Bulgaria’s political drama: Of snakes and mongooses, and King Cnut

A coalition involving both the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalists Ataka is unthinkable because of the political and value systems differences between the two parties, MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan said on May 14.

Mestan was referring to the snake-and-mongoose nature of the relationship between the MRF and Ataka.

The MRF, which defines itself as a liberal party, is led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent. In the campaign ahead of the May 12 2013 national parliamentary elections, it was the only party to show television advertising clips including shots of party followers conducting Muslim prayers. Siderov’s Ataka reviles the MRF as an agent of Ankara, constantly invokes Bulgaria’s struggle for liberation from Ottoman rule, and on the long list of things Ataka does not like is Islam, which it alleges to have a malign radical presence in Bulgaria.

Still, with the composition of Bulgaria’s National Assembly after the elections certain to make the formation of a sustainable coalition government difficult if not impossible, one scenario being floated is of a Bulgarian Socialist Party-MRF-Ataka coalition.

With GERB estimated to be set for 97 seats out of 240, and its chances of achieving any support outside its own parliamentary caucus seen as effectively nil, the best chance for a coalition is held by the socialists, to somehow get 121 votes or more for a cabinet that it would put forward.

A political deal among the BSP, MRF and Ataka would certainly lock GERB into opposition and stave off the immediate prospect of fresh elections in the autumn.

But while the MRF is awaiting an invitation for discussions with the BSP about the respective parties’ platforms, and has made the same noises as the socialists about a “programme government” of “experts”, Mestan told Bulgarian National Radio: “There cannot be a coalition between the MRF and Ataka in any form”.

“If there is anyone commenting on such thoughtlessness, it means that one is not acquainted with the ideological groundwork of the MRF. This will be absolute vitiation of politics. I will not take part in such a process,” Mestan said.

Earlier, at his party’s election night news conference, Mestan said that the MRF would decline to be in coalition with GERB.

For the record, speaking of snakes and mongooses, Borissov’s GERB party and the BSP have for some time insisted that the parties with which they would utterly rule out a coalition were each other.

Meanwhile, going by Bulgarian-language media reports, it may be that Borissov is preparing to do a King Cnut stunt in Parliament.

On the basis of his party having the largest share of votes and therefore being constitutionally entitled to be the first to be offered a mandate to attempt to offer a government for election, Borissov is said to be determined to take up the offer and put to Parliament a cabinet of “national salvation”.

Mediapool, quoting sources in GERB, said that after the election results were confirmed officially, Borissov – currently declining to comment on election results until they are official – would propose a minority government to Parliament.

Sources confirmed that this proposed cabinet would include those with most-favoured status with Borissov from the final line-up of the previous cabinet: Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Tomislav Donchev, Lilyana Pavlova and Delyan Dobrev, as well as Vladislav Goranov, formerly deputy finance minister who would be put forward to inherit Simeon Dyankov’s mantle.

Against the wave of votes of opposition that this proposal would face in the 42nd National Assembly, Borissov would playing King Cnut, going through the motions and using the occasion to extol the virtues of his previous government; a message different from that of the words attributed to the Cnut of the 12th century CE, as reported by Henry of Huntingdon: “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings…”

(Photo of Borissov: Council of the EU)




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.