Kornelia Ninova has proposed that her Bulgarian Socialist Party omits Party of European Socialists president Sergei Stanishev and two other sitting BSP MEPs from its list of candidates in the May 26 2019 European Parliament elections.
The move comes after months of tensions between Ninova and Stanishev, who led the BSP from 2001 to 2014 and was prime minister in Bulgaria’s tripartite coalition government from 2005 to 2009.
The proposal was the subject of a BSP plenum meeting that proceeded for several hours in the afternoon of April 14.
The omission of Stanishev was made public ahead of an April 14 national council meeting, with Stanishev describing Ninova’s list as a “great gift to GERB”, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right party with which the BSP is in a tight race in Bulgaria’s 2019 European Parliament elections.
Stanishev said that there was a tendency to turn the BSP into “GERB II”, a party focused solely on its leader.
President of the Party of European Socialists since 2011, three years before being elected an MEP, Stanishev said that the BSP had to answer four questions.
“The first is, what are we saying to members of our party? The second is what is the message from the BSP and the national council to Bulgarian society, that is, the way in which the BSP is run will be transformed into the way Bulgaria is run if we win the government.
“And I think everyone can see with the naked eye that there is an obvious tendency to turn the BSP into a leader’s party, into GERB II. The question is whether Bulgarians want such an alternative and such a BSP,” Stanishev said.
“The third question is what is our attitude towards Europe, the EU? And the fourth question is the attitude and the message to our European partners. To our political family in Europe,” he said.
Reports noted that Stanishev was left off the BSP list even though he had got the most nominations from party structures.
Ninova was deputy economy minister in the Stanishev government. He fired her in May 2007, along with the then-deputy minister of disaster management, Delyan Peevski, following reports of alleged involvement in obstructing a corruption investigation. Prosecutors did not proceed, for lack of evidence.
Bulgarian media reports noted the presence high on the list of figures such as Yanaki Stoilov, leader of the “left wing” of the BSP and sceptical towards the EU.
Also not on the BSP candidates’ list are Georgi Pirinski and Petar Kurumbashev.
Kurumbashev said that Ninova had offered him ninth place on the list, which he regarded as a “mockery”. The more reliable polls currently suggest the BSP may win five to six seats. In 2014, amid the controversy over the “Oresharski” government, the BSP won four seats.
Pirinski, who was Speaker of the National Assembly at the time of the 2005/09 Stanishev government, told reporters that the fact that none of the other MEPs was on the list was “more than strange, not to say unacceptable”.
However, one sitting BSP MEP is: Momchil Nekov – seventh on the 2019 list. Nekov is best remembered for being pushed to the top of the 2014 BSP MEPs through preferential voting, the result of apparent confusion among socialist voters about how the system worked.
The list is topped by Elena Yoncheva, as Ninova wanted. Yoncheva’s number one spot resulted from a previous national council meeting, reportedly by a narrow 20 votes.
Second on the list is Stoilov, former caretaker European presidency minister Denitsa Zlateva, and fourth is Ivo Hristov, the chief of staff of President Roumen Radev, who was elected head of state on a ticket backed by the BSP.
Fifth is Roumen Gechev, who was Economy Minister in the 1995/97 Zhan Videnov BSP government, which was brought down by mass protests against the financial and economic collapse to which it led Bulgaria.
Sixth is Ivan Krastev, a former Deputy Minister of Education, not to be confused with the political scientist of the same name.
The move by Ninova against Stanishev and others from the former BSP establishment is a continuation of the process she embarked on since becoming party leader in May 2016. Ahead of Bulgaria’s 2017 early parliamentary elections, she had party rules rewritten to prevent some long-standing BSP MPs from being eligible to be candidates for re-election.
Borissov, speaking on April 14 at the launch of the GERB election platform, commented on the BSP candidate list, saying that “the only one who may understand something of European affairs is Miss Zlateva.
“From there on, it’s spy-State Security, spy-State Security,” Borissov said.
The exclusion of Stanishev showed that “our opponents have nothing to do with the European socialists,” the GERB leader said.
Of the top 10 on the BSP list, two have been previously announced as having worked for the first directorate of communist-era secret service State Security: Roumen Gechev, from 1987 to 1991, and Velizar Enchev, from 1985 to 1989.