Leading MEP excluded from the Bulgarian Socialist party
Petar Vitanov, the leader of the Bulgarian socialists in the S&D group in the European Parliament, was excluded on Saturday (11 February) from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), a development which highlights the deep crisis of this political force.
BSP held a dramatic congress on Saturday in Sofia, marked with what was described by journalists as “battle scenes” between supporters and critics of the party leader Kornelia Ninova.
Vitanov proposed that congress should begin with a vote to terminate the powers of Ninova as chairman.
“How long will we constantly justify our failures with the inflation, and with the president, and with internal opposition, and with the voting machines, and with the Magnitsky act. How long will we refuse to bear the blame,” asked Vitanov.
He referred to the conflicts opposing Ninova to President Rumen Radev seen by many as of a personal nature, and detrimental to the country’s interests. Radev was elected for his first mandate as a candidate of BSP, and Ninova has according to many been jealous of his popular support. He also noted the heavy blow to BSP after one of its leaders, Rumen Ovcharov, was sanctioned for corruption under the US Magnitsky act.
The US sanctions two former Bulgarian ministers under Magnitsky act
The US has sanctioned on Friday (10 February) five high-profile Bulgarians including two former ministers, under the so-called Magnitsky act, stating that they were “extensively involved in corrupt activity in Bulgaria.”
Vitanov pointed to the steadily deteriorating results of the BSP in recent elections. In October last year, BSP btained 8.98% of the vote and was ranked as the fifth political force, while in the period 2000-2007 it used to come second.
Despite losing voters, Ninova has been more successful in controlling the party apparatus. Thus, a majority of the BSP congress rejected the proposal of the party opposition to hold a vote on Ninova’s resignation by 524 votes against 237 against and 21 abstentions.
However, doubt remained that the counting was manipulated. The reason is that at the beginning of the congress, it was announced that 557 delegates had registered, while nearly 800 people participated in the voting.
Instead, the congress voted to exclude 14 critics from BSP, including Vitanov.
Asked by EURACTIV on Sunday to explain his conflict with the BSP leadership, Vitanov said that these differences were formulated in a four-point declaration, adopted by nearly 300 opposition-minded socialists on Sunday.
“The first is – BSP is anti-democratic. Any dissenting opinion is censored or sanctioned. The only reason we were expelled is because we wanted the resignation of the party chairman.”
Second, he said the BSP was turning into “a pseudo-patriotic and anti-European party”, explaining that at the congress, there had been talk of supporting the referendum proposed by the pro-Russian and anti-EU force “Vazrazhdane” against the euro.
At present, “Vazrazhdane” (Revival) is collecting signatures for holding a referendum on postponing the acession of the eurozone to 2043, and some in BSP support the idea. “In general, the rest of the BSP seems to be particularly hesitant about European integration”, Vitanov said.
The third point, as he explained, was that BSP had become “a party with double standards in terms of corruption”.
“Before, people were ostracised for suspicions of corruption, and today, even when we have information from our strategic partner, the USA, we stand in defence of people accused of corruption”, he said. Indeed, Ovcharov, one of the leaders of BSP, stood first at the congress and received support from his party fellows when he claimed his innocence. “These are double standards, which, in my opinion, are not well appreciated by Bulgarian citizens”, Vitanov said.
Last but not least, Vitanov said that BSP was “out of time” and no longer adhered to the policies of the European socialist family.
“BSP is completely indifferent on the topic of ecology, on the green transformation, on the topic of justice”, Vitanov said.
In his words, “justice is absent in Bulgaria” – and it is the poorest country in the EU with the biggest gap between the rich and poor.
“[At BSP] we’re not talking about tax reforms, about tax changes, we’re not talking about a corporate tax increase or a progressive tax scale, that would reduce the huge gap between the poor and the rich, that will generate funds for the budget that will enable aggressive social policy”, he said.
“I was specifically excluded for one simple reason – that for the last two and a half years, I have been insisting on a change of leadership. Because I am convinced that the way we continue, both personally and politically, the BSP is heading towards non-existence”, he said.
Bulgarians will vote in snap general elections on 2 April. Political analysts say that the support for BSP is in free fall. (would be good to have a link here)