Sergei Stanishev is to resign as leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party at a party congress on July 27 that will elect a new leader and discuss the BSP platform for Bulgaria’s October 5 ahead-of-term national parliamentary elections.
This emerged at a special BSP national council meeting on July 5.
The key issue at the national council meeting had been whether to convene a party congress ahead of the parliamentary elections to address the leadership issue which has been at the forefront since Stanishev led the BSP into its latest defeat, a thorough thrashing in Bulgaria’s May 25 European Parliament elections.
Ahead of the national council meeting, even some of Stanishev’s allies openly called for the convening of a congress.
Stanishev has been the subject of mounting criticism within the BSP, publicly and behind closed doors and naturally from long-standing internal party foes, not only for the party’s disastrous showing in the EP elections – where it ran a dismal second behind centre-right opposition and former governing party GERB – but also for Stanishev’s reneging on his promise not to take up a seat in the European Parliament if elected.
Stanishev, elected leader of the BSP at a party congress in December 2001 to succeed then-BSP leader Georgi Purvanov who had been elected head of state and who in September 2012 became leader of the EU-wide Party of European Socialists, said that he would stand behind the new leader of the BSP.
The special party congress to elect a leader and discuss the party’s election platform will be held a week before a traditional BSP annual gathering.
Media reports said that Stanishev would seek to push forward Dragomir Stoynev, currently economy and energy minister in the BSP cabinet that will resign in the next couple of weeks, to succeed him as BSP leader.
According to the BSP website, Stanishev told the July 5 national council meeting that on coming to power in May 2013, the cabinet appointed on the basis of the mandate given to the BSP had inherited a country “riddled with corporate and oligarchic interests”.
He said that there was an behind-the-scenes system, created even before the GERB government but institutionalised during it, that was composed of strong economic, media and political lobbies that had enabled Boiko Borissov’s party to seize all power and rule the country in authoritarian fashion for nearly four years.
Stanishev, who was prime minister from 2005 to 2009 before the BSP’s defeat at the hands of GERB and who declined to become PM again in 2013, said that he did not believe that the governing coalition formed last year was a mistake and said that it was the result of what Bulgarian voters had decided.
He claimed that the government had sought normalisation and “returning the state to the people”.
“Bulgaria should know that we did everything in the name of positive change for the country. I think that the intentions of our partners (a reference to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms) were authentic too. At least initially.”
Stanishev said that the cabinet had started purposeful work on implementing a programme that included harnessing the “uncontrolled profits” of the electricity distribution companies, new tariffs on renewable energy companies, ceasing interference with the cold reserve of energy, freezing the price of electricity for a year, amending the Consumer Loans Act, and changing legislation on retailers.
According to Stanishev, these “principled policies” consolidated a powerful front against the BSP and the government. Large corporate, financial, political and geo-strategic interests had been affected, he said. Some of these interests sought to break the coalition from within, Stanishev said.
“We have to admit, we had an unequal battle. Without sufficient support from the community, and finally betrayed from within,” Stanishev said, in an apparent reference to the MRF’s post-European Parliament elections call for early national parliamentary elections.
Policies of deep and radical reforms, of dismanting the behind-the-scenes system, could be defended only if they had the capital of the confidence of the majority of Bulgarians.
“The moral of all this is that the BSP should participate in power only when there is a clear mandate from the voters,” Stanishev said.
He said that he had proposed early elections in July so as not to push the country into a political crisis and uncertainty. (A call Stanishev made at a previous national council meeting after the European Parliament elections, but the July date was rejected by the BSP leadership, apart from being widely condemned as practically impossible given constitutional and election law timeframes).
GERB and the MRF had refused these July elections, Stanishev said, and “we all saw what followed”.
This, he said, was the tension in the banking sector, which was intentionally intended to cause an artificial political and financial crisis to cause the collapse of the state, the real economy and people’s savings.
Stanishev said that other political leaders had pinned the blame on the BSP and “we heard political leaders (a reference to Borissov) who publicly suggested that the state is bankrupt…secretly rubbing his hands, hoping to broaden their electoral result in the autumn”.
Stanishev called for an end to feuding in the party and “giving a chance for a new person to lead the party to victory in the elections”.
“Otherwise we will jointly give way to chaos, revenge and settling personal accounts through the media, on the street or through the court system.”
He said that he was well aware that convening a congress to consider the party’s policies, commitments and to elect a new leader had its risks. “The majority of you trust me because they know that for me, the BSP in the cause.” He would not run away from his responsibilities, adding that his position as leader of the Party of European Socialists gave him sufficient authority and basis for that.