Elections in Bulgaria: Who is the “Trojan horse” of the Kremlin?

Выборы в Болгарии: Кто здесь "троянский конь" Кремля?

Sunday, March 26 parliamentary elections in Bulgaria. For seats in the National Assembly will fight the ruling center-right party “Citizens for European development of Bulgaria” (GERB) of former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, “Bulgarian socialist party” (BSP) Cornelia Lanovoy, of the party of European and Muslim minority.

Pre-election alignment of forces

Sociologists considered the favorite for the upcoming elections, the ruling party GERB, which forms the “backbone” of the current coalition (84 out of 240 seats) in Parliament. According to polling Agency Alpha Research, GERB party to vote for 32.6% of the Bulgarian citizens. Software provisions that defends the coat of ARMS since the founding of the party in 2006, is the fight against crime and corruption, promotion of the cult of the family and the achievement of energy independence of Bulgaria. GERB is in power in Bulgaria since 2009 and achieved certain economic success. From 2011 to 2016, the unemployment rate in Bulgaria was reduced from 11.4% to 7.1%. Over the past two years, the average monthly salary increased by 7.7%. Last year Bulgaria’s GDP grew by 3.4% (6.6 thousand Euro per capita). Financial reserves of the country exceeded 7 billion euros. The world Bank is building optimistic forecasts regarding the growth of the Bulgarian economy this year.

The EMBLEM does not support geopolitical expansion and strengthening of Russia’s economic influence in the former Soviet Union and former socialist countries. The government of Boyko Borisov has reduced the supply of energy from Russia, froze the implementation of the Russian projects – the construction of a nuclear power plant “Belene” and the gas pipeline “South stream”. Bulgaria supports sanctions against Russia, operation “Atlantic determination” to strengthen the NATO military presence near Russia’s borders. The United States has placed 350 military and 80 armored vehicles on the territory of Bulgaria and Romania.

However, EMBLEM does not have the overwhelming support of the Bulgarian citizens. Socialists breathe after them. In the recent presidential elections in Bulgaria, the candidate of the GERB Tsetska Tsacheva lost with a score of 36.1% of the votes to his opponent from the BSP General Romano Radio, which voted 59.3% of the Bulgarians. According to sociologists, the BSP can vote 28.8% of voters. Bulgarian socialists support the preservation of Bulgaria’s membership in the EU and, at the same time, the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions and rapprochement with Russia. Thus, the BSP is trying to attract to their side the electorate of GERB and right-wing parties.

News: Bulgarian President during the election campaign has received the recommendations from the Kremlin – WSJ

Выборы в Болгарии: Кто здесь "троянский конь" Кремля?

For seats in the Parliament will fight the Alliance of right-wing parties “United patriots”, which includes “the national front for the salvation of Bulgaria” Valeria Simeonova, “Bulgarian national movement” Casimir Karakachanov and the party “Attack” Volen Siderov. Now these opposition parties occupy a total of 30 seats in the Bulgarian Parliament. For “United patriots” are ready to vote for 10.7% of the Bulgarian voters. These political forces are speculating on the problem of the relationship of the Bulgarians with middle Eastern refugees, Roma and Turkish minority. They advocate for tougher immigration regime. Out of their mouth is anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish rhetoric. “Bulgarian national movement” reinforces his rhetoric chauvinistic ideas about the need to create a “Great Bulgaria” and connect the border areas of Romania, Greece and Macedonia inhabited by ethnic Bulgarians. The party of eurosceptics “Attack” supports an exit of Bulgaria from NATO, the renegotiation of its EU membership. “Attack” in solidarity with the policy of Vladimir Putin supported the annexation of the Crimea, the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions. Volen Siderov is in contact with the leader of the French far-right party “national front” Marin Le Pen, and their views are similar about the necessity of rapprochement with Russia and the tightening of the migration regime.

Prospective participants in the election are the party of “freedom” businessman Veselin Mareshki, who is associated in Bulgaria with US President Donald trump, and party of the local Turks. “Movement for rights and freedoms,” Mustafa Karada holds 38 seats in the Bulgarian Parliament. This is the third party’s number of deputies in the Parliament after GERB and the socialists. “Movement for rights and freedom” hopes to collect the voices of local Turks (about half a million people) and Bulgarian migrants in Turkey. There is also the openly Pro-Turkish party of DOST, which broke away from the “Movement for rights and freedoms”. DOST has an image of a “fifth column” of Turkey in Bulgaria, due to which Ankara is keen to influence the political process in Sofia. The labour Minister of Turkey Mehmet Muezzinoglu at a meeting with representatives of the organization of Bulgarian immigrants in Istanbul openly urged them to vote for the party VEN.

Sanctions and refugees into the hands of the opposition

Bulgarian business, which suffered economic losses due to sanctions on Russia, fueling the rating of the BSP and of the Alliance “United patriots”. In 2013-16. the volume of bilateral trade between Russia and Bulgaria decreased from 7.1 billion to $ 2.8 billion., while the number of Russian investments in the Bulgarian economy decreased from 245.2 million to 137 million euros. Reduced exports of food and agricultural products of Bulgarian producers to the Russian market. Industry and agriculture accounts for 32.4 per cent of the Bulgarian economy. Bulgaria – energy-dependent country and imports from Russia 75% of primary fuels, including coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear fuel. “Bulgarian energy holding” is a 50% owner of the plot of frozen gas pipeline project “South stream”. Bulgaria is not favorable for the rejection of the construction of NPP “Belene”. According to the decision of the international court of arbitration, Bulgaria will have to pay the Russian company “Atomstroyexport” of 620 million euros in compensation. Russian tourists swell the pockets of the Bulgarian property owners, food service establishments and services. Last year, about 8 million Russians visited Bulgarian resorts. The deterioration of relations with Russia is not beneficial to the Bulgarian business and enjoys opposition.

Выборы в Болгарии: Кто здесь "троянский конь" Кремля?

Related news: Bulgaria recalled its Ambassador to Turkey for consultations

Bulgarian society is concerned about the problem of the migration crisis, the inability of the authorities to provide security, which also plays into the hands of the opposition. Bulgaria is a transit country for middle Eastern refugees in Western European countries. The country is home to about 13 thousand workers. Bulgarian society was shocked by the collisions of 1.5 million refugees with the Bulgarian police in the largest refugee center Harmanli (3 thousand refugees, mostly from Afghanistan). Periodically, clashes between ethnic Bulgarians and Roma (370 thousand people). After 2011 bus Roma was hit by 17-year-old in the country, a wave of Gypsy pogroms.

“Trojan horse” of the Kremlin in the EU and NATO

Russia’s advantage to have “their” state in the Euro-Atlantic security system to decompose it and to make trouble inside. Bulgaria is best suited for the role of “Trojan horse” of Russia in the EU and NATO. Since tsarist times between Russia and Bulgaria, there was a special relationship. The Russian army helped the Bulgarians to regain statehood in the Russo-Turkish war of 1977-78, In the days of the Soviet bloc, the Communist party has maintained strong ties with the Bulgarian Communists. No wonder the Soviet Union Bulgaria was called the “16th Soviet Republic”. BSP is the successor of the Communist party of Bulgaria, which was dissolved in the early 90s.

In the interests of Russia, the strengthening of the position of the BSP in the Bulgarian Parliament. The experience of the parliamentary elections in the Netherlands shows that the Europeans have no absolute confidence to the eurosceptics who advocate rapprochement with Russia and a change in the conditions of EU membership. “Freedom party” eurosceptic and Islamophobe Geert Wilders, who in their views have not gone far from the Bulgarian Alliance “United patriots” lost the election, the ruling “people’s party for freedom and democracy,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “People’s party for freedom and democracy” was ranked 33 out of 150 seats in the Dutch Parliament and will be able to form a coalition (at least 75 seats in Parliament) with the opponents of the skeptics, including the party “Democrats 66” (19 seats), “Christian democratic appeal” (19 seats) and the “labour Party” (9 seats). “Freedom party” with 20 seats in Parliament, probably, will remain in opposition. Russia is not profitable to rely solely on eurosceptics to strengthen their influence in the political processes of the countries-EU members.

Unlike the far-right party eurosceptics “Attack”, which is ready for rapprochement with Russia and confrontation with the EU and NATO, the Bulgarian socialists are Euro-optimists. Along with “Social Democratic party of Germany” (SPD), the BSP is part of the political group “Progressive Alliance of socialists and Democrats”, which is 189 of 751 seats in the European Parliament and has not the last influence on the development of the EU. Former European Parliament President Martin Schulz is a member of this group. BSP will be able to lobby for Russia’s interests in the EU and NATO if they’re in coalition. Bulgarian socialists can block a decision to extend sanctions against Russia, provide Ukraine visa-free regime with the EU, the expansion of NATO to the East. They may interfere with the operation “Atlantic determination”. The President of Bulgaria rumen Radev from the BSP believes that NATO admits a strategic error perceiving Russia as an enemy. While in power in Bulgaria, the BSP will be able to promote the idea of rapprochement with Russia among EU partners.

Выборы в Болгарии: Кто здесь "троянский конь" Кремля?

Options for a new coalition

Socialists and eurosceptics will not be able to come to power in Bulgaria only in case if the coat of ARMS and the current coalition allies (right-centrist party “Reformist bloc and Alternative for Bulgarian revival”) will be able to garner enough votes to form a parliamentary majority. Perhaps the EMBLEM will have to negotiate an Alliance with the “Movement for rights and freedoms”, which defends the interests of the Turkish minority. In this case, the coat of ARMS runs the risk of losing trust among some of the Bulgarians, which is cool to the growing influence of Muslims in the political system of Bulgaria. However, in the struggle for power have to sacrifice something.

George Kuhaleyshvili,

political analyst on international Affairs

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