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Bulgaria gets a government...finally...

by gradinski chai Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 09:38:58 AM EST

Promoted by Colman

It looks like, maybe, Bulgaria will get a government in the next few days. This would not be really newsworthy if it were not for the fact that elections took place on 25 June. What has emerged over the past few weeks has been an tortured process of assembling a parliamentary majority, but is something else is going on as well?

Since my earlier frustrations led me to write about some of the details (i.e. I partially hijacked one of DoDo's earlier posts...again my apologies, DoDo), I'll just present a brief (LOL) summary:

June's elections left us with this configuration (as you read down, the parties become more right).

BSP    83 (socialists + one Attacka who joined)
MRF    34 (largely a Turkish supported party)
NDSV    53 (former Tsar Simeon II's created party)
BNC    13 (three small center right parties)
ODC    20 (original center right opposition coalition)
DSB    17 (further right)
Attacka    18 (hard right)
Inde    02 (two deputies were kicked out of Attacka)

This meant that an easy center left coalition could have been quickly formed between the BSP, MRF, and NDSV. Unfortunately for some unexplained reasons Simeon's party pulled out of negotiations. On the first attempt, the socialists and MRF tried to create a government with the support of some defectors from the hard right Attacka (go figure!). It failed by one vote.

Simeon's party is now given the mandate to form a government, but since they have stopped the socialists earlier, the negotiations don't go well. Simeon says that they need to have the socialists, but he's also talking to the right. They can't form a center right government unless they join with the hard right, which he doesn't want to do. They fail and return the mandate long after it's clear that they can't form a government on THEIR mandate. So now we have what amounts to the third mandate...

And lo and behold...the BSP, MRF, and NDSV agree to form a government. Meanwhile the right parties argue that the constitution prohibits the BSP's Stanishev from being nominated for PM again. The cabinet post distribution is: socialists (8), Simeon's party (5), and the MRF (3).

On Saturday, President Purvanov criticized all of the parties for losing time in Bulgaria's EU accession process. He has also criticized the parties for undermining public support for parliamentary democracy. This is very true, but many think he's said too little, too late.

To compound public dissatisfaction, central Bulgaria has experienced severe flooding. The state administration and Simeon's caretaker cabinet were caught unprepared. Coordination problems, poor maintenance of canals, dams, and drainage systems aggravated the problem.

After seeing all of this and also reading the great diaries on the upcoming German elections, I'm left with wondering what is going on? Not only in Europe... We appear to be losing an ability to think about the society and its prosperity and stability. Instead, political forces seem to be so wrapped up in their own narrow selfish views that they cannot step above this. Am I naieve? Am I miguided to think that more of this used to exist?  

Congratulations, I think. What sort of policy difference will this make?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 04:46:31 AM EST
On the plus side, it means:

  1. That we have a government
  2. That they are not too late it they get busy to finish the bill on judicial reform which is the biggest obstacle that we face on EU membership
  3. They have outlined EU membership and social responsibility as priorities. This means that there will be more attention, we hope, paid to those who have not been doing well through the transition. The rise of the hard right has given an added urgency to address these frustrations of these people.
  4. It's a pretty broad segment of society with a large majority (170 out of 240). This means that a few defections won't cost the government its majority.
  5. A few good ministers in it. Two of my favorites are kept from the last government (Miglena Kuneva as Minister of European Integration and Nickolay Vassilev moves to Minister of Public Administration). Several others I do not know anything about.
  6. EU accession demands will keep this government fairly responsible.

On the minus side, it means:

  1. That we have a government
  2. Many expect that this government will fall the day after Bulgaria enters the EU.
  3. It would have been helpful if there could have been a Grand Coalition with the specific goal of getting us in the EU.
  4. Some characters who have not been very socially responsible (in my view) are behind this project.

The whole experience has delegitimized "democracy" for many.

Some politicians openly speak of "democracy" as something akin to doing favors for your friends.

The right has begun the process of legitimizing the introduction of ethnic slurs and views into the national political discourse. Some see that it gets them votes. This is fairly new to Bulgarian politics.

Some voices on the right have begun to openly question the existence of a successful "Bulgarian ethnic model." This idea had dominated political discourse and helped to keep our politics different from that of the rest of the region.


by gradinski chai on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 05:22:35 AM EST
Yawn... as in Germany, such a broad left-right coalition serves to strenghten the extremists.

BTW, to link back to that old thread, what about Iraq? Will Simeon's party torpedo the withdrawal decision?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 05:57:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Simeon's NDSV is center/center-left. As for the withdrawal, it should not affect it. The socialists were pretty clear about this, and there is little support for the military presence in Iraq.
by gradinski chai on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 06:31:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Center/center-left? Maybe I was misled by assotiationg aristocracy and monarchy with conservatives! But, it could also be relative. What are the leftist elements in its policy? Their positions on minimum vages, privatisation of public services, income tax, culture, and so on?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 08:14:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many of NDSV's policies are the same old tired IMF-World Bank-US-EU inspired "privatization of everything is good" mantra. But not all...

They are a little more senstive to the impact of some of these policies. Their position on social spending for socially vulnerable populations is center-center left. They realize that sometimes government must be involved in correcting for the market. Not much, mind you, but clearly not complete market worshipers.

by gradinski chai on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 08:26:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, GC! Great to hear some news from you on this process. But also, I think you make an astute observation, regarding what seems like a general tendency towards selfishness and self-involvement, at the cost of public good (or public discourse of the real issues). Yews, indeed, what is going on? Is this the "spread of Democracy" that Bush keeps taking credit for?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 06:09:13 AM EST
I have a theory that pushing "free-market" economics promotes that attitude.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 06:10:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pushing the market as a way to solve many problems is certainly appreciated among the states of the former Soviet bloc. What has happened, however, is the pushing of the market as god...as fetish. The market is the answer to everything.

If the market answers all societal problems and questions, it is not difficult to see how a rational (though perhaps somewhat unreflective) individual can come to view the market as providing answers to all personal situations and problems. And so what does the market teach? "Don't do anything for anyone unless you get something in return" or "There is no common good or community...only individual good."

Even traditional conservatives see (or are beginning to see) how the marketization of human and societal relations is destructive.


by gradinski chai on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 10:28:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not having had to live with the politicians bickering in this way (UK system has less democracy, but also less negotiation) I have to say that whilst time lost is annoying, isn't this also part of the democratic process?

By nature, multi-party government requires some negotiation, which will involve some grandstanding, horse trading and taking of the ball home at various times. Yes, the politicians are visionless and selfish, but I would really argue they always have and will be, democracy is simply the best way we have found to convert the energy of these all too human politicians towards better government.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 08:46:21 AM EST
Any multiparty system will require some time to negotiate individual wants into something larger. I guess what is bothering me is that the something larger seems to be only what the parties can get out of it. Many Bulgarians have just grown tired at the inability to come to an agreement, and when an agreement was finally made, it was not too far from the original agreement. In the meantime, a crisis has affected the central part of the country and little was done. In the meantime, the clock on EU accession was ticking and nothing was done.

It is the inability of these bickering folk to see the larger picture...particularly at such a vital time in the history of the entire society...accession into the EU. The inability to put aside petty quarrels about who gets which cabinet posts (and this is what has been seen as a large part of the problem).

by gradinski chai on Tue Aug 16th, 2005 at 10:35:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fist-fights in parliament according to Soj. Care to explain?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 17th, 2005 at 04:22:38 AM EST

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