It was Richard M Nixon, who had some experience of failure, who said that finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver while finishing second in politics gets you oblivion. Sergei Stanishev, who also has some experience of failure, continues to try to defy Nixon’s maxim.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party leader, whose party declined to sign on to his idea of committing to July elections and the immediate resignation of the cabinet, sought to shift blame elsewhere for the continuing lack of clarity on when Bulgaria will hold early parliamentary elections.
There was an almost plaintive note when senior MP for centre-right opposition GERB Tsetska Tsacheva said, on June 12, “it is true that the two political forces that support the government announced that it would resign, but we have not seen it resign and have not heard it resign”.
Tsacheva said that the cabinet should resign no later than June 17, when President Rossen Plevneliev is to host a meeting that he has convened of the Consultative Council on National Security to discuss issues including a date for early elections.
But Stanishev, also speaking on June 12, said that it was obvious from the reactions of other political parties that they were unwilling to face snap elections.
His remarks at a news conference came against a background not only of his own party’s rejection of his proposals regarding elections and the resignation of the cabinet, but also of several commentators saying that July elections would hardly be possible given the timeframes set in the constitution and election law. GERB has spoken of the end of September. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which first suggested the end of November or early December, now is being inscrutable on the question, saying that as the holder of the mandate to govern, the BSP should take the initiative on the date.
Stanishev said that ever since his announcement of his initiative on elections by the end of July, all other parties had begun to retreat, the first to do so having been GERB. Other political forces lacked the will to make elections by the end of July possible, according to Stanishev, adding that to achieve this timeframe, all that was necessary was to legislate to shorten the deadlines in the Election Act.
In the absence of such political will, Stanishev said, there was no need for the cabinet to rush to resign.
He repeated that his idea of snap elections was for the country to enter a period of stability with a new parliament and new government that would prepare Budget 2015, complete negotiations with the European Commission on funding in the new programme period and nominate Bulgaria’s European Commissioner.
On the question of a national referendum, which GERB wants to be held along with the snap parliamentary elections to decide electoral reform issues including electronic voting, compulsory voting and the use of a majoritarian element in the electoral system, Stanishev said that the questions needed editing because they were phrased in an “infinitely vague” way.
These remarks come against a background of exchanges at a meeting of Parliament’s committee on legal affairs on June 11, at which the BSP tried to persuade other parties that compulsory voting should apply only to Bulgarians in the country and only to parliamentary elections. This was an attempt to skirt President Rossen Plevneliev’s main argument for introducing electronic voting, that it would enable Bulgarians abroad to vote if required to do so.
Stanishev has been accused by rival politicians, and reportedly even from within his own party, of trying to force elections in July for his own personal political benefit.
Speeding the BSP into elections would render impossible the convening of a party congress to overthrow him from the leadership, while also keeping Stanishev in place in a position of power over the compilation and vetting of parliamentary election candidate lists. Already, at a national council meeting, Stanishev secured a mandate to continue to lead the party into the elections.
Few openly opposed that mandate. Georgi Kadiev, one of just two BSP national council members to vote against, expressed disappointment that a number of people at the meeting really did not want Stanishev to continue as leader, but in the end voting against their own beliefs.
Nikolai Barekov, leader of Bulgaria Without Censorship, a minority party formed in recent months and which won two of Bulgaria’s 17 seats in the European Parliament, said that Stanishev wanted elections as quickly as possible to leave him with the safety net of taking up the EP seat to which he was elected.
GERB, which is insisting on its late September election date, said that it would not attend sittings of Parliament until the June 17 meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security. GERB wants clarity on an election date, believing this to be essential before political parties can negotiate priorities to be dealt with by Parliament before it is dissolved.
This stance by GERB led to the anomaly of the party not attending a June 12 sitting of the National Assembly to discuss the issue of a national referendum – an issue that GERB itself had insisted be tabled in the legislature before June 13.
The party also has declined to clarify to reporters whether its MPs would attend the June 13 vote of no confidence and the address to the House on South Stream by Plamen Oresharski and energy minister Dragomir Stoynev – both items being on the agenda after being tabled by GERB.