Embattled Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev told a news conference on June 6 that his party was ready to hold consultations with its partner the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and with other parties on early parliamentary elections.
He was not specific on his ideas for the timing of early elections, indicating only that they should be neither “today, immediately” nor delayed for a year. The elections should be “at a time most beneficial for the country,” Stanishev said.
Stanishev, who led his party to its latest defeat in Bulgaria’s May 25 2014 European Parliament elections, said that he would propose to the BSP and the parties in the current National Assembly to legislate compulsory voting.
The BSP’s analysis of the reasons for its dismal performance at the May 2014 elections has included blaming low turnout.
Stanishev was reluctant to be drawn on the timing of the ahead-of-term national parliamentary elections, but he said that he did not think that a one-year postponement was useful and appropriate because there was a lack of an environment for successful implementation of long-term priorities.
The BSP had never been scared of elections, said Stanishev, who at several intervals criticised centre-right opposition GERB for alleged electoral abuses and said that he had not been surprised that GERB had reacted to the European Parliament election results by demanding fresh parliamentary elections. This was nothing new, Stanishev said.
He said that compulsory voting in elections would not solve the problems of the country, while also taking a sideswipe at GERB whose victory was based on 600 000 votes.
Stanishev said that legitimacy was needed, and this could be achieved only if the voice of the people really had weight. A “restart” of the state, for strongly democratic and legitimate governance, required changes – legislative and if necessary, constitutional – leading to making voting compulsory.
He essayed a portrayal of the current cabinet as having “achieved many results” while withstanding enormous pressure on it.
Asked if he would resign, Stanishev said he would face his responsibility at the BSP national council and the question would be discussed there, not in front of the media at the news conference.
Stanishev’s June 6 news conference was preceded by a short address earlier in the morning to BSP members of the National Assembly, in which he told them of the intention to hold elections before the end of 2014.
The BSP leader was brought to the point of his announcements on June 6 after failed attempts to get senior figures in the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the key partner in the ruling axis, to agree to proposals including the idea of Stanishev reprising his 2005/09 role as prime minister.
The BSP has been in disarray since being trounced in the May 25 2014 European Parliament elections. It placed a distant second, getting 18.93 per cent while centre-right opposition and former ruling party GERB got 30.4 per cent.
In the May 2013 elections, the BSP also placed second, behind GERB, but got the mandate to form a government when GERB found itself in a National Assembly in which it had no allies with which to shape a governing coalition.
At an election night news conference, Stanishev ruled out stepping down as BSP leader or as leader of the EU-wide Party of European Socialists. He also sought to deny that the poor result handed to his party was the electorate’s indictment of the government put in place using the mandate handed to the BSP in May 2013.
That cabinet, billed at the time an “expert government” – a term to which anti-government groups responded with amused contempt – has produced drastically-low public approval ratings and has been the subject of months of popularly-supported public protests demanding its resignation.
In turn, the 42nd National Assembly has a strikingly low approval rating, of about eight per cent according to the more reliable opinion polling agencies, and may end up being best remembered only for its routine struggles to secure a quorum, and its proceedings generally lacking decorum.
Before the June 5 news conference by Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Lyutvi Mestan, however, the BSP seemed grimly determined to hang on to power, in spite of clear public disapproval of it and in spite of the in-fighting in the party because of the BSP’s latest second-rank electoral performance.
But Mestan’s statements changed all of this, when he said that his party’s analysis of the European Parliament election results made it impossible for the current cabinet to serve out a full term.
Mestan listed three possible options: simultaneous municipal and parliamentary elections in October 2015; elections in mid-2015; and elections before the end of 2014.
The last option, which Mestan told reporters he “leaned towards” would have meant four more months in office for the current cabinet and its resignation at the end of September and the start of October the latest.
In saying that his party favoured the option of ahead-of-term parliamentary elections before the end of 2014, Mestan said that his party was not “imposing” this position on anyone and was open to dialogue about other options.