Bulgaria’s ruling axis still struggling to wriggle out of post-election crisis
The Bulgarian Socialist Party and its leader Sergei Stanishev appear determined to cling to power and positions in spite of the party being routed at the European Parliament elections, and now are resorting to blaming the government they help to hold in place for their bad showing.
In spite of opposition calls for the resignation of the government and early national parliamentary elections, the parties in power are set to hold the cabinet in place – at least for the next few months, with some reports suggesting that the government could step down once Stanishev’s ambition to become Bulgaria’s European Commissioner is fulfilled.
At the same time, the BSP is floundering for a way out of its post-election crisis, not only internally within the party but also in coming up with changes to the government and its policies in a bid to appease widespread public discontent.
According to some reports, the background to the firm statement by Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Lyutvi Mestan that his party would accept no prime minister other than Plamen Oresharski is that some within the BSP mooted Stanishev becoming prime minister, a post the BSP leader held in the tripartite coalition of 2005/09.
The MRF is said to be frustrated with the delaying tactics of the BSP, as the private sector does not know what to expect and cabinet ministers – already the subject of several months of public calls for their resignations amid strikingly low public approval of the cabinet – are weighed down by uncertainty about their futures.
In the week since the May 25 European Parliament elections saw the BSP relegated to a poor second place, the second time in a year it has lost out in the voting stakes to centre-right GERB, the Bulgarian-language media has speculated about various scenarios in which individual ministers lose their posts.
Right from the outset, daily Sega sharply dismissed the mooted cabinet reshuffle as a cheap trick, an attempt to give Bulgarians the illusion of reform and a serious response to the BSP defeat.
The uncertainty could continue for some days, pending talks between the BSP and MRF and a forthcoming BSP plenum.
Stanishev reportedly has hit out at inadequate public relations by some ministries as having contributed to poor perceptions of the government and, in turn, the resounding slap dealt with the BSP in the European Parliament elections.
There reportedly are tensions between the BSP and Oresharski, especially after the figure placed in the prime minister’s chair by the ruling axis in May 2013 made comments to journalists about cabinet reshuffles, saying that there would be fewer than five changes of ministers while at the same time declining to identify which portfolios were, in his view, underperforming.
A report by Oresharski on the 12 months of the government since May 2013 is expected to include pledges to work on increasing incomes more rapidly while the state also will intervene more directly in the economy, including as an investor.
Opposition parties have, since the European Parliament elections results, not only made repeated calls for the dissolution of the National Assembly for fresh elections, but also have been predicting elections in the autumn – September or October.
GERB leader Boiko Borissov has hit out angrily at the current government’s intention to press ahead with coming up with a nomination for Bulgaria’s European Commissioner. According to Borissov, given the election results, the government has no moral right to do so.
There has been repeated speculation that Stanishev, who currently also is leader of the EU-wide Party of European Socialists, intends seeking the nomination as European Commissioner.
Martin Zahariev, a first-time BSP MP, said in a television interview on June 1 that a “greater political career” awaits Stanishev in Europe. This was interpreted as a reference to a possible place in the European Commission, not as an MEP.
In a statement on May 30, Stanishev sought to confirm that he would not take up the MEP seat to which he was elected – in an episode that also was rich fuel for satirists and critics, when it emerged that voters for the BSP had substituted a hitherto-obscure BSP figure, Momchil Nekov, in the first place on the ballot that the party had accorded to Stanishev.