Ataka was good enough for you, Stanishev taunts GERB…and other stories

Bulgarian Socialist Party and Party of European Socialists leader Sergei Stanishev, under continuing criticism for the socialist government’s dependence on Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalist Ataka party, has sought to turn the tables by saying that when in government, Boiko Borissov’s GERB party had no objection to being supported by Ataka.

Formed in May 2013, the socialist government has come under continuing pressure to resign over it blundering and severe deficit of credibility, aggravated by the fact that parliamentary business – because of a GERB boycott – relies on Ataka to provide a quorum to proceed.

In turn, Siderov and Ataka have lunged from one controversy to the next, not only for the ultra-nationalist leader’s inflammatory rhetoric but also for his disruptive behaviour and also for being seen wearing a pistol on his way in to the parliamentary building.

Stanishev, facing even the leader of the European Parliament’s Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Hannes Swoboda, distancing himself from the association with Ataka, referred to the initial years of the Borissov government when it counted on Ataka to vote with it.

Stanishev said that the current government had what he called a “very clear dissociating line” from Ataka.

The BSP considered both the ideology of Ataka and “many of the actions of its representatives” to be unacceptable, Stanishev said, and denied that there was a coalition between his party and that of Siderov.

Stanishev said that he did not accept the behaviour of Siderov at the meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security.

At that meeting, Siderov interrupted the opening remarks by the head of state, President Rossen Plevneliev – convener of the council – to badger Plevneliev with shouted questions about allegations against the President. Siderov’s antics led to the meeting ending fruitlessly.

“I tried to stop him,” Stanishev said of Siderov’s behaviour at the meeting. “It was unnecessary aggressive behaviour,” the socialist leader said.

“I do not accept part of the aggressive behaviour of some media as well,” Stanishev said.

Earlier, Swoboda, speaking to journalists in Strasbourg where the European Parliament was to debate the situation in Bulgaria, called on the Bulgarian government to distance itself from the policies of Ataka.

As reported by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio, Swoboda was asked whether he legitimised the co-operation of the Bulgarian government with Ataka because of the fact that during the government of the socialist-led tripartite coalition in Bulgaria from 2005 to 2009, the company where his wife worked had won a large-scale public procurement in Bulgaria.

“I have not legitimised anything – at least not co-operation with Ataka. I already said that the Bulgarian government should distance itself from all policies of this party and this is very clear. Ataka does not share our values and we cannot share its own,” Swoboda said.

Also on the eve of the debate, the centre-right European People’s Party, of which GERB is a member, said that the European Socialists were turning a blind eye to glaring breaches of human rights.

“For the European Socialists, human rights can be violated if they are violated by a Socialist government,” the deputy chairman of the EPP Group Manfred Weber MEP said, referring to the Bulgarian Socialist-led government.

“I am mystified by the S&D Group’s refusal to debate the political situation in Bulgaria this week in the European Parliament. Mr Swoboda, what’s your take on Bulgaria? Because, if you said something, we didn’t hear you,” said the EPP Group Coordinator in the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee, Véronique Mathieu MEP.

“If Mr Swoboda can’t answer, perhaps the Bulgarian party leader of the European Socialists, Sergei Stanishev, can,” Weber said.

In Bulgaria, meanwhile, the leader of the Order Law and Justice party, Yane Yanev – represented in the 41st National Assembly but which in May 2013 failed to win any seats in the 42nd – said that it would approach the Constitutional Court with a request for Ataka to be banned.

The party said that it had sufficient evidence that the activities of Siderov’s party were unconstitutional.

Siderov and his comrades had committed a “number of offences” under the Penal Code, Yanev’s party alleged, and said that there were other actions that were targeted against the rule of law in Bulgaria.

Yanev’s party said that there were indisputable facts and evidence that the activities of Ataka were aimed at inciting ethnic and religious hatred and violations of the rights and freedoms of Bulgarian citizens.

Moreover, Yanev’s party alleged, Ataka was intentionally and purposefully creating secret power structures and financing and training paramilitary squads and anarchists who strove to achieve their goals through violence.

Ataka would seek support for its cause from international observers from the EU and US to give their opinions on the systematic anti-Semitic and xenophobic activities of Ataka, the OLJ party said.

As The Sofia Globe previously reported, various petitions calling for the removal of the immunity from prosecution that Siderov has as an MP already have attracted several thousand signatures, including from members of Bulgaria’s Jewish community citing his track record of anti-Semitic writings.

Siderov, in turn, has sent a letter to Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov and Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev asking whether they see grounds for allegations that he has violated the law and for a request for the lifting of his immunity.

Ataka said this in a statement in response to a request by the right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (also previously represented in Parliament but which won no seats in May 2013) for Siderov’s immunity to be removed.

Siderov said that an official statement was needed to end speculation that affected the highest state body, the National Assembly, as well as the institutions of the Prosecutor-General’s office and the Interior Ministry.

Returning to a favourite theme in the recent past, Siderov called on the Interior Ministry to “do its duty” to prevent what the Ataka leader called “acts of vandalism in the capital and violations of the laws of our country”, an apparent reference to the series of peaceful protests held daily to reinforce widespread public demands for the current government to resign.

Siderov said that if the DSB was referring to the fact that he carried a pistol, this was not an infringement: “I have a legal firearm and I carry it for self-defence, because I feel threatened”.

In turn, from Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv came an announcement that by July 2, about 8000 people had signed a public petition calling on the government to resign and for the removal from office of Ventsislav Kaymakanov, recently appointed the regional governor.

One of the organisers of the petitition, Hristo Markov, said that once the petition had gathered 15 000 signatures, it would be sent to the European Parliament.

Local media said that on July 2, Kaymakanov had avoided the daily morning protests against him by arriving at his office an hour early.




The Sofia Globe staff

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