A politician is an arse upon which everybody has sat except a man
With parliamentary elections looming in
Ask politicians why they went into politics and in all countries you’ll get the same altruistic answer – something along the lines of improving the lot one’s fellow man. In the
Popular wisdom is that for the first seventeen years following the fall of the Berlin Wall, snouts were guzzling state resources and since 2007 the substantial subsidies provided by the EU.
Amid continuous tales of routine corruption, ministerial links with organized crime and a voting system that bolsters patronage and ensures a disproportionate influence of minority parties over government, it is hardly surprising that many Bulgarians have lost faith in democracy and see politicians as irrelevant to their everyday lives.
Partly to blame is the Bulgarian system of proportional representation. This has resulted in elections where electors are faced with lists of unfamiliar names rather than identifiable personalities. Once the election is over the horse trading begins, party ideologies are forgotten and the most unlikely coalitions emerge. The egregious example is the latest triple coalition of Socialists, Royalists and Turks.
The middle classes in
Do Bulgarians feel more comfortable with stupid politicians?
In the hundred and thirty odd years since
In the history of
In contrast the model and benchmark for all aspiring Bulgarian politicians has to be
How much better to be reconciled to a shitty system than to have as your leader someone you could at least laugh at? And with pseudo democracy and the popularity of cheap satire this tradition continues.
Following Zhivkov’s fall the first democratic president was a dwarf in a wrinkled suit with very dubious claims to having been a dissident. Former king and more recently Prime Minister Simeon Saksokoborgotski not only laboured under a stupid name but was famous for his inability to tell the time or date – especially following his promise to put
Nostalgia and Nationalism – key levers in popular vote
An inescapable demographic is key to understanding the puzzling success of certain parties in elections since 1990.
A sufficiently significant proportion of older voters can be persuaded to look at the past through rose-coloured spectacles – to a time when they fell in love, brought up children, got their first Lada and danced to Hotel California. They had secure undemanding jobs could call an ambulance every time they felt queasy and believed the crime rate was low because police could beat up thieves.
Since 1990 the factories closed. The Health System crumbled. Pensions will not cover heating bills in the winter. Press freedom brought scary crime stories. Looking for the certitudes of their youth, most pensioners vote for the BSP – the party formed by the Communists in 1990.
If older voters don’t vote BSP they are likely to vote for Ataka, the extreme nationalist party. Its leader, Volen Ziderov follows Mussolini in his espousal of extra-parliamentary action. With his shock of white hair and set expression of outrage, he is often to be seen scrambling to the top of a car, megaphone in hand, to address large crowds of supporters. Ataka depends on the paranoia and hurt national pride of the majority population. Its supporters readily believe in a version of history where
Ziderov’s job of polarising the nation is made easier by the persistent presence of the Turkish party in governments of every colour. Led by Ahmed Dogan the DPS has been effective in securing the votes not only of the Turkish speaking community but also of the Turks who left
The curious failure of the Right
In the heady months of 1990s democracy the CDC (Union of Democratic forces) was formed as the main opposition to the BSP. There is now considerable evidence that this party was packed with former communists, determined that whoever won the first elections, they would still be in control.
Be that as it may, despite a confident CDC campaign featuring pop and film stars and the music of the Beatles, the first election returned a socialist government. Power then alternated till the disastrous Socialist regime of Jan Videnov saw shops emptied of goods, banks fail and serious unrest in the streets.
The CDC’s chance came and the streets of
Ironically nick-named the Commander, because of perceived arrogance he probably still hopes to be recognised as a statesman without suffering the normal statesman’s fate.
Won’t somebody help?
Many Bulgarians still seem prepared to believe in the dramatic newcomer – especially if they seem strong and are without compromising past.
The former Tsar Simeon II returned to
Part of Simeon’s attraction was that he had not lived in
Optimism springs eternal and the latest figure to take on the role of strong leader out of nowhere is the demagogue and former body guard, Boyko Borisov with his patriotic party GERB (literally Coat of Arms). As Mayor of Sofia Borisov loses no photo opportunity to present himself as a fearless man of action, not afraid even to pick up a spade and clear the snow from the street. He will travel far to deliver outspoken attacks on the current situation. Most recently talking to emigrants in
So we await the elections amid a plethora of accusations about vote buying. But, whatever the result, do not expect any