Bulgaria’s 2013 election: Leaders of three failed parties resign

The leaders of three minor political parties that failed to surpass the four per cent vote share threshold for entry into Bulgaria’s 42nd National Assembly in the May 12 elections have announced their resignations.

Ivan Kostov and the entire leadership of the right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria have resigned, as has Emil Kabaivanov, from the leadership of the Union of Democratic Forces, and Meglena Kouneva and the national council of Bulgaria of Citizens.

With almost all votes counted, Central Election Commission results showed Kostov’s party, in coalition with the Bulgarian Democratic Forum, as having got 2.94 per cent. Kabaivanov’s UDF had 1.39 per cent and Kouneva’s party 3.36 per cent.

The resignations of Kostov from the leadership of the DSB and Kabaivanov from leadership of the UDF appear to represent the denouement of the downward curve of the formerly politically might UDF of yore, which was the major anti-communist force of the early transition. After the 1996/97 financial and economic crisis under socialist party rule, the UDF was elected to power with Kostov – a former finance minister – as prime minister.

Kostov’s UDF served a full term in office, until its June 2001 electoral defeat at the hands of former monarch Simeon Saxe-Coburg’s party.

Kostov quit the leadership of the party, which underwent a succession of leaders, ending up with Kabaivanov – a figure from municipal politics – after internal divisions in the UDF over the 2009 “Blue Coalition” with the party of Kostov.

On May 13, Kostov said the DSB leadership was resigning because of the party’s poor showing. A new leadership would be elected on June 23. Kostov, known in his political heyday as the “Commander”, said that he would not make himself available for re-election.

Kabaivanov said that his party had got only 70 000 votes. He believed that the UDF had many more supporters, but they had decided to vote for Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB because Borissov’s party had said that the UDF had scant chances and voting for it was pointless.

Kouneva’s resignation also marks, for now, a closing chapter in a political decline, albeit over a shorter span.

Kouneva was EU accession chief negotiator and later European affairs minister in the Saxe-Coburg administration, keeping the ministerial post in the socialist-led tripartite coalition from 2005 until being appointed Bulgaria’s first European Commissioner when the country joined the EU on January 1 2007. In 2009 European parliamentary elections, she headed the ticket for Saxe-Coburg’s party, but stepped down immediately on election. Her individual popularity at the time projected Saxe-Coburg’s party into the European Parliament although a month later, the former governing party won no seats in national parliamentary elections (a feat it repeated in May 2013, in a coalition with a splinter party from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms).

Holding a private sector post, she re-emerged on the political scene in the presidential elections in 2011, securing about 14 per cent in a wide field of candidates, which meant first-round elimination.

Founding the Bulgaria of Citizens movement, Kouneva aimed to take the party into Parliament with a hoped-for 15 per cent vote share. Having got just more than a fifth of that, Kouneva announced that she and the national council were stepping down.

“We lost the elections because we failed to convince enough people that it is worth taking care of our country, that it is worth going to the polls, that politics can be done differently, without racketeering, fear and manipulation,” Kouneva said.




Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.