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The perpetually decomposing ‘United Patriots’

From left to right: Simeonov, Siderov, Karakachanov [BGNES]

The Bulgarian national motto “Unitеd we stay strong” obviously does not apply for the Bulgarian nationalists. In the past few days the so-called “United Patriots”, the junior coalition partner of Boyko Borissov’s GERB, has been decomposing more than usual. Krassen Nikolov has the story.

Nationalists started with nearly 15% support at the presidential elections in 2016, fell to 10% in the parliamentary elections, and now things seem almost disastrous for them. According to polls, it would be a miracle if they would pass the 5% barrier to be represented in the European Parliament.

One of the three components of the “United Patriots” is the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) of former Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov. This force announced that it cancelled the negotiations for running for the European elections with its coalition partner VMRO-BND the leader of which is the deputy prime minister and minister of defense Krassimir Karakachanov. The explanation they provided was trivial – they felt insulted by the media statements of their partners. Valeri Simeonov is irritated by VMRO’s “false concern” about the future of the United Patriots (OP).

The leader of “Ataka” Volen Siderov is the third element in the “patriotic” the coalition. He simply refused to negotiate with his partners for the upcoming elections and according to reports is seeking synergies with Nikolay Barekov, a controversial MEP.

To make a long story short, Simeonov says he has issues with Karakachanov, while Siderov cannot stand Simeonov. But this does not mean that Karakachanov and Siderov are in good relation. Karakachanov wants his colleague from VMRO-BND Angel Dzhambazki, another MEP, to lead the election list for the European elections. Siderov however wants this place for himself. Simeonov cannot stand the other two and keeps sabotaging them.

If the three parties run on separate tracks for the European elections, their chances are less than zero. And if the scandals between them continue during the next weeks, they will not have a chance to elect a single MEP even if they run together.

But the hatred between them has a limit, and it is about staying in power. Another aspect is the advantage for other players, generated by the patriotic scandals. Those who mostly take advantage is the socialist opposition party BSP, which also has been playing the patriotism tune during the past two years and hopes to attract part of the disappointed voters. This may be crucial because the gap between GERB and BSP is narrowing and two agencies estimate it to be within one percent.

The so-called patriots are not an easy partner for Borissov. VMRO-BND had campaigned with the motto “Bulgarian passports for all people of Bulgarian ethnic origin without corruption schemes”. A few months earlier this political force was hit by a major passports-for-bribes scandal concerning the issuing by government officials against bribes of documents proving the Bulgarian origin of applicants for Bulgarian citizenship. The party was accused of being at the core of this corruption since VMRO-BND is in charge with the agency that issues these documents. Last October prosecutors arrested the head and the employees of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, who are suspected of accepting bribes to issue fake certificates of Bulgarian origin. Although the Bulgarian prosecution usually plays ball with him, the last thing Borissov needs is to have one of his deputies indicted.

And it’s not clear how much Borissov can count on his allies’ support. In an attempt to position himself comfortably before the European elections, Siderov announced that his Ataka party is not part of the country’s government. At the same time, Siderov has ministers, deputy ministers and a number of other key people in the executive power.

Siderov added that if there would be a divorce with the patriots, it would be based on mutual agreement. But divorce by mutual agreement is unlikely. What is very likely is a continuation of the coalition of mutual disagreement, poisoned by even more scandals.

GERB will continue to use old scheme “divide and rule”. The goal of the Prime Minister Borissov’s party is to win the European elections even by 0.5% in order to position itself well for the local elections and for the very likely early parliamentary elections. Until then, power will be exercised with various partners, including the Turkish minority DPS party.

Conversely, BSP will try to use the failure of the nationalists to take part of their votes and beat GERB. The European elections will be the first round of the battle for power.

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