra-nationalist movement, Ataka.
Of the 168 MPs which voted, only 12 were against the immunity removal, Focus
news agency reported.
Siderov's immunity was removed because of the April 7th incident on the Trakia
highway, when a man was beaten after a quarrel with Siderov and Ataka members
travelling at the same time.
Siderov and his bodyguard Pavel Chernev, also Ataka member and MP, were accused
of giving false testimony.
Speaker of Parliament Georgi Pirinski said that Ataka used populist,
anti-constitutional and irresponsible means to destabilise the country and its
institutions. He added that Ataka's speculations with public worries were
unacceptable and diverted attention from more serious issues.
Siderov said that even without immunity, he would continue exposing the crimes
of the government and the MPs. He added that his immunity was removed because
the 'political mafia' feared him.
According to Siderov the Trakia highway incident was used for political purposes
and aimed at harming Ataka's image.