The King as a Prime-Minister:

Peculiarity of the Bulgarian Case or a

Lesson to Post-Communist Transformations

 

 

by Nikolai Tilkidjiev

 

 

  


 

 

 

C o n t e n t s:

 

  

1.      The Bulgarian electoral phenomenon: reflections and significance                               4

2.      Bulgaria in brief                                                                                                               7

3.      Historical background of the Bulgarian monarch                                                         10

4.      Sparkling the interest (A well-considered mysteriousness)                                        11

5.      Objective causes for the success (How exactly did the King’s day come?)                13

6.      In expectation of The Savior or Godot (Unnerving the opponents)                            24

7.      Are Bulgarians disposed to restore the monarchy?                                                    30

8.      The new parliament and the new Council of Ministers: facts and achievements        35

9.      First steps – first skepticism                                                                                        42

10.  Royal games and the broad coalition facing a collapse?                                               48

11.  In place of a conclusion: To be a Prime-Minister or a King?                                      53

 

 

  

 

It can be stated with complete assurance that the strange, quite unusual “Bulgarian electoral phenomenon” from June 2001 will continue to be of great interest to political scientists, sociologists, and historians. In short, this is what happened: the slightly forgotten ex-Bulgarian monarch – Simeon II Sax-Coburg-Gotta – after 55 years of “exile” needed just about 2 months of intensive pre-electoral propaganda to earn himself close to 2 million votes and, lacking a stable organizational structure in the center or in other regions, he suddenly assumed one of the highest positions of power – the prime-minister of a country where the communist and the pro-Russian regime of government had been in power for years, and yet – a country that spent the last four years being ruled by a noncommunist Union of the Democratic Forces.

The purpose of this analysis:

Is to present this striking Bulgarian phenomenon in its full essence and dimensions; derive what the objective and socio-psychological causes and factors for this success were; explain how it fits into the current political situation in Bulgaria and in the dialectics between the specific and common principles and mechanisms of the post-communist transformation in East-European countries; and show what the prognoses for the eventual outlooks of this phenomenon are.

 

Sources of information:

That have been used for this work are varied. The author has used data from national representative surveys of the public opinion in Bulgaria conducted by various private and public sociological agencies; publications in the central daily press, radio and TV programs, publications and broadcasts by international media, commentaries and analyses of expert-sociologists and others.

  

 

1.      The Bulgarian electoral phenomenon: reflections and significance

 

This is unquestionably one of the strangest cases to appear in the period of post-communist transformation in Eastern Europe. Perhaps such an occurrence has not been encountered in any of the parliament elections around the world.

Foreign Report magazine depicts the events as “the biggest political surprise in the history of post-communist Europe.” Vanguardia, a Barcelona newspaper, reflects, “all textbooks on political theory have to be rewritten, or at least include footnotes, in order to tell of the unprecedented political and constitutional event that happened in Bulgaria in the dawn of the 21st century… never had a dethroned monarch been able to reach the position of a prime-minister during a republican regime.” The Italian Republica was equally surprised, “He is unique. The only king that came back to his country as a democratic premier”.

The intense interest and exhaustive commentary will continue, no matter if Simeon II’s new government does well or not, no matter if it will succeed to fulfill the three major goals set forth in its pre-election campaign. Though formulated in such a simple manner that every average voter can understand them, the goals were still very fundamental:

Ø     Create an effective, functioning market economy

Ø     Improve the living conditions of ordinary people and

Ø     Put an end to rampant corruption

 

Were these intentions defined adequate and attractive to draw two million votes?

During the past 12 years the development of post-communist countries passed several common stages.  The first years of the transition were characterized by difficult withdrawal of the ex-communist nomenclature and transition from the political power and from this nomenclature into economical dominance.  The next period was marked by the uprising of the new noncommunist elite and frequent cases of corruption among its members and new party division of the economical elite on national and local scale.  Business was promoted– but only business that was run by close to political power - relatives, adherents or loyal followers of the corresponding ruling party or local authority.

Evidently, in a situation like this no market economy would work effectively. It was blocked by political impact, which gave way to corruption, which in turn corroded the governing apparatus from the inside and became an obstacle for any development, damaging the authority of governors among people.  This led to an even further association of the governors with the economic power, which reflected on the reforms and caused further degrading of the living conditions of the broad social layers, a lack of better perspectives and rise of people against the government.

Namely these three problems (nonfunctioning market economy, wide-spread corruption, and low living standards) were indeed characteristic of Bulgaria for the last several years. Simeon II made his well-considered and successful move simply by stating his intentions of solving them, and capturing the logic behind the development. This brought him into favor with the voter.

I am convinced that what I just said about the major problems of the Bulgarian transition sounds very familiar and perhaps is valid for most post-communist countries. But despite its outward appearance – one of a strange, unheard-of irrationality and exotism, bordering on frivolous political behavior – the actual reasons root not so much to some specific, unique national or historical factors, but rather to a series of common processes and mechanisms, which to some extent or another are also present in other post-communist countries.  That is why the Bulgarian phenomenon will be long discussed: it is not a unique fruit of some weird passions and actions, but a source for conclusions and morals, applicable to other post-communist societies as well.

A proof for this universality of the Bulgarian example are the first evaluations and inferences by foreign observers.  The focus is on the possible connection between the analogous economical and political situation in other East-European countries – some of them having ex-monarchs, who could play a certain role of attractive leaders in the transition processes.

According to Newsweek, politicians, journalists and immigrants from Romania, Moldavia and Ukraine are having a heated argument as to whether what happened in Bulgaria is possible in their country, too.  We can also add to the waiting list countries like Serbia and Albany (which would make the cases actually 6!).

A deeper analysis was done by the agency Associated Press, which tried to explain why the electoral success of the dethroned Bulgarian king Simeon II motivated the supporters of other ex-monarchs on the Balkans, who now are waiting in anticipation.  The commentary is, “in the countries devastated by the communist reign and still fighting to establish democracy, monarchs are often viewed as the last hope for regaining the previous glamour and power.” This concerns mainly the Bulgarian, Romanian, Serbian, and Albanian monarchs. The present president of Romania Ion Iliesku (currently in his second and last mandate) ensured ex-monarch Mihai by giving back to him his residency-palace in Bucharest, as well as security and an automobile (the next elections are scheduled for 2004, when King Mihai can enter political life in Romania).  According to Serbian journalists, the return of the Serbian Prince Alexander from the dynasty Karadjorjevitch under the form of a constitutional monarchy could help in stabilizing the situation in the country; the current government allowed Alexander to come back with his family in his palace situated in the capital. The chances for the return of the ex-Albanian King Leka seem smaller, after a referendum in 1997 concluded that monarchy should not be restored, and in 1999 the current socialistic government sued him and sent him into exile for causing turmoil.

In an article published in Washington Post in the end of July 2001 the author states that, “the situation in the Balkans badly needs a new type of leadership – a leadership that these ex-monarch are capable of supplying. … the kings, with their western know-how and international relations, indeed look alluring.” The Russian newspaper Vedomosti says, “now it is possible to bring back the monarchies in Eastern Europe, and even in Russia”.  The Russian magazine Vremya concludes, “The King’s triumph in Bulgaria is due to the eleven years of alternating unformed communist with liberal parties.” The American Salt Lake Tribune accents on the emotional moment, stating in its title that this is a contemporary tale with a happy end – Simeon II, the ex child-king, after 55 years of exile was nominated for a prime minister.

In an editorial Guardian broadens the importance of the event, taking it further outside the borders of the post-communist world of Eastern Europe, addressing rhetorical urges that this story has a moral for the other monarchs too: instead of waiting to be kicked out, they had better throw away their scepters and get involved in the political life of their countries.

The switch from monarchical mantle to    the republican position of a prime minister is indeed impressive, but in Bulgaria we saw only the formal, outer side of the issue. Far more important is the other side – the cause that made possible this voluntary and democratically exerted choice of the mass voter. Reasonably Independent makes the clarification that the convincing victory of the party that was built around the personality of Simeon II is not a social support for restoring the monarchy, but rather a mass protest against the existing political parties of a people, tired of living in poverty.

 

2.      Bulgaria in brief

 

Before I go on with my arguments, let me make a few notes on Bulgaria and the Bulgarian society today.

Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic (surf. Area 110 910 sq. km; Pop. 7 977 646 by 14.3.2001). After the Second World War and up to the end of 1989, the country was governed by a one-party communist regime, and under strong Soviet influence in politics, ideology, economy and culture. Todor Zhivkov, one of the longest governing leaders in the former socialist bloc, exercised absolute personal power over the country for 35 years (1954-1989). By his utter loyalty to his Soviet patrons, he succeeded in obtaining considerable economic aid and an outlet for Bulgarian products on the large, easily-pleased Soviet market; as a result, a large part of the Bulgarian population enjoyed a good living standard comparatively to other communist countries. Moreover, by the end of his rule there was a certain degree of liberalization of economic initiative and culture in Bulgaria. One of the basic mistakes of the socialist development model of economic policy was the accelerated, forced industrialization with a prevalence of heavy machine building, construction of giant factories, rapid and excessive urbanization, and a corresponding depopulation of villages, the irreversible depletion of the agricultural potential. Another consequence was that heavy industry collapsed when markets were lost following the break-down of the Soviet Union and COMECON. The ruin of industry led in turn to large-scale unemployment, a problem previously unknown in Bulgaria: the personnel of bankrupt enterprises were discharged and left with no alternatives on the labour market. This mistaken economic policy was the basic cause of the dramatic change in the everyday lives of people and serves as a framework for explaining their political, economic, and cultural attitudes, evaluation, and expectations.

The changes in the country were initiated from above, from members of the political elite who deposed T. Zhivkov from power on November 10, 1989. This event unlocked wide public activity toward political changes, a social fermentation leading in various directions. A multitude of non-communist or anticommunist political parties and organizations was created, the major one of which was the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). After several parliamentary elections and changes of cabinets, the former communists, united in the renamed Bulgarian Socialist Party (BCP), again became the dominant power in the period 1993-1996. By the end of 1996 the Socialist administration ended in complete failure, and after an entire month of mass public demonstrations, the ex-communists relinquished their mandate. Parliamentary elections soon followed, in which the UDF won a solid majority. The government then formed ended of its term of office, and this is the first time that a complete parliamentary mandate of government served out. In these four years the country achieved definite macro-financial stability. The governing party pursued a clear policy oriented to the European Union and NATO, and the country is now in preliminary negotiations for entering these organizations. As it was said, after the last regular parliamentary elections on 17th of June, 2001, a recently formed movement “National Movement – Simeon, the Second” (NMSS) won a half of the all mandates of the Parliament and constructed a new government together with the political party of ethnic Turks in Bulgaria.

Macro-economic frame: After the acute crisis of the financial system, eager to achieve economic stability of the country, the government of UDF introduced a Monetary Board in July 1997 under the control of the International Monetary Fund; accordingly, the Bulgarian currency was made equivalent and tied to the German mark (1 Bulgarian Leva = 1 DEM). The gross domestic product according to market prices for 1998 was 21,6 billion leva, and the proportion of the private sector thereof was 56.7 percent. The employment in private sector has prevailed since 1999 (see Figure 1, All data are from national representative surveys of the Agency for Social Analyses-ASA):

Figure 1

Dynamics of private and state employment (%):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the same year the GDP per capita was $1484. The external debt of Bulgaria by December 2000 was $8,968 billion. Inflation in 2000 was 9.9 percent. Through the year 2000, unemployment varied between 16 and 19 percent of the economically active population (it was 18.5 percent according to data of the National Employment Office, published on Feb. 20, 2001)[1].

 

 

 

3.      Historical background of the Bulgarian monarch

 

Simeon Sax-Coburg-Gotta, or Simeon II for short, was born on June 16th, 1937 in the village Banya, near Plovdiv, Bulgaria.  He is a descendant of a broadly-branched family tree of famous royal people in Western Europe (the present Queen of Great Britain is his cousin, another close relative is the Spanish King Juan Carlos; other royal relatives live in Belgium, The Netherlands, etc.).  His grandfather, Ferdinand Sax-Coburg-Gotta was the founder of the Bulgarian monarchy in the new time. Simeon’s father, Boris III reigned Bulgaria until 1943, when his sudden death immediately followed a visit to Adolph Hitler. The latter insists on Bulgaria’s involvement in World War II on Germany’s side. Boris III refuses to join, which some reckon is the cause for his untimely death. On August 28th, 1943 his son Simeon, still underage, is proclaimed King of Bulgaria – Simeon, the Second.

After the end of the war Bulgaria votes for a republican constitution (highly pressed by Soviet instructors), and Simeon II is forced to leave the country together with his family on September 16th, 1946. At first they settle with relatives in Egypt, where he graduates from Victoria College in 1948. Later he graduates from a French lyceum in Spain, studies law and political science, receives a diploma from the military academy “Valley Force” in Wayne, Pennsylvania, USA in 1959 and takes classes in business administration. During the years 1962 - 2001 he works as a businessman on boards of companies, as a director of the Spanish affiliate of the French consortium Tomson, on the board of the Moroccan holding Omnium, and as an administrator and consultant in a hotel chain. He is married to a descendant of a rich Spanish family and has four sons and a daughter; all children carry Bulgarian names.

His first recent return to Bulgaria was after 50 years of exile, on May 25th, 1996 (then he is issued a Bulgarian passport), but it took him five more years to express his desire to take part in Bulgarian politics. Undoubtedly his first inclination was to nominate himself for a president of Bulgaria, which is a high and prestigious position, but quite representative in nature, without any strong actual power in a real policy-making. However, some governors placed obstacles in front of him: they added a statement in the constitution that the candidate for presidency must have lived the last 5 years prior to the elections in his country.  In spring 2001 Simeon II switched to another strategy, when he established and registered a new movement (National Movement – Simeon, the Second – NMSS), which achieved victory on the parliamentary elections on June 17th, 2001, winning half the mandates.

Although Simeon II probably preferred to secure a position of honor and somehow hide behind the stage curtains, after a while he accepted the nomination for a new premier of Bulgaria.

 

4. Sparkling the interest (A well-considered mysteriousness)

 

It is important to note that the interest towards the king in exile[2] was planned and stimulated particularly during the years of the perestroika (the period after Mikhail Gorbachev assumed power in the Soviet Union that began in 1985) and the first years of changes after the end of 1989. The most popular Bulgarian TV show broadcast in the second half of the 80s Vsyaka Nedelya showed an interview with Simeon II in Madrid, conducted by the lead speaker Kevork Kevorkyan. This interview was shown several times, with additions and it was also published several times in the mass media and widely discussed by politicians and social figures.

Simeon II’s political activity grew particularly noticeable in the first half of the 90s. He welcomed to his home in Madrid several tens of prominent Bulgarian politicians, cultural figures, journalists and even famous sport stars (higher members of the ex-communist nomenclature[3] and the first democratically chosen president Jelio Jelev[4], famous Bulgarian cultural figures, opera singers, folk ensembles, and even the famous Bulgarian soccer player Hristo Stoichkov). All these people have a certain impact on different layers of the public opinion in Bulgaria and activate and support the mass interest in the country towards the king’s personality, which undoubtedly was the purpose of the event.

The beautiful Bulgarian names of his 5 children (his four sons carry the names of Bulgarian kings) - Kiril, Kardam, Konstantin-Asen, Kubrat and Kalina also connect Simeon II to Bulgaria. At the same time they were all kept away from the mass media, and information about the king’s family was always well filtered. His son Prince Kiril was personally invited by the second democratically chosen president of Bulgaria Peter Stoyanov to be one of the expert-consultants in economics as part of his Presidency.  This was a gesture aimed at the admirers of the king in exile, although Prince Kiril’s counsel was not very popular either[5]. Simeon II’s sister – Countess Maria Louisa was included on the prestigious board of directors of AUBG (American University in Bulgaria), along with prominent Bulgarian intellectuals, businessmen, and politicians. These were all signs that showed direct continuity among the current government and the pre-ex-noncommunist past of the country.

The interest was also increased by the well-managed scarcity of information, even with a little well-considered mysteriousness.  This turned out to be a very successful strategy. Against the background of talkative politicians and commentators, Simeon II and his family stood out with a composed, sparing on comments behavior.  Gradually and particularly in the year of the elections (2001) his composed and dignified silence became even more likable. He would frequently respond to journalists with a simple, “I will tell you when the time comes!” “It’s still too early to say!” “Everything has its time,” and “Trust in me!” This was quite distressing for politics, political scientists and journalists, who were impatient for more information and more weak spots. Some of these phrases entered the political lexicon with a mocked connotation. Nevertheless the king slowly and steadily built his image in the mass consciousness – an image of a highly honorable man, with the dignity and charisma of an educated aristocrat, who does not talk much, but keeps his word[6].  That is why the slogan that he ran during his short and quite successful pre-election propaganda seemed so natural, “New Morality” in politics, “Honor in everything!”.

This slogan hit exactly where it was aimed at. It came as a sign of hope to the disgruntled mass Bulgarian voter, who could not take any more of the rude manners of its politicians – both post-communist and new democrats.  It turned out that the emotional factor was quite important in forming and developing the social attitude. In the election night of June 17th, 2001, when the first results of Simeon’s lead came out and the well-known political scientists were still confused, a commentator stated something very precise, “After all the 11-12 years of hard and fruitless transition, Bulgarians needed to be caressed, Simeon did it, and he won!”

 

Drawing a general conclusion, the sociologist Prof. Peter-Emil Mitev notes, “Elections 2001 were a victory of social psychology over ideology, of mass consciousness over organizational structure, of personality over parties… The vote was critical, personalized, rational.”

Undeniably Simeon II applied perfectly calculated psychological tactics in achieving his success.  But at the same time it can be stated almost for certain that even with his most honorable image, which he built so diligently, he would not have had chances for winning the elections before 1999-2000 – then he would probably have ended up in a fiasco. His popularity and eventual necessity still had not been established, there still did not exist the need for a Savior”. Many surveys have supported this notation.  After he initially evaluated his chances after his first visit in 1996, he decided not to get involved, and withdrew patiently to wait his time. For the whole next 5 years.

 

5. Objective causes for the success (How did the King’s day come?)

 

Why did it happen? Why in previous years did the king not have any chance of winning? 

The Bulgarians from the end of the 80s and during the 90s were eager for civil action. This was a natural compensation for previous years of political idleness; they were intoxicated with joy from the fact that they were becoming creators of their own history.  Even today many people remember with a sour smile the free moments of hope and security, the thought that finally something is changing for the better, that everything depends on the initiative and enterprise of people themselves. The last proof of this was the mass demonstrations and marches in January 1997 and before the last elections the same year.  It was a time of enthusiastic anticipation, of the next big, spontaneous and massively expressed hope.

Two and a half years later, however – particularly since the fall of 1999 – the sociological surveys started indicating a swift drop in the social trust of the governing party  – UDF[7]. People felt that things were not going as they were supposed to: in spite of the officially presented situation of financial stability, the living standard of people was not improving at all, on the contrary – it was getting worse; the corrupted people in government remained unquestioned and unaffected, and small and middle business were being smothered, etc. The elections for local organs of power in October 1999 confirmed these social evaluations – in many of the municipalities where UDF had governed, it was taken down, because people throughout the country saw (through of the mass media, personal impressions, etc.) that the work of their governors was not worthy –they did not care about solving people’s problems, they obstructed the development of small business (or they only supported the businesses of those close and loyal to them), bureaucracy and corruption had penetrated the system – judging by actual criteria like their luxurious houses and villas, cars, privileged relatives, etc. Even if there was no legal conclusion from a law organ, people noted these deviations with their own devices, throughout their own everyday life.

After the local elections there were no decisive actions on the board of UDF to remove and punish highly-positioned corrupted officials – both in the capital and around the country, which further lowered the level of trust in this party during the first half of 2000.  Independent sociological surveys clearly noted this drop.  For example, monthly national representative surveys of MBMD shows that the last peak of trust in the ex-premier and leader of UDF Ivan Kostov was in January 2000, when he gathered 46.3% approval rating (and 40.3 – unapproved), a continuous drop follows, bringing him down to 20.7% approval in June 2001 (and 72.7 – unapproved) - this is about the same percentage that UDF won in the elections, which means that approval and trust are expressed only by the firm supporters. Agencies Alpha Research and BBSS-Gallup also point out a collapse of social trust in government namely for that period.

Wide spread corruption among all basic governmental and bureaucratic positions, as well as a halt in the development of market economy (including private business) had a great impact on people - on their material status and way of life.  The explanation for the abrupt drop of trust in government is mainly connected to people’s lowered standard of living, and the lowered material and economical condition of their families.

This is what numerous respondents state in national representative surveys, and these are not just subjective opinions.  There is plenty of statistical data[8] that support the validity of these evaluations.  Today with the minimal monthly salary of 100DM and the average monthly salary of 250 (in fact the salary of 150DM predominates), it is exceptionally difficult for many Bulgarian households to make the ends meet: a monthly bill for central heating is about 100-130DM, monthly electricity bill – 30-40DM, water supply – 5-7DM, telephone services – minimum of 10DM, etc. The rest is basically spent on food. So how should a family with children in school, or worse – an unemployed adult[9] - cope? What about clothing, cultural necessities? Many surveys show that the relative percentage of people living below the social minimum is at least 70 %. People indeed are concerned about their physical survival. Many western researchers have shown their wonder  - how can Bulgarians survive in these conditions? How could one expect solid support for economical and social politics for the corresponding governors? Where is the limit of tolerance, of mass protest?

There are five ways, fivelife-belts” in my opinion that are most often used by Bulgarians in these difficult times: a) utter economy of expenses – reduced to a minimum the expenditures of the household; b) extra salaries from additional work; c) the “jar economy[10] – using home-made jars and tins with food – vegetables, fruit, meat – that was either bought at very low prices or supplied by relatives who live in the countryside; d) starting a small business – for some people; and e) income from an activity in the “informal economy” – unaccounted for, unregistered job or unofficial lending of property.

But here is an important point: the government reached its “critical point” during 2000-2001 not only because of mass poverty, but also because misfortune was not shared proportionally by the empowered. On the contrary, people both in the capital and in villages faced the constant arrogance of rich Bulgarians – but rich because of their proximity or involvement in power. Many cases became public, when corrupt governors secretly took part in privatization of entire banks and hotel chains along the seaside, owned luxurious villas, houses, and cars, and also included close relatives  (wives, sons, daughters, brothers, etc.) in director boards of large companies[11]. Corruption and clientelism, in all their forms and shapes, opposed by total wretchedness, caused a readiness to change the actual government, even the system of government.  People became more and more convinced that this government is doomed and cannot serve them.  Four more years like this would have led to irreversible consequences.

Figure 2 shows the development of mass consciousness – the percentage of people for which things got better or worse during the period of 1994-2000[12].

 

 

Evaluation of the material and economical condition of the household:

Figure 2


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus, in the period around the middle of 2000 there was a turnover in mass consciousness of the subjective pyramid of social standing and inequality. Usually transformations in mass consciousness and attitude lead to serious changes in the practical behavior.  This was the case at the next parliamentary elections.  In brief: in 2000 people started realistically evaluating their present day as more difficult that the past, where their living conditions were much better. To the ordinary man today seemed less just even more so than during socialistic period. 

 

The people’s differing appraisal of their economic situation in this period of time can be illustrated by using the so-called “pictorial approach to class” of the Australian sociologist Jonathan Kelley[13]. The figures – formed by the answers -  concerning valuations of the past seem strangely Utopian. The time around the early 80s is imagined by most respondents as a “golden age of material well-being, and most positions are between the middle and to the top (Kelley  Figure E - Figure 3):

Figure 3                                                       

                                 In the beginning of 80s

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the time immediately before the 1990s is remembered in a rosy light: most people place themselves in the middle for that period (Kelley Figure D, which reflects an ideal egalitarian image of a middle class society - Figure 4):

Figure 4

                                        In the beginning of 90s


 

 

 

 


 

Obviously the subjective embellishment of these two past periods in memory is due both to their distance in time and to comparisons with the present day, when the structure is inevitably considered to be pyramidal in shape, with few at the top and a growing number of people to the bottom (Kelley Figure B - Figure 5).

Figure 5 - In September 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

This transformation, this in fact negative evaluation of the present day – even compared to recent periods – gradually grew popular and became the opinion not of a small separate category, but in some’s opinion in large parts of all social groups in Bulgarian society.  The question already was not whether unemployed (due to their unemployment) or pensioners (due to their low pensions) were against the government, but rather whether large parts of  every social group would stand up against the government[14] (see Table 1).

Table 1

“The UDF is a very important and important reason of poverty

in the country” (June 2000)

 

Social Group

“Very important” and “Important” reason

(relative quota of each group - %)

Skilled workers and technicians

84

Routine employees

77.6

Pensioners

75.4

Unemployed

75.3

Students

74.5

Intelligentsia (professionals)

73.4

Low-skilled and non-skilled  workers

71.9

Private businesspersons

69.1

 

As you can see from the quoted data, there is a definite negative attitude towards the governing of UDF from each separate group even since June 2000.  If traditionally a large part of pensioners, unemployed, and unqualified workers were turned against the government of UDF, then in this case it is obvious that the attitudes of people who are usually among the warmest supporters of UDF – the intellectuals, private businessmen/business ladies, students, qualified workers and technicians – are analogous.  The trust in the status quo dropped quite low.

The data from other sociological surveys are analogous. In the beginning of June 2001 (right before the elections), according to a survey by BBSS Gallup, the people who have made up their mind for the elections are those who have significant difficulties in their household. If we combine the lowest, unfavorable statement of the surveyed (“we don’t have money for food” and “we have money for food, but not enough for clothes”), it turns out that in such a condition are most of the voters of the big political subjects. 78.2% of BSP supporters, 60.2% of UDF, 86.1% of MRF voters, 74% for other parties, 71% of those who will not vote and 77% of the NMSS’s adherents. The shared intentions for electoral participation coincide with the actual activity on the elections. It can be seen that both in the respective percentage of the social groups, and in the party supporters, the base of mass dissatisfaction was quite wide before the elections. And for the people the fact that the pre-previous socialist government of Zhan Videnov (1995-1996) was also very corrupted with a wide spread  clientelism was not a justification for Ivan Kostov’s government of UDF. 

 

The same tendency was evident in another surveys from the same period. According to the data of the already quoted “Political Culture in Central and Eastern Europe” that was conducted during the second half of September 2000, a mere 5.2% declare “large amount of trust in government”, another 29.3% - “some level of trust”. On the other hand, mistrust totals 62%. Even more catastrophic is the lowered level of trust towards politicians and political parties – they receive between 73 and 84% mistrust from the surveyed.  The larger part - about the half and more – of the respondents think that politicians do not care at all what ordinary people think, that they do not strive to keep their pre-electoral promises, that most are corrupt,  that parties look at the country as at a private property, etc.

The concrete analysis from the same survey shows that the appraisal of the way the government worked in the former socialist political and economic system is definitely nostalgic, and “fond memories” of past times are prevalent on this point; when comparing the present system of government with the past system, positive appraisals of the past predominate.

In the two histograms in Figure 6 and 7, we clearly see the distribution across the continuum  -100 +100: there is a clustering of appraisals regarding the former, socialist economic system mostly in the positive area of the scale (Mean= +44.9) and an accumulation of opinions about the present economic system mostly in the “mirror- opposite” - the negative part of the scale (Mean= -40.3).

Figure 6:


Estimations how the socialist economy works

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 7:

 

 

Estimations how the current economy works

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most important, there is a direct correspondence, a strong correlation between appraisals of the state of the economy and of the political system, and this connection contains its own explanation. Besides the logical hypothesis that such a connection is inevitable: the two questions have identical scales of response options and the statistical significance of the correlation is quite high, as obvious from the tables of values of the correlation coefficients of Spearman's rho (0.771) and Kendall's tau-b (0.684) (Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level) for the connection between valuation of pre-1989 socialist economy and socialist politics. The values of the particularly significant correlation between appraisals of the present-day economy and present-day politics are similar. In brief, the opinions of respondents about the political system and the work of the government (today and before) is an analog or a consequence, a result of their opinion of the respective economic system, of the states of the economy before and that of today.

As the time of past social security - guaranteed employment, state-paid services, health care, education - grows more distant, the former social order acquires a retrospective, secondary legitimacy for a large part of the population, appearing a “looking-back person”, which compares it with the material hardships of the present-day situation[15].

Thinking over these data, we can only conclude that the loss of the governing party in the June 2001 elections in Bulgaria was a “long predicted loss” (to rephrase a famous title by Gabriel Garcia Marquez).

 

The elections in June 2001 were different and remarkable because they calmly, legally and directly introduced and expressed the will of the voters, as well as their disapproving attitude towards governors.  The ex- communist government was also overthrown from below, but this happened after a mass dissatisfaction that gave way to gatherings and demonstrations. After long days of marching (December 1996 - January 1997), followed by a temporary cabinet was appointed and new elections were scheduled.  At the June 2001 elections, the situation was qualitatively different – the governors were overthrown again very decisively, but without any sharp collisions, just by the electoral vote.  As the sociologist Miroslava Yanova (director of agency MBMD) said, “In these elections people understood that when they are not satisfied with politicians, they can just replace them”.  With their vote the people actually punished the politicians for their weak job, but they did it quietly and calmly.  It is yet another question whether the new distribution of positions will last long, whether new elections will come soon again.  The positive lesson is in the establishment of elections as a normal democratic practice for replacing government.

After the disappointment of the “new-formed communists” followed by the “new liberals-democrats”, the disgruntled voter faced the crisis and the senseless of the next elections.  The solid cores would vote for their parties, but the rest were hesitating whether to give their vote just for the “less worse” because of the lack of an alternative, or not to vote at all. From the fall of 2000 (9-10 months before the elections) the demoscopic surveys proved well that half of the potential voter would not vote. Thus, the way for a new alternative hope was pavedIt was then when Simeon’s time came.

 

6. In expectation of The Savior or Godot (Unnerving the opponents)?

 

Simeon II indicated his definite intention of taking part in Bulgarian politics on several occasions.  The first was to state that he had bought a one-way ticket to Bulgaria. The second sign was his official introductory statement, made on April 6th, 2001. Simeon II literally seemed like “the only hope” for getting Bulgaria out of the crisis and for improving people’s material condition. He personified these hopes and many people started counting on him to do things that realistically no one could accomplish[16].

Vladimir Kvint, Professor of Governing Systems and International Business in The University of Fordham and advisor in economics of Simeon II, offers a view from the “inside”.  He shared in front of a correspondent of The Washington Times that the previous government only spoke of macroeconomics, but gave nothing to the ordinary Bulgarians, many of whom live in misery.  In such a condition people often pray for miracles and choose untraditional leaders. The widespread corruption made many Bulgarians turn their backs on the previous reform-minded government.

At this moment many people indeed viewed Simeon II as a Messiah, a Savior who would take them away from the Kingdom of suffering and misery and lead them to the Kingdom of wellbeing and justice. On the other hand, many of his statements also helped to form his image of a Savior. In the Russian magazine Itogi on July 11th, 2001 he clarified that his aim is to decrease political segregation in the country and motivate people to vote on elections. He adds, “I had to tell them: This is me and I am coming for you.” In addition to that, one of the main points of his pre-election campaign was that the first significant positive results of his government will be felt in just 800 days[17]. People saw this as an acceptable deadline.  A similar pre-electoral trick expressed in figures was the 5000DM no-interest credits that would be offered to anyone who wants to start a new business.  It seemed like many people accepted this, despite the numerous attempts of experts to explain that this would lead to depletion of the country treasury, to inflation, etc.  Furthermore, even for a small country like Bulgaria 5000DM is not sufficient to start a serious small business. There were other direct promises – that the budget salaries and pensions would increase, which also served the purpose of attracting the trusting, “praying for a miracle” voter. Who was the Bulgarian voter expecting – The Savior or Godot[18]?

People had their grounds for their unrealistic expectations. Some emphasized Simeon’s rich and aristocratic origin and family relations with many Western and Eastern monarchs, who would surely stand behind him and would “flood” Bulgaria with advisors and investments. Others underscored the importance of the fact that the country had finally ended its relations with its communist past and was coming back to its initial position from the end World War II, and now is the time to start all over.  Still others pointed out that the king wasn’t affected by the latest political games, nor connected to any of the politicians, but stood way above them, was not corrupted as the others, and was way richer to be tempted by money or power. As Tina Rozenberg from The New York Times noted, “The monarch’s mysticism tempts people to attribute unusual qualities to kings. This is particularly true in ex-communist countries.” As a whole, in the short period since Simeon II’s comeback until the elections, his image was significantly idealized and exaggerated, which also helped him on his way to success.

The political reaction against his participation in the political pre-electoral battle was very insignificant. The short time between his return and the elections (just about two and a half months) was quite insufficient for organizing a campaign against him.  Even some artificially created formal obstacles (for the legal registration for his participation in the elections) showed a lack of coordination between the rest of the political players. Most probably the headquarters of his closest advisors noted all this.  The short time did not allow reorganization of the pre-electoral teams of basic political parties against this unexpected and at the same time very serious rival.

The major opponent – UDF, as a governing party (having high self-confidence and desire to keep the power), did not manage to build a strong propaganda against the newly arrived opponent.  The main argument that they presented against the king and his movement was that it does not have a coherent program for change and for concrete governmental actions.  But this, as well as the warning that the aim was reestablishing the monarchy[19], did not affect the mass consciousness.

UDF’s critical remarks were confronted by the people of Simeon II in several ways:

¨     First, the movement of the king declared in its program the same priorities that were set in the program of UDF – pro-western and pro-NATO orientation, market economy, etc. It was clear that a significant part of people approved of the general way of the country’s direction, but they wanted to avoid corruption and improve the unsatisfactory living conditions.  The movement actually openly declared a continuity and proximity to the program aims of UDF.[20]

¨     Second, they insisted at the same time on correction and improvement of the recidivates and faults in the previous work of UDF – the malfunctioning of the market economy, the nontransparent privatization, corruption and lowering of the living standard.

¨     Third, the king’s movement included members that were previous lead figures from the UDF (Stoyan Ganev – ex-MP and ex-foreign minister of UDF, now head of the cabinet of Simeon II; Solomon Pasi – ex-MP from UDF, now foreign minister; Emil Koshlukov – ex member of the board of UDF and ex-student leader, and others). In this sense the battle was not between two distinctively separated camps.

¨     Forth, Simeon II consciously avoided direct confrontation with any political party, including UDF, because he not only wanted to have a positive campaign, but definitely wanted to play the role of a “Unitor.”

 

All of this simplified and significantly eased the diffusion of fans of UDF in support of NMSS. In the actual board of UDF, even before and after the elections, there were some leaders that were disposed to collaborate with NMSS (e.g. the powerful mayor of the capital Stefan Sofiyanski).  In this train of thought there were many reasons to state that this is unseating of UDF by its own people, something like an internal coup d’ etat[21].  Of course, in realizing the king’s role it is important to note, is that all of these people in his movement wouldn’t have had any chances of winning the elections if they weren’t all under  Simeon II’s wing [22].

The other significant opponent of Simeon II and of his movement, the second major political power – BSP, the reformed ex-communist party after the changes from the end of the 80’s – actually did not undertake separation and confrontation, but rather flirted with the new political opponent, aiming their attacks mainly at UDF. The next large political player – The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), the party of ethnic Turks in Bulgaria, turned out to be even friendlier towards NMSS.  With the actual establishment of the king movement MRF demonstrated proximity and a clear readiness to cooperate. This way the scene was cleared of any major opponents for the king to take over.

It was greatly in Simeon II’s favor that he bet on the paternalistic and egalitarianistic expectations and moods among the Bulgarian population.  This syndrome is clearly visible in many sociological empirical surveys during the 90’s (and it is particularly characteristic of many of the post-communist countries in Eastern Europe, according to data from comparative surveys of ISSP). Paternalistic moods thrive mostly among the left-oriented supporters, including some affiliates of BSP.  There is one comparatively light and non-conflicting transformation of the collectivist towards paternalistic attitude.  The expectation that someone from above should take care and responsibility is widely spread, especially among the poorer strata[23].  Whether it would be the State or the Savior, the Father (A King on a white horse) was not essential.  In both cases someone is obliged to provide employment to all, acceptable salaries and so on.  Thus, the broad layers with paternalistic expectations – in the Bulgarian concrete situation – would easily give their vote for the charismatic, and authoritative king.  Socially and psychologically, the transition from paternalism towards pro-monarchism is quite easy.

Following this pro-paternalistic propaganda, Simeon II’s campaign was positive, it wasn’t anti, but invited for collaboration all political parties, no matter if they had previously acted as opponents.  The King of course preferred the peacemaking, uniting role of a Father. Furthermore, this corresponded also with the mass attitude towards political opposition.

The election results confirmed that this strategy was effective – the King’s movement received support both from adherents of UDF, and from MRF, and even from BSP. It wasn’t difficult for people with different political orientations to find  something attractive in NMSS:

 

v     For the UDF supporters Simeon II stands on the same or close-to-the-same political pillars as their “blue party” in terms of the country’s development and its foreign-policy orientation, he had suffered from the communist regime (as an exile) and he would not be expected to have sympathy for the main political opponent – the ex-communists. He actually spent his life in the West and it is natural that his sympathies would be pro-western.  To the NMSS votes were also added those who were planning to restrain from taking part in the elections, and of those who were generally supporters of UDF, but were disappointed by them and would not vote for BSP.

v     At the same time BSP “red” supporters liked the fact that he was not a cheater or a corrupted person, he is more balanced and moderate in his political preferences, he was not a Russophobe, as many UDF people claimed they were, he envisions collaboration with Arabic countries, which could prove useful, and standing up to corruption and other recidivates of the previous government, he was expected to act anti-UDF, etc.  Simeon himself gave away signals during the campaign that there could be some collaboration with socialists[24].  NMSS also gathered the votes of BSP supporters that had lost trust in their people, but would not vote for UDF.

v     On the other hand MRF people accepted the king as a traditionally honored figure, and he also gave a sign that he would let their representatives take over major political posts, in order to solve agricultural problems and unemployment in mixed ethical regions[25].

v     Contributing to the success of the king was the votes of many people who were disappointed by all previous governments and politicians during the 90’s. Possibly also attracted to NDS were voters that were simply intrigued by the new political game seen during the last few months.  Also here are the less significant  voters over 75 years old of the “good old times” before World War II, including some members of pro-monarchial organizations.

 

Thus the NMSS electorate ended up with significantly colorful political contents, but still the strongest wave was the one coming away from UDF and BSP.  This was undeniably proven by both pre-electoral and post-electoral probing.  Results show that the part of non-voters was kept about the same, but the previous quotas of the “blue” and “red” electorate significantly decreased[26].

So the electoral base for NMSS was wide enough for a definite victory. As one of indicators for the growing impact towards the king movement are the data from MBMD: if the trust towards Simeon II was 44.1% in December 2000, in April 2001 it was 63%, reaching 73.6% in the days of the elections.

 

7. Are Bulgarians disposed to restore the monarchy?

 

Does Simeon II want to reestablish the monarchy? Stated in another way this question would sound more rhetorical and even aimless: “Does the king want his kingdom back?”  This is a question that excites many observers and commentators. Despite the King’s typical way of evading this question giving only conditional explanations, we can still find some revealing public statements. In front of the Russian magazine Itogi from June 11th, 2001 he gives a rather ambivalent clarification. “My only aim is to help get back the normal reign in the country.  The fact that I am not a reigning monarch lets me use this transformed situation in accordance with my consciousness and beliefs.  We have a wonderful democratic republic and this game ought to be played. I’ll have to wait until my ideas are accepted… The restoration of the monarchy indeed can make our lives more legal, more democratic and more constitutional.” Undoubtedly these words show some desire to restore the monarchy[27] .

Of at least equal importance is the answer to the question: to what extent are Bulgarian voters prone to restore the monarchy? Because the last decision for this will be made by the main sovereign – Its Excellency the People – who can only speak through a referendum. If the situation comes to a referendum at all.

The data shows that the attitude towards the monarchial institute still does not prove any such orientation.  According to the conducted surveys the monarchy is not among the desired state of political system. The data from the cited research “Political Culture in Central and Eastern Europe” from September 2000 show the monarchy is definitely among the variants for a form of government with low prestige in society.

It is interesting to note that the calculation underlying the responses is mostly negative, i.e. respondents are more inclined to say what type of government they do not accept. They find completely unacceptable (%):

Table 2

What type of government is completely unacceptable?

 

Military government                                       56,7

Government as the contemporary one  53,9

Restoration of the communist rule                    44,8

Monarchy                                                       40,1

Dictatorship                                                    37,4

One party system                                           30,0

Powerful leader without parliament                  29,7

 


For a more detailed picture it is good to keep in mind also the complete answer to the original question: “Isn’t it better to go back to monarchy?” It involves the following distribution (Figure 8):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see from the comparison between the pieces of the pie, at least a few months before the appearance of the kings’ movement and the elections there are no serious monarchial orientations. Indeed there is a possibility for support of monarchy – the 22% “Don’t know”.  A more detailed analysis shows that there is a small potential for monarchists in some UDF fans – near ¼ of them admit as a more or less good possibility the restoration of the monarchy; there are similar promonarchists among the socialists – about 10%. More inclined to accept monarchy are workers and employees with average and low qualifications – in September 2000. But every pro-monarchial turn of the social opinion will definitely depend on how well Simeon II and his political party do in fulfilling their three points mentioned above: raising the living standard, decreasing corruption and securing a functional market economy.

In support of this statement is the categorical response of the mass consciousness to the question, “Why do you think UDF lost in the parliamentary elections?”, most answers are as follows (%)[28]:

Table 3

Why do you think UDF lost in the parliamentary elections?

 

They cheated on people

32.1

They did not fight corruption

14.8

We were disappointed by UDF

14.1

Because of the low living standard and poverty

13.8

Because of unemployment

12.3

Because of the weak econimical and social politics

6.6

Because of NMSS’s arrival

1.9

People believed that Simeon II can fix things

1.4

Others 

Less 1.3 each

No answer

17.0

 

These data illustrate the loss of trust in the ruling party and the favorable conditions for Simeon II’s victory. 

It clearly shows that, aside from being unsatisfied with the politics of UDF, the rampant corruption, low living standard, poverty and unemployment – the loss of the governing party cannot only be explained with the arrival of Simeon II, nor by his charisma.  For the mass voter UDF lost not because of the “Bulgarian phenomenon” – the movement of the ex-monarch, but because of the actual weak places in the government, and in exerting power, on which we commented earlier.  In other words, NMSS’s success was not due to its nature as a miraculous new attractive pro-monarchial organization (besides all, it was quite heterogeneous because of its quick start), but on account UDF’s failure in terms of economics, living standards, corruption, etc.  UDF was punished by the voters for its strong tendency towards monopolism, for the increasing dominance of pro-party interests in the economical and even cultural life[29]. The victory of NMSS is just in its being an alternative to the previous fruitless government.

That is why there is nothing strange, unusual or exotic about the victory of Simeon II’s movement: this was simply a choice made due to the lack of a better choice.  In their majority the Bulgarian voters did not show irrationality, but rather they made a very reasonable, logical, rational and pragmatic choice given the circumstances and possibilities.

There is a slight edge here, which is not often sensed by outside viewers and causes some misconceptions. Of course, Simeon’s spotless, charismatic personality contributed a lot to an electoral alternative. Without his participation in the elections, they would have had no sense at all. But the fact that the voters preferred him doesn’t mean that they were disposed to adopting the monarchy model. In this case the Bulgarian voter sees in Simeon II not the monarch, ex-king, etc, but the highly respected, dignified person, who keeps his word and does not fall to the temptations that power yields (like corruption), better than many of the present politicians, as they are in the mass consciousness.  In short, his success is due in large part to the scarcity of leaders with a great and positive impact.  Not monarchy, but improving living standard and decreasing corruption, is at the core of the problems that Bulgarians have today.

At the same time, strange as it may seem on the surface, many Bulgarians would happily change the political system, they would choose monarchy. The political system loses its “sacredness” when it is acting against the material interests of large groups of people, of the people of the whole country. Exactly due to the same simple, but also existential reason: it is enough that the people are convinced that they will live better in another settlement of the political life – they would accept such a change[30].  The mass inclination in Bulgaria, being one of the poor post-communist countries, at the moment indeed is ambivalent, maybe even more complex: for ordinary people the dilemma of republic vs. monarchy today is way too abstract and formal.

Thus, the Bulgarian case probably serves as an important lesson for the multiple opportunities and risks in the difficult process of a post-communist transformation. In the quite long period of challenges, material hardships and sacrifices, loosing trust in different politicians, parties and their governments, in their desperation – the mass voter was ready to choose the miracle, even if it involved changing the main form of political and state establishment, to neglect even traditional democratic value – whatever the political representation of the different social groups in different parties, unions, coalitions, the presentation and standing in political life of the country of different social interests.

Translated in the language of practical concrete politics, this means: if Simeon II has intentions of restoring the monarchy, for which he is often suspected, their realization will have to survive a referendum, of the unambiguous indications for a better life.  No more promises, just accomplishments, i.e. the Bulgarian public will want the promises to be fulfilled. If his present government succeeds, even not surpassing the proclaimed 800 days, but for the whole mandate – to lift the living level of people, decrease corruption, give a wider way for private business, with an inflow of fresh investments, etc., then his way to restoring monarchy will be paved.  I.e. today in the original Bulgarian case we are witnessing the next turnaround of subordination in history – not living conditions are the result and depend on the monarchy, on the contrary – monarchy is a possible wanted consequence if a better life is secured.

 

8. The new parliament and the new Council of Ministers:

facts and achievements

 

The power of “mass psychology”, the power to convince the public can be demonstrate in data gathered from a from a telephone survey that was sponsored by Standard Newspaper (24-25 August 2001). Close to 31% of the surveyed think that “economic stabilization is already present in the country.”  As this survey was conducted only days after the new cabinet started working (the first statement of Simeon II as a prime-minister was on 19 August 2001) and no real policies had taken effect.   This opinion was particularly surprising because of the restricted validity and trustworthiness of the conducted interviews.

 

But let’s see how the actual results from the elections:

Table 4

Results of the parliamentary elections of 17 June 2001:

 

Coalitions of Parties

Number of MPs in the new parliament

Relative

%

Actual number of votes

NMSS

120

42.73[31]

1 951 859

UDF+

51

18.18

830 059

BSP+

48

17.15

783 107

ÄÏÑ+

21

7.45

340 510

* (+) – in a coalition with other parties.

 

The electoral loss of the two major political forces – UDF and BSP – in these elections is amazing. The drop in electoral support can be clearly noted in the year distribution:

 

Table 5

                        Dynamics of the votes in support of BSP and UDF

 

 

BSP

UDF

1990

2 886 363

2 216 127

1994

2 262 943

1 260 374

1997

939 308

2 237 714

2001

783 107

830 059

 

The first commentaries on the results were strikingly contradictory.  The most interesting were those of the people who hadn’t expected such a definite victory by NMSS. Some explained it as the result of Simeon’s II charisma.  Others nearly compared it to a natural calamity (Vasil Garnizov).  A third group searched for a deeper reason  – some dark conspiracy forces, secret geopolitical plans (Antonii Gulubov). Still others who were disappointed by the voter’s naivete dismissed the vote as completely irrational (Ognyan Minchev) and even concluded that the civil society has degenerated and has turned again into “national masses” (Evgenii Dainov).  These were the surprised reactions of professional commentators, most of who were aware that sociological agencies had predicted such election results[32].

According to the more detailed analysis of the data of various sociological agencies, the majority of people that supported NMSS were predominantly middle-aged people with a high school education and live in small villages.  However, this is only valid for the majority of NMSS voters who account for the largest part of the electoral success of the king’s movement. It should be pointed out that this movement received the support of many different social strata, including those that comprise a smaller fraction of society.  One-half of the people who voted for NMSS were from the capital, big and small towns.   41-49% of all voters had a higher education, 2-years of university study and high school diploma. Among the supporters there are a great number of people with varied levels of income, and practically representatives from all social groups – leaders, intellectuals, pensioners, unemployed, etc.  More that half of the Roma and a good percentage of Bulgarian Turks have also voted for the king and his movement. Obviously NMSS’s electorate was not only politically diverse, but also socially and ethnically.

The reduced electorate of the two major political forces BSP and UDF, fell in the expected parameters. True supporters remained the firm believers (those who had always voted for their party). Socialists got older voters, especially over 56 years, whereas the “blue” electorate included relatively equal numbers of people from different ages, including youngest (26% of the voters are between 18 and 26 years of age, another 29% - 26 to 35).  The “red” again were supported by people with a lower educational and employment status and harder material condition (31% of their voters are with secondary and lower education, 29% are pensioners, 34% are in a difficult material condition).  The “blue” attracted twice as many Romas as the “red”.

The party of the ethnic Turks (MRF) that appeared on the elections as a coalition (with the small formations of the Liberal Union, which contained the ex-president Dr Jelio Jelev and Euro-Rom) won a significant number of votes, owing to the traditional electoral discipline of the Bulgarian Turks, as well as to the massive participation of Turks who ran away to Turkey, who had citizenships in Bulgaria and Turkey and the right to vote in Bulgaria.

This brief analysis of the social composition of the three major political powers besides NMSS shows that in the near future, especially in case of unsuccessful moves on behalf of the king movement and after eventual renewing processes in the blue party, UDF once again will have the greatest chances (according its social-group basis) in the party competition for electoral trust.

* * *

As the procedure is outlined in the constitution, President Peter Stoyanov handed the mandate for composing government to the political party that had received the greatest number of votes in the election – NMSS. They nominated Simeon Saks-Koburg-Gotta for prime-minister.  The ceremony was impressive: the ex-monarch, now a premier, swore in the republican constitution, placing his hand on the Bible in the presence of patriarch Maxim (head of the Orthodox Christian church in Bulgaria). The newly elected cabinet, headed by the king-premier, came out as very colorful and interesting.   Simeon II was able to accomplish some of his intentions in an original way.  It couldn’t be denied that he formed his cabinet very skillfully, as if he looked at every detail and fixed all links between the major political players in the country. Simeon II and his loyal collaborators carefully considered the political situation and diplomatically suggested collaboration for creating the cabinet to their strongest opponent – UDF.  Despite the fact that the “blue” rejected this idea after several conversations, the government managed to put together a Council of Ministers:

 

q       Despite UDF’s refusal to participate, the King still achieved his idea of a relatively widely represented coalition cabinet.  Even though it is mostly dominated by NMSS officials, it contains two ministers from the socialist party and two from the party of the ethnic Turks. Officially the cabinet is a coalition of two political parties – the NMSS and MRF. The newly elected minister of agriculture and forests is a representative of the Turkish minority. His work is directly related to the employment of the ethnically mixed population of south-central and north-eastern Bulgaria.  The other is a minister without portfolio.  Both are ex-mayors in their respective regions and in this sense they know the problematic spots very well.  The socialists were included very subtly, so that any criticism for collaboration with their party would be minimized[33].  The coalition with them was not in an organizational-party plan – despite the unofficial meetings of the king with the socialist leader Georgi Purvanov, BSP’s participation is more vague, inviting not the party BSP, but personally two mayors, who were famous with their regional support. They are highly competent and experienced specialists in local self-governing and haven’t even been active members of BSP.  One of them, Kostadin Paskalev, is running a second mandate in the large municipality Blagoevgrad and at the same time is the director of the National Union of Municipalities in Bulgaria.  His position in the cabinet now is a continuation of his work – minister of the regional development.  The other, Dimiter Kalchev, is in his second term in the large municipal center Ruse and undoubtedly has plenty of administrative experience. He was appointed minister of Public Administration.  Through them, and also through the two other ex-mayors, now ministers of the Turkish party, Simeon II will have a stronger impact among the local structures, where his new movement does not have direct influence.  In the event that the union with MRF fails, the king-premier has other allies.  This way NMSS could always count on a few votes from BSP in the parliament (although for majority they need only one vote).

 

q       The key places in the cabinet were received mostly by young, highly educated and ambitious professionals, who previously held high-ranking and well-paid posts in prestigious Western financial companies. They in fact were the desired image of NMSS was aiming at in the pre-election campaign.  One of them, Nikolai Vassilev (31 years old) took the high position of vice-premier and Minister of Economics. Another, Milen Velchev (35 years old) became the Finance Minister. Professionalism is also a characteristic of the others. Three ministers are jurists – one of Internal Affairs (a civil military official, presently a professor on financial law in Sofia University), the another of Defense and of Law. There are three engineers, two mathematicians, a doctor, a philologist and a musician. Young and highly educated people took the vice-minister posts as well.

 

q       An important principle in forming the Cabinet (in contrast with previous cabinets) is the expert, not political principle: a relative dependence or rather - individual dependence of each of the minister on the king-premier.  This way it would not be possible to form internal groups and other centers of power that would destabilize the government from the inside.   Each minister is not an individual political institution, everybody is quite temporarily in politics, there is no guarantee that they will be ministers for the whole mandate – they could easily be replaced if needed.  This will be decided by the Political Council, who is composed of the premier and vice-premieres, the leader of MRF (as a coalition partner), and the head of the parliamentary group of NMSS (an official loyal to Simeon II). So in the end it seems that the king-premier will be the one to decide which of the signal buttons is not functioning well and will have to be replaced. Someone even suggested that this variant of government is of the type “kamikadze” - Simeon II has let now the B team play on the field, and keeps the stronger players in case a more complex situation comes up. Undoubtedly now the king not only keeps the ministers in strong personal subordination on the basis of actual work done and personal responsibility by everyone, but he also ensures himself against eventual failure – softly, without any concussions he could replace one minister or another[34] without facing the well-know party collisions.

 

Along with this, however, the application of the expert principle in government for a longer period hides a series of risks.  The overly high personalization of ministry posts – with the frequent replacement of one expert with another – blurs the political responsibility for taking decisions, and with this it takes the responsibility away from NMSS and Simeon II.  Of course, this is very convenient for the king-premier.

 

What were the main accents in the coalition agreement of the new cabinet?

Ø      Internal safety and social order;

Ø      End to corruption, including reorganization of the custom services;

Ø      Dynamic and stable economic growth;

Ø      Currency board until the admission to the European Community;

Ø      Rapid pace and transparency in privatization;

Ø      Reduction of the expenses for public administration;

Ø      Radical tax reform, including decrease of the income tax;

Ø      Decrease of unemployment by liberalization of the labor market;

Ø      Investment in underdeveloped regions;

Ø      Increase of microcreditation;

Ø      Stimulation of national production and encouragement of export;

Ø      Accelerated process of joining NATO and the European Union.

Most of these points are well known because they were part of UDF’s politics[35].  In that respect they are nothing but new to people. The problem is in their actual and direct realization in life.

 

The new government received varied evaluations from political scientists and sociologists.  Everyone emphasized as a positive thing that the cabinet is composed of new people - young, highly educated professionals, motivated to share their abilities and efforts in favor of the country.  At the same time it was commented that many of them have almost no experience in government.  Some pointed out the principle of “signal buttons” and that evrything is controlled from above (commentary of Michail Mirchev) and that it is a unique mix of different political orientations. Ognyan Minchev stated that this is a “left-centered and socio-liberal” Cabinet, because of its affiliation with the socialists and MRF. Others evaluated this as a positive quality, in the sense that the lack of a monoelite party structure is an advantage: it is a means against the infamous partisanship (Miroslava Yanova) and a positive beginning to changing the political elite (Jurii Aslanov). Some noted the definite “guild” based tendency – the Cabinet included many jurists-professors, mayors, economists, people who have worked and studied abroad and so on (Ivan Krustev).  Still others thought that it is necessary to have the political space redefined– both for the parliament and for the executive power – what is “right” and “left”, etc. and the pertinence of terms like “communism” and “anti-communism” (Antonii Gulubov).

The foreign press also commented extensively on the new cabinet. On this occasion and in connection with the electoral choice, Walter Schwimmer, General Secretary of the European Council, said in a special declaration that “There is a clear desire for change in Bulgaria”. Newsweek magazine shares in the article “A royal jump in trust” from the beginning of August 2001, “Western bank officials flooded Sofia after Simeon II’s appointment for premier in expectation of big privatization deals. They were attracted by the promises of speed privatization of the telecommunications, National Electric Company, Bulgatabak, Bulgargaz, and several banks.  Cited are several positive evaluations by experts like Paul Sax, president of Multinational Strategies in New York. Independent and Financial Time called the Cabinet “a Cabinet of surprises", pointing out that young Bulgarians that used to work as experts in Western banks, left behind salaries of 500 000 £ per year in order to perform an insecure and ungrateful job for 400$ monthly[36]. The evaluation is that this is a “gigantic experiment of how bank officials would run a country”. 

The Greek press also accented that the cabinet is a government of bankers.  The Spanish El Pais emphasized the low average age of the ministers (46), and the Spanish ABC wrote that “this is a cabinet of young technocrats with a perspective.”  The Turkish journalists commented, “This is the most colorful cabinet form the beginning of the changes,” having in mind the various national and ethnical origin of the participants: along with Bulgarians, there are Simeon II (with a German-origin), Solomon Pasi - the foreign minister (Jewish), Mehmed Dikme and Nedjin Mollov (Turks), and a large part of the rest have graduated and specialized in Western countries and/or have kept business connections outside of Bulgaria.

Of course there are the typical pessimistic views.  The German Die Welt sounds an opinion that “in spite of the sympathies of the western monarchs, because of the many big economical problems Simeon II will not manage to speed up Bulgaria’s entry into NATO and EC”.  Similar is the evaluation of the other German authority Frankfurter Algemeine Zaitung, who voices some misgivings that the Simeon II’s quickly formed movement would be enough to accomplishing the political aims of joining EC and NATO.

 

9. First steps – first skepticism

 

The analysis of the first steps of the new parliament and of its new government indicates several major problems and reserves that the Bulgarian phenomenon might face. Many are tempted to make predictions for its future development.

 

Ø      Four months passed since the impressive election victory of NMSS, but the society and the rest  political parties – allies or competitors – still have not seen a clear and elaborated program for governmental action. Such a program should state not only the main priorities, but also the ways in which they would be solved. It is not sufficient only to perform formal requirements; it is also necessary to clarify the concrete aims and actions that the governors will follow. This would be helpful both for them and for the rest of society.  Now it almost seems that they are ‘groping’ in the darkness, without any clear perspective for the near months and years.

 

There are plenty examples for this already. A large part of the pre-electoral promises, which were essential to NMSS success in the elections, are now either put off (previously scheduled for October, now they were postponed until after the start of next year), or completely rejected as impossible. Furthermore, these are very sensitive issues like the refusal to immediately raise pensions and salaries for people working in the budget sphere and postponing the no-interest credits for private business[37]. At the same time there was a significant increase in the prices for electricity consumption, central heating, telecommunications, etc.  It seems like the ordinary man will face a new shock instead of the promised alleviation.

Even with its first steps NMSS undertook some untraditional measures that caused the reaction of the two major syndicates. As a consequence they filed an official lawsuit (in the first days of October 2001) against the government that it undertook this decision without asking their assent. Commissioner Eneco Landaburu from the European Community called on October 2 2001 the head of parliament Ognyan Gerdjikov and advised the government to: not undertake such drastic reforms and avoid creating a negative attitude in the society. Evidently no attention is paid to the circumstances that turned out crucial for the previous government.

 

Ø      NMSS, the movement that stands behind the government, does not have a clear organizational structure. It is expected that soon it will undergo to an ideological and political reorganization and will transform into a political party with a regional and national structure and hierarchy.  This will be also a rather long and difficult process, since the composition of the members and supporters is quite varied.

Ø      There is a lack of clear, transparent criteria when choosing government officials, since up to now the choice has been usually made by the authoritative Simeon II.  The question is whether one person able to process such an amount of information and does he know the detailed governmental and other mechanisms and qualities of all governing resources? The circle of his advisors has to take decisions on human resources. Is this the semi-official, mentioned above Political Council or there are other experts and counselors[38]? This is important because it actually concerns decisions that affect the country’s management. At this stage, all the principles, phases and mechanisms for appointing members of the government have to be well-known.

Ø      In NMSS’s government (the chosen MPs, ministers, and local governors) there are people not only with different professions and political past, but also some with insufficient organizational experience.  Due to the short time in which this movement was created (about 2 months before the actual elections), members had to be attracted quickly.

 

A few of the young ministers, despite their experience in leading Western companies, obviously lack the necessary organizational, governmental and living experience, which causes some doubt as to whether they will successfully defend their high governmental posts. On the other side, the parliamentary group consists of jurists and economists, but also includes a member from a woman’s party, an illusionist, a photo-model, etc. It was obvious that NMSS looked for people by three important socio-demographic criteria: educated, young, women. From the 240-member parliament, 120 are NMSS MPs; 47 (39%) of them are women and 57% are aged to 45. This of course is a positive thing, but the question remains whether they possess the necessary professional qualities and organizational skills[39].

Vital for such conclusions is the actual complexity of the situation, and as it became clear from the exposition the circumstance that the new power unfortunately does not possess enough trustworthy human resources and organizational prerequisites. The first steps show not only inexperience, but also lack of alternative intentions.

 

Ø      It is hard to tell how much time it will take these new politicians to penetrate the core of the governmental problems and consolidate and unite as a parliamentary group. Does their leader Simeon II want a high degree of consolidation or does he prefer individual, personal responsibility and dependence on the leader, analogous to the “expert” principle in appointing the government[40]? Furthermore, it is part of the NMSS’s pre-election program to exclude MPs if they do not do a satisfactory job[41].  How would Simeon defend such an action it is not clear (whether NMSS will change the parliamentary handbook, etc.), but there is a perspective, a possibility, that the dependency and subordination towards the leader will be of great importance. The king-premier, actually, is not an MP.  He is a conductor, who always keeps his distance. This way the MPs who tend to act differently or more independently should always be careful and coordinate their actions with Simeon II. These seem quite unusual authoritative methods for a democratically chosen parliament, don’t they?

Ø      The too heterogeneous character of the cabinet could also turn out to be a problem.  A series of potential conflicts are laid out. The young finanists and economists, who insist on a restrictive and balanced budget might act against the interests of the ministers-mayors, who have socialistic support and would eventually insist on more funds for municipalities. The ministers-Turks would pay greater attention to the regions with many ethnical Turks, when the latter might be neglected when Bulgartabak or other big firms are privatized.  On other hand the market-oriented reforms of the economical ministers will confront the need for a series of pro-social measures in defense of poorer strata, fired, unemployed, etc[42].

 

A report for Bulgaria in the Economist from August 2001 points out that up to now Simeon II has demonstrated a flexibility and quick ability to blur the differences between his people. How long this will last nobody could tell.  Furthermore, the conucture of the world economy is not favorable, and the Balkan conflict still worries major investors.  Matthew Brunvassar from the Daily Telegraph points out that the cabinet does have some talented professionals with new ideas and plenty of energy;  at the same time some do not have such a good reputation; and others who do not seem to have clear ideas about politics.  The conclusion is: it will be difficult for Simeon II to keep them together and head them in one direction of development.

Krastyo Petkov, a sociology professor and previously a syndicate leader, (now leader of the United Labor Block, a small formation, gravitating in the “left” space), also sees as a weaknesses of the new cabinet its human resource management. The weak governmental skills of most new ministers and their vice ministers, the unclear, subjective approach to choosing the officials, as well as in the slowing down and procrastination of solving old and new conflicts are all potential hazards.

 

Ø      Different publications indicate some fears that groups with criminal past stand behind some of the new powerful circles. This might lead to creation of lobbies for their private interests through state institutions.  The most frequently mentioned in masmedia are “Multigroup” (MG) and “SIK”, which were isolated during the previous reign of UDF. Some hint at a connection between Simeon II’s success and the support of Russian official and nonofficial financial and political circles, in return of given promises.  There are also publications that part of the cabinet are connected to rich Bulgarians that live abroad and have acquired wealth quickly, with unclear source of their capital[43].  Up to now Simeon II and his cooperatives haven’t definitely denied all such connections, opinions or gossips which are not in favor of the new government’s stability.

 

Der Schpiegel, the magazine that often voices suspicions that the German government and its secret services do not say publicly, published a long article (which was later ardently argued) by the Vienna correspondent Walter Meier (the article was titled Zar und Zimmermann/ King and Carpenter). According to it the king has received support from the Russians, who had promised to help him get back his crown in return of his help to bring back and protect their interest in Bulgaria47.  There is a possibility of connections with the pro-Russian group “Multigroup”48, as well as the suspicious Russo-Jewish businessman Michael Chorni (whom the previous government forbade to enter the country for 10 years), as well as suggestions for connections of the ex-foreign UDF minister Stoyan Ganev – now head of the Political cabinet– with secret Russian services.  He publicly denied these statements, and Simeon II qualified them as spiteful slander49. According to the same article in Der Schpiegel, the victory of the Simeon II movement will lead to amnesty of capitals that were acquired in criminal ways (about $500 000 000). People could connect this with the fact that during the pre-election campaign several members of the king movement, including the two young key ministers of Economics and of Finances mentioned such a possibility, but with the condition that this should be well considered, especially from the point of view of the social effect and resounding50.

 

10. Royal games and the broad coalition facing a collapse?

 

It is not hard to be predicted from now that a source of a serious conflict with destructive consequences for the government and for the parliamentary group is exactly in this “royal behavior”, which in other circumstances could seem natural.  Bulgarians, both in the last 11-12 years and since the end of World War II, have undergone a long and complex process of civil maturation and acquiring self-confidence for personal freedom. In this respect we can expect a sharp conflict due to the already shown too self-active, authoritative manner of the king-premier. He definitely overemphasized Bulgarians’ predisposition to discipline and at the same time underestimated the freedom of action, particularly of the more intelligent ones, with whom he works or partners. As if the king-premier doesn’t sense the slight edge that some people like to be subordinate, so that they can justify for the rightness or of their actions. It is a fact that with his character and political manner Simeon II does not take into account other people’s dignity, which could become a potential trap for him. This looks as a small, insignificant secondary detail, but it can lead to serious, even crucial consequences.

Let’s take under consideration the present president campaign: until the last possible day Simeon II put a lot of stress and kept in suspense not only the journalists, who were waiting for news, but mostly his own collaborators and coalition partners. Until the last possible moment – October 2nd, 2001 – he did not share his intentions of supporting namely present president Peter Stoyanov even with his closest people from the NMSS elite. Furthermore, he did not share it with his coalition partner – MRF’s leader Ahmed Dogan. This caused comical situations (probably even dramatic for the actors themselves): one after another his closests people (e.g. Emil Koshlukov, Miroslav Sevlievski, Vessela Draganova, etc.), awaiting the decision for the new royal candidate, gave out some statements that the present president is quite unsuited and that he should be replaced with a person, proposed by NMSS.  Even an experienced politician like Dogan, had to make several “U-turns”: at first he supported Peter Stoyanov, then he stood diligently behind NMSS for a common nomination, rejecting his support of Peter Stoyanov as being too party-oriented, pro-UDF; but after the endless waiting and silence from Simeon II, and because the time for announcing the nominations was almost past, he decided to act and announced that he will raise a nomination together with the socialists against the present president; but since they announced the head of their party – Georgi Purvanov, i.e. a too party-oriented candidate and therefore not a suitable one for Dogan, the latter again withdrew towards NMSS and awauted patiently His decision – for a common candidate. And when finally the king announced the candidate (i.e. that he will support the present president), Dogan, who had already rejected this option, naturally said that he would not support this candidate and even predicted pre-scheduled parliamentary elections. It became obvious that other active members of the NMSS coalition (like E. Koshlukov, M. Sevlievski, and others) will not assent.

It is another question whether there is a possibility for another face-to-face deal, a contract between Simeon II and Peter Stoyanov for this support long ago, but this does not matter anymore, since the king has already lost much from this utter “discreetness”. He overdid his infamous mysteriousness and silence.

The discipline, understood as unconditional “mono-management”, started to crack from the first months. After these games (and possibly there will be other examples) the disintegration is almost already a fact. It can even be said that the so-called broad coalition is facing a collapse:

 

v     Dogan and DPS can either now or later withdraw from the coalition government. The offensive behavior and not taking under consideration their wishes can hardly be tolerated by such an experienced authority in the present Bulgarian politics as Ahmed Dogan.  After the mentioned decision of Simeon II, Dogan announced publicly that with this current, party-oriented president will follow pre-scheduled parliamentary elections. Predicting new parliamentary elections, Dogan clearly aimed a warning to the king himself.

v     Similar processes probably are taking place in the parliamentary group NMSS itself – those who insist on their opinion probably are not a small number in the king’s movement.

v     On the other hand, not preparing the public opinion for this decision, Simeon II introduced confusion in his own mass electorate, who expected from “Him” to show them who their new president would be.  It was expected that there would be another candidate.

v     Forth, with this decision, presented in this way, Simeon II showed utter unconsideration of the socialists, with whom he had discreetly flirted, and had also included two of their people into the Cabinet.  Waiting too long so that they can have a common candidate, at last they nominated their party leader against Peter Stoyanov. This way the elections pose another opponent against the king’s candidate, and the socialists, who recently hung around their king-“Father”, will float away from him and will go back now to their party-“Mother”. In other words, both BSP and MRF will be for new parliamentary elections, i.e. for pulling down Simeon II. Almost at the same time as Dogan, Rumen Petkov, manager of the preelectoral headquarters of Georgi Purvanov, announced that NMSS choice for president of Peter Stoyanov is “the beginning of the end of this government”.

As for new elections the three parties - UDF, BSP, and MRF would easily coordinate.  But is this what the country desperately needs right now? On the other hand, the pessimism for the development of the new government comes also from the eventual destructive anti-kingly behavior that some affiliates of UDF might exhibit. Most of these people now hold important positions at different middle and lower levels of government and executive power.  A similar personal game is possible from other political subjects – from socialists and from MRF, immediately when they sense destabilization of the new power.

 

 

It is possible that the king-premier is playing another refined royal game: prolonging his decision till the last moment he might very well be trying to increase the anti-Stoyanov attitudes. When the “red” found out that they couldn’t wait for the king, they chose their own leader.  This way all their supporters, including the ones that supported the King on the parliamentary elections, now will vote against Peter Stoyanov, who is a UDF supporter, even though he is presently supported by their king. On the other hand, the ethnic Turks will also act probably anti-Stoyanov, and will vote for the one proposed by Ahmed Dogan or will not vote at all. Third, the mass voter, who is inclined towards the king, has long expected someone “royal”, i.e. someone else – not Stoyanov.  They will most probably not vote on the elections.  A similar will be the reaction of many NMSS people.  As a consequence of this, Peter Stoyanov will get too small a number of votes – those of UDF and some above it.  He will earn relatively less advantage against the leader of the socialists, maybe after a balotaje, because of the low electoral activity. Thus, competing as an independent, a president of all Bulgarians Peter Stoyanov – in fact will again remain a party-oriented candidate, a UDF candidate and president, elected with an insignificant majority of votes from the total pool of voters and with a little advantage than Purvanov.

What does Simeon benefit from all this? This, which he has long yearned for – he will be the Unitor! He will once more pacify and balance between the supporters of the UDF-candidate Stoyanov and the BSP-candidate Purvanov.  (Totally different would be the situation if the King had nominated his candidate that would gather many votes from NMSS, MRF, BSP, and some UDF. Thus he would create a competitor of his with his ambitions, who would have to be removed afterwards.)

And now the King remains The One and only leader with high ratings. The whole game with the long silence about the president nominations is a striving towards minimizing the present president’s participation in the succeeding political life.  Why? It would not be a surprise if there are new, presidential elections with main candidate Simeon Sax-Coburg-Gotta – his utter dream, which could be combined or not with the restoring of the monarchy...

The sociologist Prof. Peter-Emil Mitev recently stated, “Undoubtedly Simeon II wants to become the country's leader, the President. This is probably the main reason why he supported the present President for his second and (!) last mandate…This position would in fact reestablish the King's family. The Republican form is even more categorical - the election proves that the people keep a good memory for the dynasty in spite of all unpleasant moments. Thus, Simeon II will complete the image of the dynasty in the Bulgarian historical consciousness.”

 

Such a scenario could however be changed and messed up by many other factors.  And mostly by a new wave of people's disapproval of the actions of the new government, towards its unsuccessful anti-social measures, towards the lack of new investments, stimulation of the private business, idleness towards corrupted officials and as a whole lack of new horizons[44].

 

One of the peculiarities of Simeon II’s approach that we already pointed out is that he tries to involve and engage different parts of the political spectrum.  But the idea of broad representation itself is very comfortable for another perspective, possibly laid out by him – a gradual breakdown and elimination of the existing party-political model, of the disunion and opposition of parties and the establishment of another, monarchially organized model.

Of course, there are different types of monarchies.  The most frequently encountered these days is the constitutional monarchy, of the type in Great Britain, The Netherlands, Belgium, etc., but these are all countries with a much different civil societies and advanced socio-economical and socio-political relations. It is not hard to guess, that in less developed countries like Bulgaria and other Balkan countries, success of one party will not as much be achieved by the struggle between many political parties, but rather by the will of the Unitor will dictate which party comes to power and which comes down. This way the parties as main political objects will be eliminated, since they are representatives and spokesmen of interests of different social groups. Perhaps this is exactly what Simeon II meant when he slipped out the phrase “we need a change in the political system”.  Whether this is part of the “conspiracy for a crawling restoration of monarchy” (to use an old cliché) the coming months and year will show.

Maybe in such a context Prof. Holm Zunfhausen, a historian from the Institute for Eastern Europe at the Free University in Berlin is definite in an interview in front of Deutsche WelleThe historical role of Balkan monarchs is rather questionable and suspicious.  In any case it is not emblematic for a democratic future.”

The mentioned “change of political system” is not a stated position, but this position is visible from Simeon II’s attempts to engage representatives of different parties and coalitions that otherwise stand in opposing political positions.  The urge to minimize the major political conflict till now becomes obvious – the separation left/right, social-democratic/Christian-democratic, collectivism/liberalism, etc.  The king-premier states in the English newspaper Spectator, “Lets try to depolarize the society, to remove the differences of left and right, blue and red.” Similar are the positions of those politicians that recently stood against the bipolar model and at the same time declared themselves ‘for’ a third, centrist model of development.

To a large extent NMSS is structured not as a party, but according to the personal choice of Simeon II in forming the lists. If NMSS continues with the minimizing of the roles of parties and party headquarters, as Ivailo Dichev notes (in a commentary of June 21 2001), the parliament lacking a party structure would turn into a place for individual deals that have nothing to do with the will of the electorate.

For the short time that has passed there is some success in this tactics. Engaging in government DPS and BSP with their ministers, Simeon II succeeded in temporarily tying their hands and eliminated them from the direct political struggle against his new government. The only “problem” in realizing this strategy though remains UDF.  Probably its leaders did not at first recognize where things are heading.  They rejected Simeon II’s proposal for collaboration as if mainly with their “survivor instinct” (some called it “because of egotistical party interest”), realizing that this would lead to an almost complete defragmentation and dissimilation of their party and that it stands a chance only if it remains in direct opposition51.

 

11. In place of a conclusion – to be a Prime Minister or a King?

 

The withdrawal of UDF from collaboration with the King, and its remaining insubordinate to the his movement could turn out to be not just stubbornness, but rather an important and perspective main point in the struggle for keeping the pluralistic, multi-party political model that is characteristic of most Western democracies, including keeping the republican model instead of the monarchy.  The other variant, UDF’s assimilating with the king’s people could possibly mean also that they will take the risk of changing the system of political life, of political representation through parties.

Indeed, at this point of time UDF is in an unfavorable position, in a serious crisis after the big collapse at the elections, the reasons for which were already stated.  These reasons, however, were not well considered. But in the newly created situation namely UDF could play the role of an actual opponent of against the risks for an eventual adventure for the change of the political system.  Of course there is always “one more chance”: in case of a lack of serious renovation and reevaluation of what happened, UDF would not be able to become soon a “new alternative”. Then the time of new attempts will come again – it is possible that the lefts will try out, particularly BSP in union with MRF, furthermore, indications of interaction have already been noticed in the president’s campaign.

 

* * *

About three months after the elections Simeon II and his movement still hold the initiative in their hands.  If we analyze data from a representative survey of the National Public Opinion Research Center from 7-17 September 2001, the Council of Ministers until now receives a great percentage of trust – 53.9, Simeon II’s rating is also among the highest(%) - 67.7, NMSS itself receives 63.3 approval – nearly three time as much as the other two major political parties UDF and BSP taken separately. The other “royal” ministers and politicians’ ratings are also significant. Still, it has to be noted that changes can be expected any day in the current situation.

The same “stable” status quo is according the last “hot” results of BBSS Gallup from a survey a month later (4-12 October 2001). People would vote – “in the next parliamentary elections” – following the same proportions as in June (%): 35.1 for NMSS, UDF – 14.5, BSP – 12.8, MRF – 6.5, Others – 3.6, No-voters – 23.2.

 

But besides waiting the miracle, the two serious challenges for the new power are:

Ø      The reflection on people of the first raise of prices – of electricity and gas, which will affect the pockets of a broad strata of the nation and respectively – their living standard. According to the cited survey from September 2001 - 91% of the questioned state that such a measure would affect them unfavorably.  There are still other raises planned – of telecommunications and such others. Imminent is closing of unrentable enterprises, which would undoubtedly lead to more unemployment.

 

Ø      The president elections (November 11 2001) and the months after will also show what perspectives this government has for a full mandate.

 

The up-to-now political actions and statements of Simeon II himself are also too contradictory and ambivalent. As if he often is torn apart between the role of a Premier, who has to constantly follow the proclaimed aims, and the role of a King, who puts in all effort to get his kingdom back. Indeed these are too incompatible positions and intentions, especially for the present stage of development of a poor society like the Bulgarian.

Of course, other variants are also possible, which could bring new original moments in the contemporary political history. “Maybe this humble and enigmatic man will offer new variation of the eternal theme of monarchy”, says Jeffrey Hindly in The Wall Street Journal Europe. Or maybe it is simply time to think about the limitations that were imposed by the previous stereotype of interpretation of the political life. In a commentary on the Bulgarian phenomenon the famous political observer Erman Terch from El Pais two days after the elections states that many western analysators are puzzled, because “one more detail has been destroyed by unconsidered and unconventional ideological frame with which the facts were explained till now.”

 

* * *

Along with the above presented problematics, with the extensive empirical data for events, with the stated evaluations and analyses – by themselves interesting for anyone, who researches the present political processes – contains a useful lesson for politicians and political scientists, both in Bulgaria, and in other post-communist countries. Behind the unique events and empirical data stands a long series of common interrelations that to one extent or another are valid for other countries in East Europe. There is a limit to the lowering of living standards of people in the post-communist world, after which they are disposed to change the traditional form of government and political system. This limit is interconnected to the sharing by governor of the hardships caused by the reforms and with new variants of merging the political and economical powers, with corruption on different level of management… In such periods of political impasse and total lost of trust people are ready to turn their backs to the previous politicians and look for a personification of a new morality, honor in everything, ready to believe in the miracle, as long as it would promise that in a short period (say 800 days) their suffering will end they will have their human dignity back.  And in such periods and situations are possible much sharper and destructive social conflicts, with unpredictable consequences… All this unfortunately frequently leads to a huge loss in time and the tempts of post-communist transformation, to further increase of the social price of the transition.

This whole bewildering the observers Bulgarian case – peculiar yet motivated election of a King-Premier – could soon go in the past as a short, fleeting experience of an adolescent on his way to his mature life.  It is possible that the King-Premier himself, despite all the obstacles and skepticism will manage to create a balance in the difficult situation and remain in power more than expected, and will complete the “image of the dynasty in the Bulgarian historical consciousness”. One way or another, we hope that this text offers a recognition and identification of the morals of this case, of these lessons in the period of transformation that will not be as hard and enigmatic and mysterious as is often the political behavior of the main character in this story.

 

October 21st, 2001

Frankfurt (Oder)

 


 

[1] See: Statistical Yearbook. 1998, 1999, 2000. Sofia: National Statistical Institute; See also: Vladimirov, J., ed. 2000. Bulgaria after 1997: Current Situation and Development Tendencies. Sofia: Sofiiski novini.

[2] Here and at other places I use “the King” for the sake of brevity, not only because this is how Simeon II is popular among the people, but also because he has not abdicated officially since 1943. The discrepancy is obvious – the king has not denied his throne, yet the country operates with an approved republic constitution from 1946.

[3] It is argued that namely people belonging to this group have agitated Simeon’s active participation in the new political life.

[4] Dr. Jelio Jelev openly showed resignation towards the king in exile, perhaps because of pro-republican preferences or simply personal fear of competition. Despite the visit, Dr. Jelev has commented on the “little, insignificant businessman in Madrid” etc.

[5] Maybe this was just a flirt on Stoyanov’s behalf, which aimed at Simeon’s beneficial attitude in the future

[6] The sociologist Andrey Raichev remarked after the elections in Sega that the aristocratic look of Simeon II cannot be denied, his amazing ability to turn things around, so that the more power he gets, the more it seems he is helping people.

[7] Here and in other places I will use the abbreviation “UDF” meaning the Union of Democratic Forces, not United Democratic Forces. The Union actually was the driving force of the coalition, which also included some insignificant in number and impact unions and parties.

[8] I view data from the National Statistical Institute, as well as from research institutes and centers at the two major syndicates.

[9] Although the official percentage of unemployed in Bulgaria is 19% from the active population, in certain regions (where major enterprises have been shut down or agriculture has deteriorated) unemployment reaches over 50%. Examples are Pernik city and the regions around cities of Kurdjali and Razgrad. This practically means that there is at least one (usually more) unemployed person per family.

[10] The term was introduced for the specific Bulgarian case by Canadian anthropologist Eleanor Smolet in 1988.

[11] This practically bring them monthly income that is usually higher than the average monthly salary. Furthermore, these members do not really participate in the meetings or perform any duties. This “new nomenclature” was called “’cousins’ management”.

[12] Data for the first four years are from representative surveys of Agency for Social Analyses (ASA) within the modules of the International Social Survey Program (ISSP), and the last is from the comparative international survey “Political Culture in Central and Eastern Europe”; the latter is a part of a project of an international team under the leadership of the German group incl. Prof.D.Pollack-head, J.Jacobs, O.Mueller and G.Pickel at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Transformation (F.I.T.), European University Viadrina. The field survey was carried out in Bulgaria by BBSS “Gallup”, 15-30.09.2000.

[13] The approach has been applied in ISSP modules in the surveys on social inequality in 1987, 1992-93, and 1999. See: Evans, M., Kelley, J., Kolosi, T. 1992. "Images of Class: Public Perceptions in Hungary and Australia", In: American Sociological Review, Vol. 57: 462-480. Figures of the stratified social body are re-produced, images with different configurations of the seven “subjective social strata” showing the self-identification of people in fact with one of the seven positions or scales ranging from “top” to “bottom”. In the case one and the same respondents were asked where they would put themselves in one of seven points into 7-point vertical scale in three periods of time. Here the data are from the survey “Political Culture in Central and Eastern Europe” mentioned above.

[14] The only exception is the small number of directors and managers at average level and above (less than 1%).

[15] More detailed on this and on the concrete dimensions of the “looking back person” see in the paper of N.Tilkidjiev “Barriers of Democratic Consolidation: Bulgarian Case”, prepared for the meeting of the research team of the mentioned above research project Political Culture in Central and Eastern Europe” held in Tallinn, 24-27 May, 2001.

[16] Simeon II himself admitted this with a slight uneasiness after he won the elections. “This is a terrible responsibility,” he shares in the conservative English newspaper Spectator in the beginning of August 2001. “We can save the country if we unite our efforts, but not if we sit and wait for one person do it alone.” The same magazine notes that Simeon II’s main problem is that he can never become what the Bulgarian voters expect him to be – a Father-King, a Savior. Simeon II shares such apprehension on the issue also in Bild am Sontag a few days after his victory.

 

[17] Of course it is quite naïve to expect that anything could be accomplished in such a short period of time, having in mind the country’s condition – full of poverty and unemployment. As it became obvious later, the number 800 was picked as an analogy – how quickly can a company be made successful (Simeon and several of his adherents are specialists in company management). Undoubtedly this analogy between a company and a post-communist society is quite an exaggeration. 

[18] The analogy is with the enigmatic and absurd character from Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”.

[19] This argument is not very suitable, since some of UDF’s members have shown pro-monarchial views before.

[20] This can be seen in NMSS’s post-electoral behavior as well: both Simeon II and other leaders from the movement have often evaluated some of UDF’s accomplishments as positive: macro-financial stabilization, success in foreign policy, etc. Accepting the premier position, Simeon II said the level has been set very high by the ex-premier Ivan Kostov.

[21] Before the election day, as well as on the night and day after them, the Sofia streets were unusually quiet. There were no mass noisy pre-election gatherings, or post-election euphoria of the victorious voters. These were very typical of the Bulgarian public political life in the 90’s. Maybe one of the explanations was that it was mostly UDF’s supporters that overthrew UDF. After losing trust in their government, some of them – those who had trusted them four years ago – now not only withdrew their votes, but gave them to someone else: for a new unknown coalition, they bet on a new hope or chimera. In Sofia, as well as in other big cities that were previously “blue” places (with a dominant UDF majority), now had more King supporters, and all was quiet. The winners were not celebrating on the streets. There were no proud and excited voters on the radio either. The last 11-12 years proved that namely the blue are the noisy and boisterous supporters. Maybe it was the “syndrome of guilt” (whether they took the right choice or were fooled again?). Or this silence was simply a proof of the old saying, “If two equally strong armies meet, the sadder will come out as a winner”.

[22] This can be easily proven by UDF’s near history. A few years ago several leaders split from the party and UDF broke into (besides the main body of UDF) UDF-center and UDF-liberals. The latter did not gain sufficient support on the following elections and gradually melted in the political space as insignificant formations.

[23] See also: Leslie Holmes. Post-Communism. An Introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997, p. 264.

[24] Appointing two ministers close to socialists in the new cabinet confirmed these expectations.

[25] Indeed after forming the coalition cabinet two recent mayors from the MRF became ministers – one of agriculture and food industry, the other as minister without portfolio.

[26] An additional interesting aspect that proved the withdrawal from the 2 parties towards NMSS was supplied by a national representative survey conducted by MBMD on June 22 2001 (five days after the elections). The question was what party had the people voted for, and the results were strikingly contradictory to the real elections results: 44.8% for NMSS (about the same on the elections), 9.9% for UDF (in fact 18.18%), 9.6% for BSP (in fact 17.14%). A similar contradiction was demonstrated in surveys by BBSS “Gallup” and the National Center for research of the public opinion (the last one was conducted in the middle of 2001). It was probably people’s psychological inclination not to share publicly their “loss” and to prefer to run away from the losers”.

[27] The 1946 referendum for revoking the monarchy and establishing a republic is now argued by a series of politicians, who claim that this decision was highly dominated by the Russian observers and instructors.

[28] The data are from MBMD’s last cited representative survey from June 22 2001.

[29] By impact in culture I mean the obvious party influence on National Council for Radio and Television that lead to appointing a loyal to UDF writer as a director of the National Radio. Strikes and other protest actions by radio journalists followed. Some were fired and this conflict took months to solve, leaving UDF with fewer supporters among the important public opinion makers in the months before the elections.

[30] See also in: Georgi Fotev. Crisis of Legitimacy. Sofia: University Publishing House, 1999. This can be proven by many cases where new political systems were adopted by both post-communist countries and in Latin America (see for details - In: Robert D. Grey. Democratic Theory of Post-Communist Change. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1997, pp. 72-73.)

[31] It can be stated for certain that a more exact percentage of the NMSS voters is 47.88% because there were two unknown formations that participated in the elections, one of them under the name “Simeon II”, and deviated 5.14% of the NMSS votes.

[32] This was correspondingly acknowledged with numerical data at a special meeting of sociologists that took place at the Certer for Study of Democracy on July 5th, 2001. It was discussed by Prof. Atanas Atanasov and the directors of different agencies.

[33] In an interview for the Spanish ABC Simeon II announced officially that he does not exclude any party or coalition from eventual collaboration, although BSP tends toward the communist and such a coalition would seem “pro-Moskow and anti-NATO”.

[34] Andrey Raichev paid special attention to this unique “distant technique” practiced by the king-premier: he listens carefully without entering the discussion, makes people wait for his answer, while at the same time giving general hopes, but always keeps his distance and never enters permanent relationships with anybody.

[35] Before and after the elections Simeon II often shared that UDF is NMSS’s most natural ally, because most of their goal coincide.

[36] This is not exactly a conclusion for the young ministers’ sacrifice. Those that had previously worked in leading Western companies still keep their positions and can always go back. Besides, there is much social capital (in the sense of Pierre Bourdieu in his La distinction. Critique sociale du jugement, 1979), which their new ministry posts offer. These powerful positions bring numerous perspectives and advantages, even if they go back to their previous work or start a new one.

 

[37] As the sociologist Prof. Stoyan Mihailov notes, not only small business should be encouraged, but mostly the large Bulgarian capital has to be helped. Analyses of the Western small and middle-sized business indicates that it is most often connected to the development of the large business (Silvia Luber and Rene Leicht: The Development of Self-employment in Western Europe, 1998 – a comparative research of business in Western Europe).

 

[38] The mass media claims that members of this council include also Stoyan Ganev – director of the King’s political Cabinet, Nikolai Marinov – economics expert and counselor of the King, and others.

[39] I am far from the thought that the previous 240 MPs were all professionals and experts in political life, work and debates. There has always been parliamentary elite; the rest perform accessory work in groups, and there are people who show weak activity throughout their whole mandate. They are just expected to vote and keep discipline. In this respect, there was a suggestion during the pre-election debates to reduce the number of MPs by half, which would also cut down parliamentary expenses.

[40] Or following the old monarchial principle – divide and reign!

[41] Many voters liked this idea – the parliament did not have such a high rating, but its application would have required a complex procedure for changing the constitution, which would require the support of two thirds of the MPs, i.e. from the other parliamentary groups too.

[42] Deutsche Welle’s commentary that the King needs the socialists support for privatizing factories does not sound very well supported. Despite the fact that many of these factories are controlled by them, they would be more helpful in calming down the mass dissatisfaction of the fired workers.

[43] There is a theory that a generator of some of these decisions is the London Club, due to Prince Kiril’s participation in it.

47 This suggestion is from an interview of the author with the sociologist Antonii Gulubov in Sofia.

48 In 1996 ã. the Federal services for foreign investigation in Germany released unofficial information that Multigroup is a “washing machine for money from the ex-communist party”.

49 The press spread also the opinion that Stoyan Ganev was a mediator in using money from the MOON sect, because he was a lecturer in the University of Bridgeport, USA.

50 A number of wealthy Bulgarians living abroad are against this amnesty of dirty money, however noble the cause is. They are in favor of the King’s movement and think that this could have a negative effect on the public opinion.

[44] An additional remark (Post-Scripted): The results of the president elections in Bulgaria strictly confirmed the comments and analysis in this text and even more. The winner exactly won with a minimal distance – 6-7%. The more spectacular is that the winner is Georgi Parvanov, the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. The main reasons for this result (I commented all in the text) are: 1) the royal games of the king-prime minister (officially he supported Peter Stoyanov for a second mandate, but it was semi-support; he demonstrated disregard toward the elections and demotivated a lot of voters); 2) a part of the votes was a continuation of a penalty negative vote toward the UDF not-socially oriented policy and corruption; and 3) the main electorate were pensioners (they are 2,5 million in the country), among them are traditional supporters of the socialist party and the losers of the economic reforms. The “exceptionalism”, the peculiarity of the Bulgarian case has gone deeper: as Guardian wrote between the first and second tours of elections (11.-18.12.2001) it must be a great fun – to have a king as a prime-minister and a communist as a president. Finally, these two elected political figures recently (the successor of the previous monarchy and the leader of the previous communists) are clear emblematic signs showing a secondary legitimacy of the past and that a looking-back person has appeared as I mentioned in the text.

51 Ognyan Minchev stated the categorical importance of UDF’s status of an opposition.