Bulgaria in a deepening crisis, President Plevneliev says after security council debacle

Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev said that the country is in a deepening crisis and, again effectively siding with the many thousands of protesters that have been turning out regularly in public demonstrations for days, said that there was “something deeply wrong” with the actions of the country’s political parties.

Plevneliev, head of state and the only politician to have seen his popularity on the rise in the past few weeks as the Bulgarian Socialist Party government lurched from one farcical situation to the next, was speaking on June 20 after the meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security that he had summoned, ended in debacle.

The main cause of the debacle was the behaviour of ultra-nationalist Ataka leader Volen Siderov, whose support within his party has been badly damaged by him being seen as colluding with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms in backing the BSP government, disrupting proceedings from the outset by seeking to pepper Plevneliev with questions about the President’s alleged offshore accounts.

These allegations have been raised by media controlled by interests close to Delyan Peevski, the controversial MP whose brief tenure as head of the State Agency for National Security was terminated by use of the abort button in Parliament, as well as Siderov himself. Plevneliev rejects all allegations of wrongdoing, allegations that followed him taking a strong line on the BSP government’s loss of credibility and the way that the BSP and MRF appointed Peevski.

The debacle that was the meeting of the Consultative Council – by law, attended by, among others, the head of state, head of government, leaders of parties represented in Parliament, and security and strategic portfolio ministers and officials, worsened when GERB leader Boiko Borissov walked out and aired allegations that there was a conspiracy to have him arrested and murdered in detention.

The meeting already had been suspended by Plevneliev as he consulted lawyers whether he could legally expel Siderov from proceedings after the Ataka leader barracked him instead of allowing the convention of the head of state opening the meeting with a statement.

Plevneliev said afterwards that he had called the special meeting of the council hoping to hear proposals about how to restore the sense of justice. It would be possible to exit a crisis with reason, realism and pragmatism, but instead, “I witnessed a series of assessments of past events”.

After the meeting, Siderov said that he had voted against the Oresharski government, while also saying that he wanted the government to remain in power to complete urgent reforms such as those to electoral law. The Ataka leader also hit out (on this occasion, figuratively) at journalists for their coverage of the anti-government protests.

“People raising banners about hatred are praised by the media. You incite evil in this way. Their aggression is rising,” Siderov said.

He said that the media had been too exacting in its approach to coverage of the government from the first day.

BSP leader Sergei Stanishev, who later the same day was scheduled to attend a meeting that he had called of the party’s national council to seek to stave off a revolt among some within the party against his leadership, complained that all the proposals that the BSP had made at the Consultative Council meeting had been rejected.

Stanishev, whose party has in its three weeks in power devoted its energy in Parliament to seeking to roll back laws, measures and appointments of senior officials associated with GERB, said that all the problems had their root in Borissov’s party wanting the results of the May 12 elections overturned.

“It is impossible to hold a constructive dialogue when you do not want to accept the fact that you are in isolation and cannot form a government,” said Stanishev, whose party ran second after that of Borissov won the largest single share of seats in the National Assembly but encountered only hostility from the other three parties, rendering any possibility of a GERB-led coalition government void.

Stanishev said that there continuing civil protests “in all EU states”. He said that there had been protests in Bulgarian since February and “two thirds of Bulgarians voted in favour of a change” (meaning, not for GERB but for other parties).

Separately, earlier this week Stanishev effectively acknowledged that the fresh elections wanted by Borissov’s party would see GERB return to power. And also separately, a poll showed a tsunami wave of public support for the anti-government protests and drops in the approval ratings of the BSP, MRF and Ataka.

MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan said that the most important negative factor was what he called the destructive behaviour of GERB which did not recognise the election results. Mestan also implicitly criticised Plevneliev for setting a record in withdrawing his confidence in the government as early as its second week in office.

Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov, reacting to the allegations by Borissov, said that they were “ridiculous, to put it mildly”.

“The need to make political statements because of the needs of the political moment should not develop into speculation at the expense of the law enforcement bodies and speculation at the expense of the Prosecutor’s office,” Tsatsarov said. He said that his office did not involved in such scenarios.

On the issue of the Borissov’s allegations, Tsatsarov said that there was a constitution and a penal procedural code.

The constitution clearly states under what conditions an MP can be detained and what the prerequisites for that are, Tsatsarov said. “Let’s not fall into paranoia of a state that has as if returned 50 years backwards or a state that is as if on the threshold of military dictatorship,” he 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.