Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev has told his party comrades that the current government is working “increasingly successfully and producing results”, while he painted centre-right opposition GERB as a bogeyman that if returned to power would bring repression and a return to what Stanishev called inappropriate economic policies.
Stanishev was addressing the more than 670 delegates at the BSP national congress on February 8 2014, held in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia.
He defended the decisions the party had made in the formation of a government after the May 2013 national parliamentary elections, underlining his view that it had been correct not to enter into a “suicide coalition” with GERB.
In those elections, GERB – in power from 2009 to 2013 after soundly defeating the previous BSP -led tripartite coalition government – won the largest single share of votes but found itself in a Parliament where it had no allies with which to form a coalition. The mandate to govern was then handed to second-ranked BSP.
Stanishev said that the government had set out to correct the previous errors and the wrong path of development that had been embarked on during Bulgaria’s transition.
He said that the party was determined to see the “re-industrialisation” of Bulgaria and the revival of its energy sector, especially nuclear energy.
Underlining his view that capitalism and a free market economy could not solve all ills, Stanishev also spoke of the government embarking on a social -oriented policy.
Stanishev was speaking against a background of eight months of widely-supported public protests against the government that the handing of the mandate to the BSP had brought about, and more recently, a challenge from the left from former BSP leader Georgi Purvanov’s ABC project.
Stanishev said that the BSP had gone through “unbelievable challenges” in the past year.
Further new challenges were appearing ahead of the party, “even behind our back, every day, there are attacks”.
“The party did not bend under the pressure from the streets, it opposed the daily subversive actions of our opponents,” he said.
He portrayed these opponents as being a range of groups with apparently nothing in common, NGOs and media who feared the “reforms” being undertaken.
“We have made a priority of the national tasks the country is facing at the moment. We survived huge pressure and showed with real actions the recovery of the democratic state system, we support the business and we help those, who need it,” Stanishev said.
He said that it was important not to allow the 2014 European Parliament elections in May not to be won by the rightists in Bulgaria and Europe.
“We are facing some concentrated, purposeful, unscrupulous hunger for power,” said Stanishev, who will head the BSP election candidate list in the European Parliament vote.
“We should take an irreversible turn in our development, to make it impossible for GERB and similar groups to push us backwards,” he said.
“This explains the wild opposition coming from many directions,” the socialist leader remarked.
“We have a government, which for the first time questioned and inspected even the system of values of this transition, through its programme.
“We are taking a course towards reindustrialisation of the country because this is a national task,” Stanishev said.
Plamen Oresharski, appointed in May 2013 to sit in the prime minister’s chair in the BSP government and who was a “special guest” at the congress, told delegates that “the stakes are high – whether the country will continue on the road of progress or whether this will be put aside again”.
Unity in the left wing was of higher national importance than ever, Oresharski said.
Another “special guest” at the BSP congress was Lyutvi Mestan, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, ruling axis partner of the BSP.
Purvanov has not been alone in highlighting misgivings in socialist ranks about the thrall in which the MRF holds the BSP. The MRF is widely seen as the real boss of the current government.
Mestan said that he hoped that the BSP would emerge as the largest party in the European Parliament elections. Echoing the party line of the current ruling axis, he said that a GERB victory would mean a return to “authoritarianism” (this is a common talking point for the parties currently in power in Bulgaria; a favourite claim for Stanishev is that the fall of GERB and the emergence of the new government meant an end to the “climate of fear” that had prevailed in the country.)
Stanishev also sought to exorcise the trauma represented by the re-emergence of Purvanov’s ABC project, which is mounting its own alternative list of candidates in the European Parliament elections. Some local socialist structures have defected to ABC and since the effective split, well-known socialist names have spoken openly in the media about the BSP’s political shortcomings.
Referring to ABC, Stanishev said that “we were ambushed, we were hit in the back” and it seemed that the upcoming elections would include a fight for the votes of left-wing voters, “including at our expense”.
He said that from its conception, ABC had not been intended (as Purvanov had billed it when founding ABC while still in the closing months of his time as head of state) as a discussion forum for ideas, but was a tool for expanding political influence and clearly was a political project competing with the BSP.
“I admit that until recently I did not think this would happen. Maybe it is fair to say that I did not want to believe it,” Stanishev said.
But he appealed for the party to “close this page” and concentrate on what would help to increase the number of its voters.
“Every vote taken away from the BSP is a vote for GERB, such is the logic, the philosophy of the election campaign. Hopefully every potential voter for the BSP should know that voting for ABC is voting against the cause that the BSP has undertaken,” Stanishev said.
* Ahead of the congress, Purvanov and his ABC allies had said that they would not seek to attend it. A sideshow at the congress was an attempt by an actor dressed and made up to look like Purvanov who tried to hand out ABC brochures and enter the plenary hall. He was barred by security and ABC issued a statement distancing itself from this “provocation”.
(Photo of Stanishev: bsp.bg)