Bulgaria’s presidential elections: Red Baron loses a wing

Assuming he has some familiarity with quotations from military history, Roumen Radev, the former general and now presidential candidate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, might be tempted to remember Admiral Beatty’s “there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”.

Beatty made the remark after, at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, two Royal Navy vessels blew up and sank.

That sinking feeling may have come to Radev with the confirmation that Georgi Purvanov’s minority socialist party ABC was scuttling its support for him, less than a week after conferring it in what has proven to be a stillborn electoral alliance with the BSP.

Given that Radev was until just recently commander of Bulgaria’s Air Force, perhaps an analogy from the history of military aviation might be more fitting. One might dub former pilot Radev the Red Baron, but with the departure of ABC, Radev appears to be missing a wing (pedants may wish to point out that Baron von Richtofen flew a triplane, but you get the, ahem, general idea).

Looking on the retreating ABC, or perhaps even the politicians of the BSP, Radev – a newcomer to politics, in his bid to be head of state and commander-in-chief – might also think of that quotation usually attributed (disputedly) to the Duke of Wellington: “I don’t know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but by God, they terrify me”.

Commenting after Purvanov’s ABC beat its strategic retreat from him, Radev admitted that the strife between the ABC and the BSP bothered him, but went on to say that he did not feel himself “to be a hostage”.

“I have a cause to follow,” said Radev, who no doubt is the very model of a modern major-general.

He would not refuse anyone’s support, Radev said, presumably in some sort of Nelson touch manoeuvre; at the moment, no one is offering any.

He rather liked the idea of his nomination coming from an “initiative committee”, “which has space for ABC and any progressive-thinking formation, party organisation and so on”.

Some days ago, when reporters asked Radev whether he was ready to be commander-in-chief, he reminded them that he was a pilot, and said “if you are not ready, never take off”. Radev may have been ready, but at least part of what was meant to be a joint candidacy has crashed on takeoff.

Perhaps he might muse on the words of General Eisenhower: “Neither a wise nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him”.

Or looking on the saga so far of Bulgaria’s 2016 presidential elections, one may be tempted to rewrite the saying of General Pierre Bosquet, looking on the Charge of the Light Brigade: it is not magnificent, but it is war.



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.