By Krassen Nikolov
The party of former president Georgi Parvanov “Alternative for Bulgarian Revival” (ABV) is using hybrid tricks vis-à-vis the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) just ahead of the European elections. ABV will appear in the elections with the name “Coalition for Bulgaria”. This name was used by the coalition led by BSP six years ago and is still recognisable among the leftist electorate. The purpose of this trick is to confuse voters and to win votes that should normally go to BSP.
According to the sociological studies BSP is a close second to the ruling party of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov – GERB. Polls do not give the ABV any chance to succeed in the European elections, although the party will take part in the vote in a coalition with six smaller parties.
The name “Coalition for Bulgaria” was used for the first time in 1999 on the initiative of Georgi Parvanov, at that time the leader of BSP. Later Parvanov won two consecutive presidential mandates, which ended in 2012. He decided to return to BSP, but the scandals in the party forced him to leave.
Parvanov established ABV with two other famous politicians from BSP – Rumen Petkov and Ivailo Kalfin. In 2014, President Parvanov’s left-wing pro-Russian party entered the parliament and surprisingly supported the second GERB government. Ivailo Kalfin became a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Policy. Later the support for ABV collapsed and Parvanov’s project was marginalised. Petkov is now the leader of the party, while Kalfin has taken distance from politics.
Symbolically, on 14 February, Valentine Day, ABV proposed to BSP to join forces. Petkov explained that left-wing voters need a “powerful left-wing coalition” to put an end to the ruling of GERB.
“We cannot wait endlessly, but if BSP really wants to eliminate GERB from power and to end this vicious model of government, it must take this decisive step,” Petkov said in February. BSP has ignored its old partner’s offer even without answering officially.
ABV and BSP have no contacts since 2016 when BSP’s leader Kornelia Ninova broke down the agreement with ABV to jointly support Rumen Radev for the presidential elections. Now ABV has apparently decided to declare war to the biggest left party using its old name.
Stealing names is recurrent in Bulgarian politics. 18 years ago, two political formations used the popularity of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and registered parties that duplicated the name of the National Movement for Simeon II – NDSV. They took about 4% of the NDSV’s election result and deprived it from the possibility to form a government without forming a coalition.
The biggest right-wing party in the early years of Bulgarian democracy, SDS, also struggled with similar tricks.
The latest major political name scandal in the country was between the big Blue Coalition and the small party of former SDS leader Nadezhda Neynsky, who founded the Blue Unity in 2013.
Two years later, in 2015, the parliament banned the participation in elections of parties and coalitions with similar names. The law amendment was initiated by nationalists from the Patriotic Front coalition. A few months later, the leader of the Party “New Alternative” and former Minister of Defense Nikolay Tsonev announced he had retained the patent on the Patriotic Front. He explained that he had also patented the names of the existing parties “Movement 21” (with leader Tatyana Doncheva) and Svetlio Vitkov’s “Voice of people”.
Eventually, the nationalist “Patriotic Front” went into history. It is called now United Patriots coalition and it is GERB’s partner in the ruling coalition. The other two parties managed to retain their names.
According to the law, the ABV coalition may use the name “Coalition for Bulgaria” if it is not used by another political formation and if no one else has patented it.