Bulgaria: New leaders, new parties, old problems

Recent weeks in Bulgaria have seen right-wing parties elect new leaders, new parties emerge on the right-wing and the resumption of the conversation of years about right-wing unity.

All of this is taking place against the background of the continuing political crisis and the nationwide protests demanding that the Bulgarian Socialist Party government that took office in May resign immediately – and that there be sweeping electoral system reforms to give citizens a more powerful say over the individuals in Parliament.

The “traditional” right-wing parties and coalitions have been in deep trouble for well more than a decade.

The year 2001 brought massive electoral defeat for Ivan Kostov, then-leader of the Union of Democratic Forces, at the hands of former monarch Simeon Saxe-Coburg.

Governments since then have been a succession of “liberal” parties, the notorious socialist-led tripartite coalition and, from 2009 to early 2013, the centre-right GERB party led by Boiko Borissov, the last-mentioned formed around Borissov and not arising from traditional right-wing elements.

The right-wing parties have gone through a long, traumatic saga of changes of leadership, abortive attempts at unity, short-lived working coalitions in opposition, sometimes complex relations with GERB and, most damaging of all, internal clashes over personalities and strategies.

The current crisis could present an opportunity for a “new” right-wing alternative, and there is at least some potential for success, albeit perhaps only on a small scale.

The leaders of the UDF and Kostov’s later party, the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, stepped aside after their defeats in the May 2013 elections. In the past month, both have elected new leaders, both younger than those who went before – Radan Kanev of the UDF and, this past weekend, Bozhidar Loukarski of the UDF.

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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.