Bulgaria Government and Politics
State and politics
In Bulgaria, a new democratic constitution was adopted in 1991 and several amendments and additions have subsequently been made to it. According to AllCityCodes.com, the legislative power of a single-chamber parliament, the National Assembly. The 240 members are elected in direct elections for four years; since 2009, 209 of them are elected in proportional elections and the others in majority elections in the 31 constituencies. A political party must get at least 4% of the vote in an election to take a seat in Parliament. The executive power lies with the government, which is led by a prime minister, which is primarily taken from the largest party and formally appointed by the president. This is head of state and commander-in-chief, is elected for a five-year term and can be re-elected at one time. To be elected, a presidential candidate must receive over 50% of the vote, otherwise, a second round of elections is required between the two who received the most votes. The president mainly has a ceremonial role and can, for example, do not initiate new laws but may in some cases delay a law by veto.
The country is divided into 28 provinces, oblast, and the capital Sofia. The provinces are in turn divided into 264 municipalities, obtina. Attempts are being made to decentralize and streamline political power, but Bulgaria is still strongly centralized and the provincial political leaders are appointed by the government. However, the municipalities are governed by mayors who are appointed by the directly elected municipal assemblies.
As in many previous one-party states, it has also taken time in Bulgaria after the fall of the communist regime for a functioning multi-party system to be developed. Political life has at times been characterized by instability as new parties have been formed and then split, re-formed or formed alliances with other parties. Sharp contradictions between left and right created a situation with two political blocs, who were often unwilling to cooperate and constantly switched to power. However, during the 2000s, completely new parties emerged outside the bloc and also succeeded in taking government power. The parties are usually formed around a strong personality rather than specific ideas.
The largest party in the left is the Socialist Party (Balgarska Sotsialistitjeska Partija, BSP) originating in the old Communist Party. Old communists initially dominated BSP, but it can now be called a left-center party, which is positive for both market economy and Bulgaria’s EU membership. This has widened the party’s electoral base while losing traditional followers. BSP has been a leading party in several coalition governments, most recently in 2005–09, when BSP leader Sergei Stanisev (born 1966) was prime minister. It was under his rule that Bulgaria joined the EU. In the 2009 parliamentary elections, BSP, now at the forefront of a coalition with several small left parties (Coalition for Bulgaria/Koalitsija za Balgarija), KzB), see its number of votes halved but still got almost 18%.
The BSP-led government of 2005 included two more parties: the National Movement for Stability and Progress (Natsionalno Dvizjenie za Stabilnost in Vazchod, NDSV) and the Movement for Rights and Freedom (Dvizjenie za Prava in Svobodi, DPS). NDSV appeared on the political arena before the parliamentary elections in 2001. It was then called the National Movement Simeon II (also abbreviated NDSV) and had been formed by ex-wife Simeon II as an alternative outside the political blocs. NDSV can be described as a neo-liberal party with some populist traits. Dissatisfaction with previous governments along with Simeon’s personal popularity caused the party to win the election. The ex-wife knew as Prime Minister Simeon Sakskoburggotski (born 1937)) ruled Bulgaria in 2001–05 and brought the country into NATO in 2004, among other things. one third of the party’s MPs are in their seats. In the 2009 election, NDSV did not even reach the 4% barrier and Simeon resigned as party leader.
The DPS, which was also a member of the NDSV government in 2001–05, is mainly a party for the Turkish minority, although ethnic parties are prohibited in the constitution. It was led from the founding in 1990 by Ahmed Doğan (born 1954), who skilfully ensured that the party had almost all the time influence in Bulgarian politics. In the 2009 election, the party received just over 14% of the vote, in the new election in 2013 (see below) just over 11%. Doğan resigned as party leader in early 2013 and succeeded Ljotvi Mestan (born 1960) but has continued to rule behind the scenes and DPS has seen several outbursts. When Doğan made sure that Mestan was deposed at the end of 2015, for example, Mestan formed a new party, which also it mainly turned to the ethnic Turks, DOST (‘friend’ in Turkish). The party, which entered into an election alliance with a former DPS defender, had hoped to be a strong competitor to the DPS but was seen by many as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s extended arm and did not enter parliament after the 2017 election.
On the bourgeois side, the Union of Democratic Forces has long dominated (Sajuz na Demokratitjnite Sili, SDS, better known by its English abbreviation UDF). It was founded in 1989 by a number of different parties and groups who opposed the Communist regime and had great successes: after the 1997 parliamentary elections, the largest party in parliament became more than half of its seats and the then party chairman Ivan Kostov was appointed head of government. However, after the election loss in 2001, the party began to weaken by internal fragmentation. Kostov left SDS and founded in 2004 the nationalist and strongly anti-Communist Democrats for a strong Bulgaria (Democracy za Silna Balgarija, DBS). Prior to the 2009 parliamentary elections, SDS and DBS joined forces in the so-called Blue Coalition (Sinjata Koalitsija), but this was only supported by just under 7 percent of voters. Disagreement within the coalition led DSB to start a collaboration with Citizens Bulgaria in 2012 (Balgarija na Grazjdanite, BG) instead, from the beginning a citizens movement formed by former EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva. Under the name of the Reformist Bloc (Reformatorski Blok, RB), the Citizens of Bulgaria, in turn, merged at the end of 2013 with three small Conservative parties and a defector party from the Turkish DPS. RB had great successes in the 2014 parliamentary elections and was allowed to join the government, but in the 2017 election did not succeed in getting into parliament.
Instead, other bourgeois parties have emerged in the political arena. Citizens for European Development in Bulgaria have the greatest success (Grazjdani za Evropejsko Razvite na Balgarija, GERB) had. The party, led by former Sofia Mayor Bojko Borisov, had been founded in 2006 ahead of Bulgaria’s first elections to the European Parliament and quickly received strong support, not least for its promise to seriously tackle the widespread corruption and crime in the country. With almost 40% of the vote, GERB became the big winner in the 2009 elections and Borisov formed a minority government, which was supported in Parliament by the Blue Coalition (see above). GERB strengthened its position in Bulgarian politics when the party’s candidate, Rosen Plevneliev, won in the second round of the presidential elections in late fall 2011. The party also had great success in the local elections held simultaneously.
The most important support party to GERB in Parliament was for a long time the Ataka (‘Attack’) ultra-nationalist party , which received just over 9% of the vote in 2009. This party, which was formed before the 2005 parliamentary elections, has mainly been known for fierce attacks on the country’s Roma and Turkish minorities as well as an EU-critical and later also anti-immigrant attitude. Although Ataka declined in influence after being hit by a series of dropouts, he has always remained and has been able to influence politics. Prior to the 2016 presidential election, it included a Valallians, United Patriots (Obedineni Patrioti), with two other nationalist parties gathered in the Patriotic Front (Patriotski Front). In the 2017 parliamentary elections, the alliance came in third place after GERB and the Social Democratic BSP, and was allowed to form government together with GERB.
In June 2013, parliamentary elections would have been held, but after widespread street protests from disappointed Bulgarians against the government’s inability to do anything for the poor living conditions of many and, above all, the sharply increased electricity prices, Prime Minister Borisov in February 2013 submitted his government’s resignation application and announced new elections in advance to May 12. However, the election did not solve any problems. After an election campaign filled with scandals and accusations of electoral fraud, turnout was record low, just over 51%. Only four parties – GERB, BSP, DPS and Ataka – took over the four percent block, but nothing big enough to form government on their own. Although GERB was the largest, it lost about 10% of its support and was far from its own majority in Parliament. At the same time, none of the other parties said they wanted to support a new GERB government. The Socialist Party BSP went ahead a lot, but needed support from both DPS and Ataka, both of which declined somewhat, in order to form a majority government. However, it was difficult to see that the “Turkish” DPS could sit in the same government as the Turkish hostile Ataka.
After all attempts to get a majority government together failed, at the end of May 2013, a minority government made up of technocrats was formed under the politically independent Plamen Oresjarski (born 1960) who was previously Minister of Finance. Government formation supported by BSP and DPS became possible since Ataka agreed not to vote against, but it became very shaky. The government was hit by several layoffs and mistrust, and in the summer of 2014, Plamen Oresjarski resigned.
Politics during this period was characterized by the many people who fled Syria on the occasion of the ongoing civil war and who made their way into the EU through Bulgaria. Although most refugees did not intend to stay in Bulgaria, the presence of the refugees led to immigrant and Muslim hostile groups becoming increasingly noisy. At the border with Turkey, fences were built to prevent refugees from entering and members of various nationalist parties, such as the army, helped to block access roads.
After the new election held in October, Borisov returned to power since GERB again became the largest party. After some trouble, he was able to form a government with the Conservative Reformist bloc and the middle party The Alternative for Bulgarian Renewal (Alternative za Balgarsko Vazrazjdane, ABV). In addition, the government could count on the support of Parliament from the two small nationalist parties on the Patriotic front. In the local elections the following year, GERB made strong progress and gained power in all major cities.
When the presidential elections were held in November 2016, opposition candidate Rumen Radev won big over the government. Borisov considered Radev a communist and did not consider himself able to cooperate with him, with Borisov submitting his resignation. After another election in March 2017, Borisov nevertheless returned to power at the head of a coalition government between GERB and the Nationalist Alliance United Patriots (see above).
It is the first time a nationalist and anti-immigrant party that Ataka, the largest party in the United Patriots, is part of a Bulgarian government. A few years earlier this would have been impossible, now the change was seen by many as a result of the populist and nationalist wave that swept across Europe in the mid-2010s as many refugees sought protection in Europe, partly because of the Syrian civil war.
Among other things, the nationalists’ political influence has manifested itself in a ban on wearing burka. In the new government, representatives from nationalist parties are responsible for a number of heavy ministries, including the Ministry of Defense, the Economy and the Environment.
See also Bulgaria: History.
The judicial system in Bulgaria consists of regional courts, district courts and the Supreme Court, to which are a number of special courts. The legal system is codified and since 2007 the development of the law has been greatly influenced by the country’s membership of the EU. The death penalty was abolished in 1998; the last execution took place in 1989.
The widespread corruption in society and the judiciary has undermined public confidence in politics and government in recent decades. From the EU, criticism has been directed at the government’s inability to curb corruption as well as against the lack of legal security and organized crime.
However, the marginalization of the Romani minority is perhaps the country’s most acute problem and the most serious violation of human rights. Roman settlements have been demolished following governmental decisions and Roma children are overrepresented in special government institutions for children. According to human rights organizations, extensive abuse of Roma children has been reported from institutions. Roman women and children are particularly vulnerable to abuses related to the extensive human trafficking in the country, as well as orphans and children from economically vulnerable families.
Discrimination also affects the Macedonian minority, people with disabilities and LGBTQs. Although LGBTQ relationships are not discriminated against by law, many do not dare to come out to the family for fear of being stigmatized and frozen. Social taboos also prevent rape victims from reporting for similar reasons.
The freedom of the press that met a new spring after the fall of communism came to deteriorate significantly during the early 2000s. Between 2010 and 2015, the country fell 36 places in Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index and self-censorship has become a general practice for professional journalists.
In the 2010 century, Bulgaria suffered the biggest nationwide unrest since the fall of communism, which led to the fall of the incumbent president (see State of the Union and politics). State corruption scandals worsened living conditions. The rising unemployment and sharply increased electricity prices triggered a wave of violent protests.
Heads of State
|Communist Party leader|