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Authoritarianism consolidates in Bulgaria

May 4, 2010

The authoritarian tendencies of the populist Borissov government in Bulgaria are becoming blatantly obvious after the recent developments:

– A spate of spectacular arrests against former government ministers, officials and magistrates were carried out by the police. Footage of the Hollywood-style nighttime raids was made available on the Ministry of Interior website and relayed by mass media. On one memorable occasion, Chief Prosecutor for the District of Sofia, Roman Vassilev, ordered the former defence minister on the floor and called him a “criminal”. He was later reprimanded by his superiors but such behaviour is more and more appreciated by the public at large. Online forums are bristling with calls for retribution and calls for summary justice (though my sample is very limited and, admittedly, there are those who are outraged by the brutal display of force by the police and government)

– The government and its law-and-order Interior Minister Tzvetan Tzvetanov have announced plans to create a ‘special tribunal’ to try cases of organised crime and corruption.

– Boyko Borissov has announced plans to have Tzvetanov as his party’s candidate for the presidential elections at the end of 2011. The party in government, GERB, even wanted to impeach the incumbent President and hold elections this year but the idea was dropped. The muscled duo is looking more and more as a Balkan version of the Putin-Medvedev spectacle. Only that Medvedev is better spoken (not saying too much, when you’re comparing with the former cops Borissov and Tzvetanov) , puts on a reformist face for the west and shaves more often.

– In a recent opinion poll (23-26 April), Tzvetanov goes ahead of Borissov for the first time: some 60 percent approve of him, while the macho Prime Minister is a close second with 56. His top-ranked ministers are exuberant Vejdi Rashidov who continues to amuse with drunken remarks, nationalist pop historian Bozhidar Dimitrov who is busy with piling up diplomatic gaffes with Bulgaria’s neighbours, and foreign minister Nikolay Mladenov – backer of Bulgaria’s presence in Afghanistan, US military bases in the country, a politician with a standing record of navigating well the winds of domestic politics. Public approval is obviously reserved for tough law-and-order political figures and amusing charlatans with a flair for the sensational. But anyway – where are the alternatives?

– The same poll finds that the police and the government are the most popular institutions in Bulgaria, with 44% approval rating. The Constitution or the democratic system are not in the list and obviously they are not considered as institutions. The parliament, which can be seen as an expression of democracy and popular will, trails at back of the lot with 28% approval. It is all pretty mind boggling given that the police force is notoriously corrupt and inefficient and the government has been mired into jumbled economic policies from day one, coupled with appointing obviously incompetent officials in high positions.

And some disturbing signs (again an eyesore) on the rise of fascism in Bulgaria (history repeats itself, will it be a farce after the tragedy?):

– Ultra-nationalist VMRO has found a new lease of life, after it was rocked by leadership squabbles, by sponsoring a nationwide petition on referendum against Turkey’s EU membership. They say 100,000 signatures have already been collected. It is interesting to know who is funding the initiative of the likes of neo-fascist Angel Djambazki and Communist-era secret services informant Karakachanov.

– A number of neo-Nazi groups marched in downtown Sofia on May Day, calling for ‘social justice’ and ‘national autonomy’.

– The leader of neo-fascist Ataka, which is the fourth-largest party in parliament, strongly supported the creation of special anti-corruption tribunals. At a “roundtable” – where supposedly divergent views were to be expressed – he monopolised the conversation and in his typical fascist fashion accused opponents of the move of being in favour of criminality. Even pro-government “Dnevnik” condemned this in an editorial.

These are only some of the worrisome developments. While in Hungary, the Fidesz government, even if not unproblematic itself, has publicly distanced itself from the fascist Jobbik, the populist Borissov has no qualms in holding onto the far-right Ataka party. His own agenda is becoming more and more authoritarian, backed by many of the personalities and relationships forged in the underworld of the early 1990s, in line with the schemes of power holders from the pre-1989 secret services and present-day cops, spies and shadowy business people.

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One comment

  1. http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16219865
    for once, we might agree with the economist. interesting statement from krastev, is he falling out of love with GERB now?



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