At the close of a meeting lasting seven hours, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) congress voted on January 22 not to accept the resignation of Kornelia Ninova as party leader, submitted after the BSP’s disastrous fourth-place result in the country’s November 2021 early parliamentary elections.
The vote on her resignation was 415 against, 164 in favour, with 20 abstentions.
In a political report to the congress, Ninova – who has led the party since 2016, into a succession of defeats – blamed the electoral failures of 2021 on the Covid-19 pandemic, universal machine voting and her enemies within the party.
That voting had been solely by the use of machines had discouraged the BSP electorate from going to the polling stations, as had fears about the pandemic, she said. The BSP had backed 100 per cent machine voting but that stance should be reconsidered, Ninova said.
She pointed to the party having become part of the quadripartite coalition government formed in December as a success, claiming that it had been accepted as a “party of change”, not just because its votes were needed to get that government voted into office. In the coalition government, Ninova is one of the deputy prime ministers and holds the economy portfolio.
One of those who spoke against Ninova, Valeri Zhablyanov, rejected Ninova’s arguments, said that the party’s electoral collapse dated from the 2019 municipal elections, before the pandemic and universal machine voting, and was a direct result of her leadership.
Krum Zarkov, who had intended standing as Ninova’s sole rival for the leadership had her resignation been accepted, said that delegates to the congress had been “irradiated with absolute nonsense” by Ninova’s statements.
“The failure in the elections is presented as a success because, you see, we are in power,” Zarkov said.
He ridiculed the claim that the BSP had been invited to be part of the government because of anything but its votes.
Referring to a petition, originated by the BSP Blagoevgrad branch, not to accept Ninova’s resignation, Zarkov said that if the resignation were not accepted “this farce will be another, if not the last, nail in the coffin of the BSP’s public image”.
In the part of the congress that was open the media, most delegates spoke in favour of Ninova. Among them was Emilia Zhilieva, a delegate from Lyaskovets, who told the congress: “We need a leader and a fighter like comrade Ninova”.
In the morning, the congress voted against suspending proceedings to allow delegates to attend the second inauguration of President Roumen Radev, who won re-election in 2021 after first winning presidential elections in 2016 on a socialist-backed ticket. In recent years, Ninova and Radev have been at odds.
Speaking to Bulgarian National Radio on January 22, Sergei Stanishev, a former BSP leader and former prime minister, said that at the day’s congress “it must become clear whether we are saving the leader or saving the BSP”.
Later, speaking to Bulgarian National Television on the sidelines of the congress, Stanishev said that if the congress did not accept Ninova’s resignation and prepare to elect a successor “the party will become a laughing stock.”
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