Blow to opposition to Ninova as Bulgarian Socialist Party congress rejects bid to change leadership election rules

The “internal opposition” to Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova suffered a reverse as a special congress voted against a bid to add to the agenda a proposal to revert to a former rule that the leader is elected by the congress instead of by the party as a whole.

Critics of Ninova see the change to the leadership election rules approved in February, to have the leader elected by all BSP members instead of just by the congress, as having been a move to concentrate all power in her hands.

There has been turbulence within the BSP of late from internal opponents who point to the failure of Ninova, leader since May 2016, to take the party to election victories, and who criticise her for her strident criticism of Bulgaria’s coalition government failing to turn into people seeing the BSP as an alternative.

The very calling of the October 28 special congress by Ninova a few weeks ago was the subject of strife from opponents who said that it was unnecessary and did not agree with the proposed agenda.

The congress is being held on the theme of “BSP – Alternative for Bulgaria”. Agenda items include the party’s “Alternative Budget” for the country in 2018, and its position on the priorities for Bulgaria’s 2018 Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Opening the congress, Ninova said that the BSP was “ready to show that it is an alternative to the current government” and said that the party’s main goal was early parliamentary elections. She called on congress delegates to discuss the possibility of a vote of no confidence in the Boiko Borissov government.

After the rejection of the proposal to include on the agenda the question of leadership election rules, by 397 votes against, 149 for and with 45 abstentions, a number of delegates walked out. A total of 609 delegates were registered at the start of the congress, and participants told journalists that about a quarter of those were opponents of Ninova.

In spite of the open tensions, it appears that for the moment, Ninova’s place as BSP leader will survive a challenge.

In Bulgaria’s May 2017 early parliamentary elections, Ninova’s BSP came in second, with 27.2 per cent, behind Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB which got 32.65 per cent and went on to form a coalition government with a grouping of nationalist and far-right parties.

In September 2017, a poll by Alpha Research – about the most reliable opinion survey agency in Bulgaria – said that Borissov’s GERB had 25.1 per cent support, while Ninova’s BSP had 19.3 per cent.

Within the BSP, there has been frequent speculation of late that after Bulgaria’s EU Presidency is over at the close of the first half of 2018, the country will go to early parliamentary elections. Critics of Ninova say that they doubt that if this happens, the BSP would win.



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, 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.