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Bulgarian socialists rebel against their leader and put Stanishev on the list for the European Parliament

File photo. Ninova [C] and Stanishev [R] in better times. [Dnevnik]

By Krassen Nikolov

The National Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party rebelled against the BSP leader Kornelia Ninova and put PES leader Sergei Stanishev fifth in the party’s European Parliament election list. The fifth position is considered as eligible. The National Council replaced all the nominations made by Ninova and the other leaders of the party. The only point of agreement is that the former investigative journalist and former partner of Sergei Stanishev Elena Yoncheva will lead the list.

The young politicians Petar Vitanov and Tsvetelina Penkova are the second and the third in the list. The previous version of the list had put them at ineligible places, while second and third were Yanaki Stoilov, an old party appartchik, and Denitsa Zlateva, a party expert in EU affairs.

Vitanov is 37 and is one of the youngest members of the Bulgarian Parliament. Penkova is 31. She is the Deputy head of the Millennium Club Bulgaria. The Club’s leader Rumen Cholakov will also take part in the elections. He will lead the list of the Coalition “Road for the Young” (The National Movement for Stability and Progress and “New Time”).

Ivo Hristov, chief of Cabinet to the President Rumen Radev, will be 4th in the list. He is followed by Stanishev. Ivan Krastev, who was Deputy Minister of Education in the government of Plamen Oresharski, supported by BSP and DPS, has the sixth place, which is borderline and could be secured only in case of excellent results for BSP.

The scandals between Kornelia Ninova and Sergei Stanishev weakened the socialist party just before the European elections. There is a risk that some of the party’s structures may refuse to work for certain candidates because of the division in BSP. This is likely to reduce the party’s election result. Opinion polls show that GERB and BSP are neck-and-neck, and any mistake can be crucial.

BSP’s goal is to have at least six MEPs. The preferential vote could rearrange the party’s list. If a given candidate is preferred by at least 5% of the voters, he or she may get ahead in the list.

This is already happening in BSP. The National Council pushed down the favorites of the BSP leader. Denitsa Zlateva, the deputy leader of BSP, fell to the 7th place in the list (She was put third by the Executive Bureau ). The Deputy Prime Minister from the government of Zhan Videnov (that brought hyperinflation to Bulgaria) Roumen Gechev will be 8th in the list. The former MP Yanaki Stoilov refused to take part in the elections because he is not supported by most of his colleagues. He was one of Kornelia Ninova’s favorite candidates and second in the Executive Bureau’s list.

Earlier in the day, everything indicated that Stanishev will probably not be a member of the next European Parliament because Ninova managed to impose her will on the party’s Executive Bureau, which voted against Stanishev’s nomination.

Ninova made at least two huge mistakes in the campaign for the European elections. First, she decided that the BSP parliamentary group should leave the National Assembly. Thus the socialists were deprived of the best tribune for their election campaign. So BSP missed many golden chances. The last one was the incapacity to take advantage of the biggest scandal that hit the ruling party GERB and the closest person to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov – Tsvetan Tsvetanov, over the luxury apartment bought by GERB politicians at suspiciously low prices. BSP’s voice in this scandal is hardly heard because the party is not in the parliament.

On Sunday morning, Stanishev left no doubt that the war in BSP has just began.

“It is obvious for every Bulgarian that there is a tendency BSP to be turned into an authoritarian party, into GERB number 2. The election list how I see it is a great gift for GERB,” said the PES leader after it became clear the executive bureau will not put him on the list. He added that Ninova chose confrontation instead of dialogue.

Stanishev commented that now BSP had to answer many questions. The first is what the message of the party’s leaders to the party members is since his nomination for MEP is supported by many BSP members. The second question is what the message of BSP to the Bulgarian society is since the party is turning into an antidemocratic formation similar to GERB. The third question is what the attitude of BSP towards the European Union is. “Is BSP keeping its clear pro-European identity or is it heading towards Euroscepticism. The fourth question is about our message to our European partners, our political family in Europe, “says the president of PES.

“For almost a year there is a fairly violent and consistent campaign going on, which highlights the differences between BSP and PES. This inevitably raises the question what you (BSP) are doing in PES,” Stanishev said. Asked if he would fight for a place in the BSP election list, he said he wanted a list that had a clear socialist and pro-European candidates.

A key player who did not find a place on the list is Peter Kouroumbashev. He is one of the most active Bulgarian MEPs.

“In a conversation during the week, Kornelia Ninova offered me the 9th place in the BSP list. She told me that this was the highest possible place for the civil quota after Elena Yoncheva. This offer seemed to me like a mockery – for everything I’ve done so far, I refused, “Kouroumbashev said.

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