Bulgaria heads to the polls, again.

Ahead of the fifth elections in the last two years, young Bulgarian activist Gabriel Valkov highlights the major factors responsible for the political crisis facing the country

March 30, 2023 by Gabriel Valkov
30-03 Political Crisis - Bulgaria
Protest by Bulgarian socialists in Sofia. (Photo: via Yevgeny Beliy/Facebook)

Bulgaria is heading for general elections on April 2, 2023—the fifth in the last two years—marking the depth of the political crisis in the country. Back-to-back snap elections have resulted due to failures to form a stable government since April 2021. Along with the political crisis, people are also reeling under an acute cost of living crisis marked by soaring inflation.

Gabriel Valkov, chairperson of the Youth Union of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), highlights the major factors responsible for the present crises and explains the views of the BSP and the role it can play to restore democracy and stability to the country.

Political crisis in Bulgaria

We Bulgarians haven’t had such a political crisis for the last 33 years of democracy. After the COVID-19 pandemic, when the economy was declining, we needed a strong and decisive government that would get Bulgaria out of the crisis. Things went exactly the opposite way. 

In 2021 alone, we had three general elections, and only after the third one in November 2021 was a coalition government under the leadership of Kiril Petkov, from the pro-EU We Continue the Change (PP) party, formed. The crisis seemed to have ended with the formation of the coalition government under Petkov, formed with the support of the center-left Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Democratic Bulgaria, the populist There Is Such a People (ITN), and others. The government had the support of 123 legislators in the 240-seat National Assembly. However, in the seventh month of the new government, ITN left the coalition, leading to its collapse on June 28, 2022. There were rumors that influential people with strong connections to the Bulgarian mafia and oligarchs had intervened to break up the coalition. The BSP did its best to keep the coalition intact, but our partners bent and the government fell.

In the following snap elections held on October 2, 2022, Boyko Borisov’s conservative coalition, which was ousted from power following the anti-corruption protests of 2020–21, emerged as the single largest bloc in the parliament. His conservative Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), however, failed to secure a majority in the parliament and form a government, prompting the Bulgarian president to call for another election, which is scheduled for April 2, 2023.

Boyko Borisov and corruption

Bulgaria has a huge problem with corruption. The Borisov-led GERB government, which was in power during the last decade, was marred with corruption and faced widespread protests from the people. Borisov was in power in Bulgaria continuously for 12 years, from 2009 until 2021. Under the Borisov regime, attacks on the press, racism, xenophobia, corruption, and organized crime spiked in the country. 

Borisov has also been accused of having strong connections with the mafia and the oligarchs. There are hundreds of photos, videos, and voice recordings of him with people from the so-called underground. Bulgaria is considered the most corrupt country in the European Union (EU), with the independence of prosecutors and courts also being questioned. That is what boosts corruption even more, as the institutions are not working properly. That leaves the political elite free from charges and keeps their faces clean in front of the public. 

The BSP and its Youth Union were major actors in anti-corruption protests of 2020–21 against the Borisov-led government. Leaders of our party, together with us party members, went to the protests with the citizens of the country and asked for Borisov’s resignation. Members of the legislature from the BSP pressed for a no-confidence vote in the parliament and tried to bring down the corrupt government. European Parliament Members came to support our fight against corruption. The President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, was on our side fighting corruption as well. Anti-corruption protests, which started in July 2020 demanding Borisov’s resignation, continued in April 2021 when the four-year term of his cabinet ended with the formal resignation of the third Borisov government.

Once Borisov’s government ended and a new one couldn’t be formed, the president put in a temporary government that had one main goal: to fight corruption in Bulgaria. They looked into the activities of the previous government and unveiled large amounts of corruption, worth billions, taking place in the country. Everything went to the courts, but, for now, no one has been charged, because whoever has money and power can evade prosecution and lawsuits in Bulgaria.

Importance of Bulgarian Socialist Party 

The impact of this sort of a prolonged political crisis in our country has been noticed by everyone, from the poor to the rich. The only good thing that happened in this time was during that short seven-month government (November 2021–June 2022), when we managed to implement a lot of social policies to help the working class pass through the crisis with the least possible harm. For example, as a state policy, we gave fuel discounts for cars at gas stations, but only for personal vehicles, as the prices had increased a great deal due to the war in Ukraine. Because of rising fuel costs, electricity costs rose as well, and we gave state compensation that cut the bills for the people by 50%. We removed the 20% tax on bread and the most necessary goods, so that we could bring down their prices. That and a lot more helped the working class and others to pass through the financial crisis unharmed. But, currently, the inflation in Bulgaria is 18%, which is the highest in the European Union.

Following the October 2022 elections, the GERB coalition led by Nikolay Gabrovski failed to secure the confidence of the parliament in December 2022. Following that, efforts by We Continue the Change (PP) and then by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) to form a new coalition government with other parties also failed. Now, we are heading for a new election in April 2023. The country and the people need a social government that looks after its citizens more than ever before. 

Our party has existed for more than 130 years and is still well positioned. The problems we are currently facing are that we need to modernize and change. We need new and younger people to lead the party for it to change, become modern, and win elections. As the poorest country in the EU, Bulgaria has a huge left potential. The voters are currently searching for a new and modern left that can represent their needs. That is why, constantly, new left parties are formed, but they still can’t win elections or ever get into parliament. That is why we need a major change, to become the leading party once again and gain all the young voters. 

The populists are lying to the people who are very tired of elections. We can also see a big decline in the number of people who vote in elections. In the last election, only 39% of the population went to vote. That is a hidden problem for society as the citizens are desperate. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) can get Bulgaria out of the political crisis, but it will be a long and hard—but also necessary—fight that we must win for our country to succeed.