Depending on how you see Sergei Stanishev, he either is about to become the power behind the scenes of the Bulgarian Socialist Party or is matching the performance of a 1920s stockbroker plunging past every storey on the way to the concrete.
But now that Stanishev has said that he is to resign as leader of the BSP, the focus inevitably has turned to the nominees to replace him, with a spinoff from this race being the new frankness among some of them about the dire straits in which its leader for 13 years has dumped the party.
“Socialists are tired of losing,” said Maya Manolova, one of 12 candidates nominated so far, in a Facebook post setting out her manifesto for leadership of the BSP.
With just more than a week to go before the July 27 special congress of the BSP at which a new leader will be elected, there is – on paper at least – wide diversity among the nominations.
Some are household names, familiar faces from television screens, while even the hardiest of political observers might well respond to other names with, “who?”.
It is not impossible that some might be put up as decoys, even among the better-known names, to divide the field of competitors as Stanishev and his allies seek to guide a chosen successor into place.
Manolova, one of the better-known names for her aggressive performances in Parliament, reportedly suggested just such a scenario when it was confirmed that Mihail Mikov was officially in the race.
Mikov is Speaker of the soon-to-be-dissolved 42nd National Assembly and was interior minister in the final months of the 2005/09 Stanishev government. Undoubtedly a party elder, though he is a mere 53 years old, Mikov may have certain positives among the BSP electorate, if only for brand-name recognition.
A report in BSP mouthpiece Duma said that Mikov was in fact the real designated successor to Stanishev, even though when he announced that he would resign, Stanishev pushed forward youthful cabinet minister Dragomir Stoynev in an obvious effort at anointment.
Duma claimed that Manolova believed that Stoynev has been pushed over the parapet first to attract fire over his weaknesses as a potential leader, with Mikov representing the second wave. The publication said that it sought Manolova for comment on this, but she did not answer her phone.
When someone is not picking up on the party mouthpiece with just a few days to go to a leadership congress, things must be in a pretty pickle indeed.
Elsewhere in the leadership race, Kornelia Ninova confirmed that she was a candidate, meaning that there are two women in the field of 12.
Ninova said that she would work to make the BSP the strongest political party, would be an advocate for change in the party and would prepare a strong young generation in it. These standard-issue platitudes aside, when asked about the vexed issue of a BSP coalition with other parties, she said that “internal party referendums” would become the main way of making important decisions in the party and the state.
Something of a surprise in the race was the entry of Georgi Gergov, the BSP’s Plovdiv strongman. “Why not try, I am leader of the second-largest organisation of the party in the country,” Gergov told national television.
Minka Surneshka, head of the union of socialist women in Plovdiv, told local radio that Gergov had gained “extensive managerial and political experience”, the qualities that the leader of the BSP needed. For years, she said, he had successfully managed International Fair Plovdiv, and had the “personal qualities” to be a respected leader.
Around the country, regional divisions in support are still to motley to identify a clear certain winner.
The BSP in the Danubian city of Rousse does not have a frontrunning candidate but leans towards left-wing leader Yanaki Stoilov. Or at least the city of Rousse does, while the region is reported to back Ninova.
Sentiment also clearly is playing a role in nominations. On the list is Stefan Danailov, a popular film, television and stage actor for decades, culture minister in the Stanishev government and vice-presidential candidate on the failed BSP ticket that was defeated by the Plevneliev ticket in 2011. Danailov also is the oldest member of the outgoing National Assembly, at 71. Notwithstanding his politics, Danailov has public popularity because of his acting roles.
At this writing, the full list of nominations for BSP leader is: Borislav Gutsanov, Georgi Gergov, Dragomir Stoinev, Kornelia Ninova, Kostadin Paskalev, Krassimir Yankov, Maya Manolova, Milko Bagdasarov, Mihail Mikov, Nikolai Malinov, Stefan Danailov and Yanaki Stoilov.