The Bulgarian Socialist Party is continuing to hurl blame in various directions for its poor showing in European Parliament elections, but also is offering scant clarity about what it will do next – apart from keeping leader Sergei Stanishev in place while making changes elsewhere in the leadership of the party and to the country’s cabinet.
This much, or little, emerged from a news conference on June 3 after a meeting of the BSP’s national council.
After the BSP ran a distant second in May 25 European Parliament elections, some within the party openly raised the leadership question while opposition parties renewed calls for early parliamentary elections, citing the country’s lack of confidence in the BSP and the government appointed with the BSP mandate.
Stanishev repeatedly has vowed that he will not step down as BSP leader. There has been extensive speculation in the Bulgarian media that he is determined to press ahead with a bid to become Bulgaria’s European Commissioner, but there also has been talk in political circles that Stanishev might seek to reprise his role as prime minister.
More than a week after the BSP’s electoral rout, the country – and apparently its ruling axis partner, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – are awaiting clarity as the party carries out a so-called process of “analysis” of the election results.
At the news conference, a set of culprits, most by now familiar, were blamed.
The deputy chairman of the BSP national council, Dimitar Dubov, indicated that blame was being laid with Georgi Purvanov’s rival ABC movement for “taking a seat away” from the BSP and handing it to centre-right GERB, while some local structures also came in for criticism – there were members of the national council, mayors and MPs who were apathetic in their participation in the election campaign, he said.
Also on the blame list were the crisis in Ukraine and the supposedly “pro-EU” stance expressed by the party (“everyone thinks the BSP is a Russophile party) also had its implications, according to Dubov.
Further, he also mentioned South Stream, which the BSP wanted to see completed, although from his remarks it was not clear what factor the national council imagined the project had played in the European Parliament election results.
But while acknowledging that for the third consecutive election (presumably a reference to the results of the 2011 presidential elections and the May 2013 national parliamentary election, in both of which the BSP ran second) the party had failed to get out the vote, Dubov said that “our analysis does not include a change of leader”.
He also claimed that these had been elections for the European Parliament and it was inappropriate to extrapolate from them what people thought of the government – an echo of the party line first expressed by Stanishev on election night.
The aftermath of the May 2014 European Parliament elections in Bulgaria is hardly the first time that the leadership of Stanishev has been called into question. Since becoming party leader in 2002, he either has led the party to defeat in elections or to an inconclusive majority, the latter having happened in the 2005 parliamentary elections.
(For days, the BSP has been floundering on the dilemma of blaming the government for its reverse, or somehow continuing to claim that this government has achieved something. To add to the mixed signals, Plamen Oresharski – appointed in May 2013 to sit in the prime minister’s chair – has said that fewer than five ministers will be changed, but has been opaque about his pending views on which ones.)
Dubov indicated that the changes to the BSP leadership would be decided by Stanishev himself.
Asked about reports and statements that Stanishev could return as prime minister, Dubov said that Stanishev had not made himself available as a candidate for the post a year ago, and questions on this topic now were “not topical”.
At the news conference, Borislav Gutsanov, also a member of the BSP leadership, said that there would be changes to the political leadership and to the government.
Gutsanov said that the party had received a strong signal from the voters, and this called for certain steps, that changes must occur in the executive bureau and the leadership.
“We cannot not change after such election results,” Gutsanov said.
However, going by what was said at the news conference, the “analysis” of the performance of the cabinet was not ready and probably would be by the end of this week.
This analysis would take into account what had been fulfilled and what not, and what needed to be done, “two to three clear commitments that must be met.”
“On the basis of this, the necessary changes will be made,” he said.
(Photo of Gutsanov: bsp.bg)