Political Positions in Bulgaria: Left and Right are not Left and Right

Written by on February 21, 2017 in Bulgaria - No comments

When the left and the right clashed in Western Germany in the 1970-s, it was a fight for a creative chaos versus law and order, long hair on men versus short hair, an internationalist approach versus fear of anyone looking different, Rock’n’Roll versus Polka. In the former capital Bonn, of course, it was about more than long hair and music.

On October 28th, 1969, the first Social-Democratic chancellor Willy Brandt, who defined a new left, said his government wanted to “wage more democracy”, a move which took some of the steam out of the student revolution, while his opponents in the Christian-Democratic Union were conservative in the truest sense of the word. They wanted to stick to what they knew, including traditional gender roles in families.

Conservative Germans definitely tended to be more uptight than progressives, during those times in which left and right could easily be identified, even by just looking at people. But that has changed a lot in the past 40 years. Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, the chairlady of the Christian-Democratic Union, could just as well be a Social Democrat. She has moved the “grand old party” towards the left, to the political center. Her most right-wing adversaries were either defeated or they understood that under Merkel their time was over, for the time being. Some of them are probably still waiting for the time after Merkel.

The left in Germany does not fight nuclear power plants anymore, since, after calling anti-nuke protesters nuts for decades, even the conservatives jumped on the bandwagon. Sure, the moderate left wants more regulations for the industry and it stands for social aspects more than modern conservatives. The latter, of course, want to get rid of regulations and they are favouring more discipline regarding the state budget, in the sense that they are willing to sacrifice more welfare than the Social Democrats. But, around the political center, things are almost all the same, in the large parties.

In America, of course, there is crazy and moderate right now. From a European perspective, the Democrats, who are supposed to be the left in a two-party system, are actually pretty conservative. The Republicans, on the other hand, have a president with psychological issues, some sane people, and lots of backward-thinking personalities, who believe the Bible should be taught at schools, instead of the evolution, that the “Lord” controls it all anyway and that climate change is a hoax.

Bulgaria and other former communist states are very different, in this regard. Over here, the left, meaning the Socialists, could be labelled conservatives in a way, since some of them want to “keep” or reinstate what they had until 1989. Dealing with the past, by admitting the country was ruled by a communist regime, that it had political prisoners, some of whom were even murdered, and that the population was spied on and terrorized by the notorious state security, many former members of which are still “big stars” in Bulgarian politics and business, is not their strength.

But the moderate right is not exactly a force of renewal either, in the sense that, just like the left, they have failed to get rid of their oligarchs, to reform the judicial system or to fight corruption and poverty properly. Many, on both the left and right, have promised to do so, but they either did not deliver at all, or they chose a halfhearted approach because the crust was too thick. The latter partially reached into their own parties or circles.

This means, in Bulgaria, and other eastern European countries, it is not so much about left and right, but about the willingness to get rid of that crust, no matter the cost, or the desire to keep on going on the same track.

For the upcoming elections, an interesting new coalition registered. Like others before them, “Yes, Bulgaria!” says they want to fight the corruption effectively. Different is the fact that the movement’s founder, Hristo Ivanov, has something like a credit of trust among reformers. That is because he resigned as Minister of Justice when the judicial reform, which his government was ready to approve, was not far-reaching enough to him. A move of this kind, giving up power and personal privileges for principles, is something Bulgaria does not see every day.

By Imanuel Marcus

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