Two EU-level political groupings, the Party of European Socialists and the liberal ALDE, have issued statements attacking Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov over his government’s dependence on the nationalist Patriotic Front.
On November 7, Borissov returned as head of government with a coalition cabinet based on a deal between his GERB party and centre-right coalition the Reformist Bloc, and with the participation of a deputy prime minister from socialist breakaway ABC.
In Bulgaria’s 240-seat Parliament, more than 120 seats are required to be able to get a cabinet approved, but GERB, the Reformist Bloc and ABC together have only 118. Borissov’s party made a deal with the nationalist Reformist Bloc, which has 19 MPs.
The first two weeks of the new government have seen the Patriotic Front being assertive about getting the government to behave in line with its policies. National headlines were made as the government appeared set to bow to PF demands to remove daily afternoon Turkish-language 10-minute news bulletins from the national public broadcaster.
This has been followed by PF demands for the removal of a deputy defence minister whom the party alleges – though it has offered no rational foundation for the claim – to be the “agent of a pro-Turkish party” and “serving foreign interests”.
It has given Borissov time to think about its demands, accompanied by a threat to withdraw its support for the government.
The PF, meanwhile, has added on a reminder that its support is also conditional on the government carrying out energy sector “reforms” – effectively directed at forcing down the price for consumers – that it included in its election platform.
On November 20, the Party of European Socialists, headed by Sergei Stanishev – whose Bulgarian Socialist Party repeatedly was vanquished by Borissov and whose dismal performance in May European Parliament elections meant Stanishev had to step down as BSP leader – expressed what it called its “deep concern” about the latest political developments in Bulgaria.
“We deplore the fact that the new government, created after the early parliamentary elections, is highly dependent on a political formation known for its nationalist, anti-humane, anti-European and xenophobic views. This support is based on an official agreement between Patriotic Front and the leading party in the government – GERB, member of EPP (the EU-level centre-right grouping, European People’s Party).”
Furthermore, participation in this government of the newly created Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABC), presenting itself as a left-centrist party, gives rise to concerns and is damaging the trust of the Bulgarian people in the political process as a whole, according to the PES statement.
ABC is a breakaway from Stanishev’s BSP.
“PES will closely monitor the developments in Bulgaria and is ready to react strongly to any action or decision of the government, which is incompatible with the European values and the European commitments of the country,” the PES statement said.
“PES encourages the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Bulgarian Social Democrats and the Coalition BSP left Bulgaria to remain faithful to its political platform and to position itself as a European and social alternative to the newly created government in a constructive and responsible manner.”
On November 11, there was a statement from ALDE, the liberal grouping of which Bulgaria’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms is a member.
The MRF was a key member of the ruling axis that was in power in Bulgaria from May 2013 to August 2014. That ruling axis came to power after the BSP, which had run second in the elections, got the mandate to govern because GERB, while it had won the most votes, had no allies in Parliament with which to form a governing majority.
That ruling axis remained in place because the BSP and MRF got crucial votes in support from Ataka, the far-right ultra-nationalist party from which one of the Patriotic Front’s constituent partner parties is a breakaway.
ALDE MEP Hans van Baalen, of the Netherlands’ VVD, honorary president of Liberal International, criticised the inclusion of the Patriotic Front in Borissov’s new government.
“The Patriotic Front, as well as Ataka, are forces on the extreme right wing and have constantly spoken out against minorities and European co-operation,” Van Baalen said.
“Borissov missed the chance to create a broad based government in which the Movement of Rights and Freedom (MRF), one of the winners of the general elections, could participate. Instead he has chosen for an unbalanced government with extreme populist input.”
Van Baalen urged the EPP Group in the European Parliament to make Borissov change his mind and to form a government excluding the Patriotic Front and including pro-European parties. This would provide the next Bulgarian Government with a sound pro-European, pro-Western and pro civil liberties basis in the Bulgarian Parliament, the statement posted on the ALDE website said.