By Krassen Nikolov
In February 2017, BSP leader Kornelia Ninova could almost smell victory in the parliamentary elections. Pre-election opinion polls had shown that the socialist party will have equal or even better results than GERB. Then Ninova made a bad decision and sharpened her rhetoric to the extreme. In March, she announced that “democracy has taken a lot” from the Bulgarians.
“Bulgarians, let us take our freedom, peace and pride back from Boyko Borissov. Democracy has taken a lot from us. It has taken the health system, the education system, the security. But it gave us the freedom to think, to have an opinion and to fight for our rights, “said Ninova during the election campaign for the March 2017 parliamentary elections.
Thus she made two mistakes. First, she associated democracy with her biggest opponent, Boyko Borissov. Secondly, she gave reasons to some of the Bulgarians to suspect that BSP wishes to restore communism.
Since then, the support for BSP stopped growing. GERB won a relatively comfortable victory in the elections. Ninova should have learned from her mistakes. She should avoid moves that would turn large parts of the society against the party. The Bulgarians are sick and tired of the extreme political confrontation, which has been going on in the country for 29 years. GERB has sensed the expectations of the public far better with their “stability” slogan and their much more consensual campaign. Indeed, people are primarily interested in raising their income rather than in political scandals.
Now BSP has made a second big mistake, deciding to leave the parliament with very unclear goals. The party first announced it would return to the parliament if machine voting was introduced for the European elections. This would be difficult on technological grounds. GERB showed that they were inclined to compromise for introducing the machine voting for the parliamentary elections in 2021. Then Borissov made a U-turn and promised that the preferential vote would be returned in the Election Code. [see background] Thus all the arguments of the BSP for leaving parliament were removed.
But BSP did not return to the parliament, continuing with its unclear requests.
“BSP will return to parliament when we see that this parliament is capable of having a meaningful debate, does not deal with fodder for tabloids, that it stops passing lobbyist laws justifying them with EU directives, and when the electoral rights of the Bulgarian citizens that have been denied to them are returned”, explained the BSP MP Vessela Lecheva.
The election tactic of the socialists is clear. They are trying to convey the message that if GERB wins the elections, it will be because of electoral fraud. This is a loser’s tactic, because obviously BSP makes the assumption that GERB has a better chance of winning. The second mistake is that Ninova is depriving her party of the best way to get pre-election advertising free of charge – by speaking in the National Assembly. If the United Patriots nationalist coalition had not fallen apart, they could have easily benefit from this situation to attract votes from the Socialist’s electorate.
Another problem is that BSP is losing by staying out of parliament, but they will also lose if they return. The reason is that the party’s behavior would appear as unprincipled. Needless to say the MPs from BSP demonstrate their attitude towards their voters who sent them to Parliament do defend their program. And the situation in the state is such that no one needs a political collapse.
GERB made a similar mistake by leaving parliament while BSP and DPS were in power in 2013. But after a month they reconsidered their decision. Back then, GERB realised that with their absence from parliament the ruling coalition was free to do whatever they wanted. Now it’s high time for Ninova to understand this.