Nationalists in Bulgarian government mean rocky first fortnight for third Borissov cabinet

Bulgaria’s National Assembly is hardly ever a place free of acrimonious exchanges, but May 2017 is seeing ever more bitter skirmishes as the opposition goes on the attack, challenging the Boiko Borissov cabinet’s vulnerabilities over the presence of the nationalist United Patriots in the coalition government.

Amid one controversy after another, political pundits in Bulgaria continue to raise the question whether the Borissov government pledge to serve a full four-year term – counting from the time it took office on May 4 – can be kept.

In recent days, these political controversies have had a stark emotional and psychological resonance, because two have involved officials linked to the United Patriots, a grouping of nationalist and far-right parties, having been photographed making Hitler salutes.

These are images out of kilter with the image of a country that takes justifiable pride of having, in 1943, stood up to Hitler’s Nazi Germany and refused to hand over Bulgarian Jews to join the more than six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

At European level, if there are misgivings about the presence of far-right politicians in the corridors of power in Bulgaria, they remain largely unspoken publicly. A popular theory is that Europe is keeping a vow of omerta for the sake of political stability in Bulgaria while the country holds the presidency of the European Council in the first half of 2018.

But next year too, Bulgaria will mark the 75th anniversary of the prevention of the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to the Nazi death camps, and will mourn the fate of the thousands of Jews in parts of Yugoslavia and northern Greece that Bulgaria – nominally in control of those territories, under the suzerainty of its Berlin ally – did not save from mass-murder.

To continue reading, please click here.