Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova got the backing of the national council after claims that the EU-wide Party of European Socialists (PES) would suspend or even expel the BSP unless it reversed its position and agreed to back the Istanbul Convention.
The Istabul Convention is an international instrument directed against domestic violence. In Bulgaria, adopting it has been opposed by conservative forces, leading the government to backtrack on its initial call for Parliament to ratify it.
While PES supports the adoption of the convention, Ninova and the BSP oppose it.
At a BSP national council meeting at the weekend, Ninova said that if the party decided to change its position on the Istanbul Convention, she would resign as leader.
Reports from the closed meeting said that Ninova had told the national council meeting that PES had threatened to suspend or expel the BSP unless it got into line over the Istanbul Convention.
PES’s president is Sergei Stanishev, formerly a long-time leader of the BSP and the country’s prime minister from 2005 to 2009, and now an MEP. Stanishev was not present at the June 10 BSP national council meeting, and nor did Ninova mention him by name in her speech.
Ninova won the backing of the national council, which assserted it would not change its position on the Istanbul Convention.
PES deputy secretary-general Giacomo Filibeck, in a statement to the media, said that PES did not operate through ultimatums or exert pressure on anyone. “We have always adhered to an open dialogue with all the parties among ourselves in our political family,” he said.
Before the meeting, Ninova said that a delegation from PES had been scheduled to meet the organisers of Sofia Pride and then speak to the party leadership, but the visit had been postponed for some days.
Subsequent media reports contradicted this, quoting sources in PES saying that the PES delegation visit had nothing to do with Sofia Pride but was an ordinary scheduled visit to take place in mid-July.
Ninova was among several Bulgarian politicians to turn down an invitation from Sofia Pride’s organisers to turn out to support the event. Replying to an invitation letter, she said that she opposed same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, adding that she shared the view of 75 per cent of Bulgarians on these issues.
Speaking to a news conference after the national council meeting, Atanas Zafirov, a member of the executive bureau, said that the meeting had shown “remarkable unity” in support of Ninova. “So you have no hesitation that there will be no change in our position,” Zafirov said.
He said that he did not believe that PES would expel the BSP because the party was “one of the few socialist parties in Europe that are growing”.
Socialist MEP Petar Kurumbashev said: “That the majority (he used a derivative of the word ‘bolshevik’, meaning majority) in PES has such an opinion about the Istanbul Convention does not mean that everyone has to think that way. Bolshevism was more popular 100 years ago”.
(Photo of Ninova: bsp.bg)