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The Role of an Ethnic Party--the Bulgarian Example

by ccarc Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 07:51:42 AM EST

from the diaries. -Jérôme

What should be an ethnic party's role in the political life of a country? Is it good to have ethnic parties at all? Does a powerful ethnic party speak for an integrated minority or vice versa?

These are some questions that I've been asking myself lately and that I'll try to address in this diary using the example of the Turkish minority party in Bulgaria. I consider this party an ethnic one because it gets almost all of its votes from the Turkish minority, almost all of its members are ethnic Turks, it claims to champion the interests of the Turkish ethnic minority and to work for its integration into the Bulgarian society.

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"Eyes Wide Shut" or Why Do We Tolerate Populism in Politics?

by ccarc Sun Feb 26th, 2006 at 05:54:39 AM EST

There are numerous examples of politicians making absurd promises, just because they sound good to the public at the time, and then acting in a completely different way. This is nothing new. What bothers me, however, is that the society, the media, the international institutions seem to be too tolerant to populism in politics.

What actually made me write this diary are the presidential elections in Bulgaria coming this year. The current president Georgi Purvanov, who in my opinion is among the biggest populists in politics, seems to have very good chances for reelection. According to the polls, he and the mayor of the capital city are the most popular politicians at the moment. Throughout his presidency Purvanov has acted in a populistic way in numerous occasions. I am not going to discuss all of them but I am just going to mention some of the major things that are considered to have gained him popularity.

The President has created an image of a unifying figure--"the President of all Bulgarians," as he calls himself. He has played a major role in the formation of the current government and thus supposedly has helped avoiding a governmental crisis, which might have led to a delay of Bulgaria's European Union accession. Purvanov has also been a fervent promoter of the country's major long-term goals--joining NATO and the EU.

The latter, however, is the biggest absurdity of the head of state's populism. And I am not saying this because I am against the above mentioned organizations but because Purvanov used to be. This position of the President may seem forgotten now but he expressed it very openly during the war in Yugoslavia. At that time Purvanov was the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist (former Communist) Party and he led anti-NATO protests organized by the party. He also openly showed support for the former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Miloshevich, who is currently being sued for genocide and crimes against the humanity by the International Court at the Hague. Of course, back then, the popular opinion in Bulgaria was strongly against the war and NATO, which explains Purvanov's behavior. Ironically, the former anti-NATO oriented socialist leader is currently a commander in chief of the Bulgarian armed forces, which are a part of NATO--a fact which the President is very proud of.

Well, I guess this is what politicians do--they change their positions, like chameleons their color, according to the situation. What I don't understand, though, is why the society, the media, the international organizations tolerate such behavior. In fact, in the case of Puvanov all of those have treated him extremely positively. The media have played a major role in creating his image as a unifier. The society has also shown support for him by electing him a president in 2001 and being quite eager to reelect him this year. The NATO and EU officials have never mentioned his actions in the past against their organizations, although I am sure they know very well about them.

Nevertheless, the reaction of the international officials has an explanation--diplomacy. The behavior of the media I could ascribe to the fact that most of them serve political interests. Our attitude--of the people, the voters, however, deserves no excuse. According to the Bulgarian constitution, the head of state has a representative function. This implies that when we vote for him we associate with his beliefs, we choose him to represent our values. But do we want to be represented by someone who is willing to move from one position to the opposite, by someone who says things, which he knows are absurd, but that would gain him popularity? To me populism is disrespectful and when I see politicians using it I feel like my intelligence is being undermined.

Of course, President Purvanov is just one example of populism in politics. I am sure it is a universal phenomenon. I wonder, though, what the degree of tolerance in other countries is.

This is the only link on this topic that I found in English, so if you want to read more about President Purvanov, don't hesitate to do it.

Comments >> (53 comments)

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