Dr. Rumen Hristov is the Chair of the United Democratic Forces (UDF) as well as one of the founders of UDF. He is a Doctor of Economics and has been Deputy Minister for Agriculture on two occasions. Dr. Hristov was special adviser to the first democratically elected President of Bulgaria after the communist regime, Zhelyu Zhelev (1990-1997) and Secretary General to the President Petar Stoyanov (1997-2002). He has been a Member of Parliament in the 43d and 45th Parliaments of Bulgaria.
Dr. Hristov how would you describe the political situation in the country taking into account that after the elections on the 4th April a government was not formed and there will be new elections on the 11th of July?
In the context of the pandemic, characteristic not only for Bulgaria, but for the whole world and the beginnings of an economic crisis as a result, a political crisis would be very unwelcome. If we make a short check with history we can see that for the last time a newly elected parliament has not been able to form a government was in the distant 1913.
For over 100 years the political forces in Bulgaria have found ways to create governments. However, in the 45th Parliament a formation which achieved a surprising second position decided that we will go for elections once again with the aim of increasing their result.
Even if we assume that their result will be better in the next elections, it will not be enough to create a government on their own or a government of the so-called ‘protectorate parties’. Does this mean that we will have ongoing elections until they like the result? Perhaps this is the hope of the President, to combine the new parliamentary elections with the Presidential ones, so there could be a government appointed by the President. The legal powers of a regular government, which has a 4-year horizon, are always greater, because it would be able to improve the budget and to create new laws.
Let’s hope that the political formations of the 46th Parliament will express wisdom so that there can be a regular government.
So is there a risk for Bulgaria to have a political crisis similar to other European countries in some of which there has not been a regular government in years?
Let’s not compare the young democracy of Bulgaria with that of other European countries where there is an established democracy. The lack of a government does not necessarily affect the economic life of the country. It happens often, and although it is not best practice, if we look at the GDP of those countries the development of the economy does not suffer significantly.
This scenario in the polarised Bulgaria is not good because the involvement of the state in the economy is greater and instability will inevitably affect the economy. Allowing a political crisis will stunt the development of the economy.
After Ukraine (Zelensky), Italy, (Grillo, Salvini) and the results of the newly created parties and coalitions at the Bulgarian elections of the 4th Aril, could we say that populism is becoming a trend, at a European or even a global level?
Yes, populism is becoming a trend in the world, in Europe and in Bulgaria. We can see that many celebrities have decided to enter politics. This in principle could be positive if they participated through the established parties. However, when there are new formations with people who have never been involved in politics, we are faced with the possibility for them to be inexperienced. How much can the people wait for them to gain experience?
There has to be renewal, it is good for popular figures to take part in politics, but the responsibility is taken by the political parties, which have a proven track record. Politics is not a hobby, it is a serious profession and it is strange when celebrities state that when they finish their career they will go into politics, perhaps, in order to fill their vacant time.
In conclusion, could we take Greece as an example, where the populist rule of Tsipras failed after a series of scandals and was replaced by Mitsotakis?
Traditions in politics are extremely important. Despite the fact that we are a young democracy we have to strengthen the traditions. In the Bulgarian parliament some parties are often called parties of the status quo. They have been in Bulgarian politics for 30 years, they have regular voters, they receive support and carry responsibility for their actions. In contrast with the many populist parties which sometimes arise like a comet and disappear after one or maximum two participations in the parliament.