Russophile group leader, former MP and long-standing publisher of Bulgarian Socialist Party mouthpiece Duma newspaper Nikolai Malinov has quit the party after 27 years, saying that the BSP was behaving like an “enemy of Russia” over the conflict in Ukraine.
Malinov, in a lengthy letter made public by local media, said that for years, the behaviour of the leadership of the BSP had been in conflict with his values.
“After the events in Ukraine, this conflict became painful and irresistible. I prefer to remain true to my values than to continue to a member of the BSP.”
He listed factors that had “piled up, brick by brick, a wall of alienation between me and my party.”
Over the past decade, when in power, the BSP had introduced a flat tax, had not maintained a tax-free threshold, Malinov said, adding other problems as being declassified intelligence files and “empty slogans about re-industrialisation of the country”.
The BSP, he said, had a fluctuating and often contradictory attitude to projects like Belene (the Russian-linked nuclear power station project shut down by the previous centre-right GERB government) and South Stream, the Russian gas pipeline that Vladimir Putin has said has been suspended, for which the Russian president has sought to blame Bulgaria.
Malinov reserved his most emotional passages for the Russia-Ukraine conflict, saying that the behaviour of the leadership of the BSP in the geopolitical conflict between the EU and the US, on the one hand, and Russia on the other, was “unfortunate”.
According to Malinov, it was unacceptable for the BSP to recognise and co-operate with those in power after what he called the “coup” in Ukraine and whose “neo-fascist outbursts are obvious”.
It was unacceptable that the BSP was “turning a blind eye to genocide against a part of the Ukrainian people,” Malinov said.
“It is unacceptable for the BSP to behave like an enemy of Russia,” he said, adding that the party was “bowing to US imperial interests”.
He cited the visit to Kyiv by then-foreign minister Kristian Vigenin and had “legitimised the coup” and added, “how to explain the fact that the BSP did not find the strength to adopt a special position about the shocking atrocity of May 2 2014 when at the union house in Odessa, dozens of people were burnt alive?”
Malinov’s criticisms of the BSP, which has been on a dwindling course over several elections and was in power as part of the 2013/14 ruling axis largely by default and dependent on the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, may raise eyebrows among observers seeing the BSP as continuing to nurture positive sentiments towards the Kremlin and whose lines on issues such as the Russian-initiated conflict in Ukraine, to say nothing of energy issues, were hardly aggressive towards Moscow and Putin.
In early 2013, the BSP managed to force a referendum on reviving Belene, which ended too inconclusively to be binding and which was followed by public turmoil over energy and cost-of-living issues.
The thrashing handed to the BSP in May 2014 European Parliament elections led, eventually, both to the resignation as leader of Sergei Stanishev and further – after the MRF made its withdrawal of support clear – to the early parliamentary elections of October 2014, in which the BSP ran a poor second.
Malinov’s departure comes a few weeks after another former MP, Strahil Angelov, left the BSP. Angelov had made headlines in January 2014 when, after a visit to Syria, that country’s embassy in Sofia said that he had expressed support for the Assad regime, a claim that Angelov denied.
More recently, one of the party’s MPs, Georgi Kadiev, narrowly escaped expulsion from the parliamentary group after tabling legislation intended to legalise election campaigning in languages other than Bulgarian, an approach pushed by the MRF but which has been opposed by all other major parties.
The BSP also has been facing financial troubles, with several reports in recent months that mouthpiece Duma might face closure.
News of Malinov’s resignation on June 12 coincided with a scheduled leadership election at a Party of European Socialists congress, with former BSP leader Sergei Stanishev standing to retain the post he gained in 2012, with Spain’s Enrique Baron Crespo as the rival candidate.