RussiaNovember 15 2022, 17:34 pm

Pro-Russian Political Parties in Bulgaria- Trouble Ahead?

Euro­pean media report­ed in Octo­ber on the results of the Bul­gar­i­an ear­ly par­lia­men­tary elec­tions that includ­ed two pro-Russ­ian par­ties, which togeth­er received approx­i­mate­ly 15% of the vote. Accord­ing to a EURACTIV report

Octo­ber 3, 2022 A new polit­i­cal force, the ‘Bul­gar­i­an rise’ of for­mer care­tak­er prime min­is­ter Ste­fan Yanev, described as a “nation­al-con­ser­v­a­tive” par­ty, obtained 4.7% and will enter parliament.

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US media has report­ed that Yanev, a for­mer Defense Min­is­ter, formed the new par­ty after he was forced out of gov­ern­ment after claim­ing the Russ­ian inva­sion of Ukraine was not a war. Accord­ing to the Radio Free Europe report, Yanev invoked the sup­posed threat of  “glob­al­ism,” a major theme through­out the Glob­al Nation­al Con­ser­v­a­tive Alliance (GNCA):

Even some par­ties that are in favor of stay­ing in the EU and NATO are sup­port­ive of Rus­sia. Ste­fan Yanev, whose par­ty Bul­gar­i­an Rise is polling around the 4 per­cent mark need­ed to enter par­lia­ment, was forced out of Petkov’s gov­ern­ment as defense min­is­ter after he claimed that Rus­si­a’s inva­sion of Ukraine was not a war. Yanev, like Putin, has declared “glob­al lib­er­al­ism” to be his main ene­my. In an August 31 Face­book post, Yanev said that pro-West­ern politi­cians had “their hearts in Wash­ing­ton and are in a state of war with Rus­sia” and then blamed them for the Russ­ian gas shut­down. With so many par­ties singing from the same song­book, Petro­va of Alpha Research said that this “cre­ates the impres­sion and sug­ges­tion that such [pro-Russ­ian] the­ses are widespread.”

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The EURACTIV report also iden­ti­fied the ‘rad­i­cal pro-Russ­ian” ‘Vazrazh­dane’ (Revival) par­ty as com­ing in fourth with 10.2% of the vote. Radio Free Europe describes the Revival Par­ty as even more pro-Russian:

A far-right par­ty is shak­ing up Bul­gar­i­an pol­i­tics ahead of snap par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, promis­ing to get the coun­try out of the EU and NATO, and advanc­ing poli­cies friend­ly to the Krem­lin. The Revival par­ty, which already has seats in the Nation­al Assem­bly, Bul­gar­i­a’s uni­cam­er­al par­lia­ment, has vowed to rene­go­ti­ate Bul­gar­i­a’s mem­ber­ship in the Euro­pean Union. If Brus­sels does­n’t cave to its demands, Revival has said it will push for a ref­er­en­dum on whether Bul­gar­ia should exit the EU. The par­ty also wants a vote on the coun­try’s mem­ber­ship in NATO. Revival is one of sev­er­al par­ties — albeit the most promi­nent — vying for seats in Bul­gar­i­a’s Octo­ber 2 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions with a clear pro-Krem­lin agen­da… While many experts dis­miss the anti-West­ern rhetoric of the Revival par­ty as lit­tle more than cam­paign blus­ter, they do cau­tion that the par­ty is doing the bid­ding of the Krem­lin. “In my opin­ion, hid­den behind these posi­tions of Revival, is an agen­da to set as large a part of Bul­gar­i­an soci­ety as pos­si­ble against the EU, to sep­a­rate Bul­gar­ia from a unit­ed Europe and the free world; to turn us into a periph­er­al author­i­tar­i­an state of the repres­sive Russ­ian regime,” Hris­to Hris­tev, a pro­fes­sor of EU law at Sofia University

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At least one Euro­pean media report cites ana­lysts who sug­gest that the rel­a­tive suc­cess of the pro-Russ­ian par­ties could result in Bul­gar­ia adopt­ing a more neu­tral posi­tion on Russia:

Bul­gar­i­a’s pre­vi­ous prime min­is­ter, Petkov, a 42-year-old Har­vard grad­u­ate, took a strong pro-Euro­pean and pro-NATO posi­tion after Rus­sia invad­ed Ukraine, and Bul­gar­ia joined in with EU sanc­tions. This led to ten­sions with Moscow and, after Sofia refused to pay for Russ­ian gas in rou­bles, ener­gy giant Gazprom cut off sup­plies, caus­ing ener­gy prices to surge. But after Sun­day’s elec­tion, ana­lysts pre­dict a new gov­ern­ment could bring back a more neu­tral pol­i­cy toward Rus­sia. “There is one wor­ry­ing sig­nal — the nation­al­ists of “Revival” are dou­bling their sup­port,” said for­mer min­is­ter for tourism Valentin Vas­silev. But he added: “For­tu­nate­ly, this still does not threat­en Bul­gar­i­a’s geopo­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion.” Revival is an ultra­na­tion­al­ist polit­i­cal par­ty, found­ed in 2014. The par­ty, which came fourth in yes­ter­day’s elec­tion, has been defined by ana­lysts as anti-west­ern and anti-EU. It entered the Bul­gar­i­an par­lia­ment for the first time in the 2021 Gen­er­al Elec­tion, gain­ing 13 seats.

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The Novem­ber 3 deci­sion by the Bul­gar­i­an Par­lia­ment to approve send­ing mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine points to the divi­sions between the Bul­gar­ia par­lia­ment on the issue and the role of the pro-Russ­ian par­ties: Accord­ing to a Cana­di­an NGO report:

On Novem­ber 3rd, the major­i­ty of law­mak­ers in Bulgaria’s par­lia­ment approved send­ing mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine. This deci­sion was made with the approval of a six-point plan to decide which type and how many weapons they should send. 175 law­mak­ers vot­ed to send mil­i­tary sup­plies, and anoth­er 49 vot­ed against the motion, reveal­ing even more vivid­ly the divi­sion with­in the Bul­gar­i­an par­lia­ment on this top­ic. Pres­i­dent Rumen Radev and Min­is­ter of Defense Dragomir Zakov spoke out against the motion. The pres­i­dent stat­ed that Bul­gar­ia can­not afford such weapon deliv­er­ies and that these actions could draw Bul­gar­ia much fur­ther into the war. The Bulgarian’s pro-Russ­ian Revival Par­ty protest­ed while the deci­sion was being made in front of par­lia­ment, with Revival MP Angel Georgiev describ­ing the par­ties in sup­port of send­ing mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine as “euro-Atlantic rag­bags,” while Social­ist mem­ber Kris­t­ian Vigenin said it was “col­lec­tive irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty.” On the oth­er hand, one of the pro-Russ­ian par­ties saw this motion as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for Bul­gar­ia to ren­o­vate and mod­ern­ize its weapon’s stock. In par­tic­u­lar, Bul­gar­i­an Rise’s for­mer care­tak­er, Prime Min­is­ter Ste­fan Yanev, recent­ly approved send­ing mil­i­tary aid, but under one con­di­tion: Bul­gar­ia should receive mod­ern NATO weapons in return. Bul­gar­ia and Hun­gary were the only two NATO and EU coun­tries who had offi­cial­ly refused to send mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine. In the mean­time, Bul­gar­ia was revealed to be one of the biggest indi­rect sup­pli­ers of weapons for Ukraine

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A May 2022 Bul­gar­i­an media report titled “Is Bul­gar­ia the weak link in Europe’s fight against Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion” ana­lyzes the impact of pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da in Bul­gar­ia, which the report says has been “flood­ing the coun­try for years:”

If the media is con­sid­ered a weapon dur­ing wartime, Bul­gar­ia is like­ly to shoot itself in the foot. West­ern nations mus­tered an unprece­dent­ed uni­fied response to Rus­si­a’s inva­sion of Ukraine. At the same time, the moral judg­ment on even the most bla­tant atroc­i­ties is a cause for divi­sion among Bul­gar­i­ans. This is the log­i­cal con­se­quence of strate­gic pro-Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da, which has been flood­ing the coun­try for years. It has frac­tured the social fab­ric, thus ren­der­ing Bul­gar­ia a weak link in the EU and NATO’s defense lines. The main chan­nels through which pro­pa­gan­da flows are local media out­lets and dig­i­tal plat­forms such as Face­book. Bul­gar­ia offers a par­tic­u­lar­ly fruit­ful envi­ron­ment for the spread of pro-Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion. Lev­els of media lit­er­a­cy are low while the coun­try’s com­mu­nist past has ingrained pro-Russ­ian atti­tudes into the cul­tur­al main­stream. High lev­els of cor­rup­tion in pol­i­tics that have giv­en oli­garchs the pow­er to sti­fle free­dom of expres­sion have also exact­ed their toll.

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1 Comment

  • Editor says:

    An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post incor­rect­ly iden­ti­fied Niko­lay Mali­nov, accused of spy­ing for Rus­sia, as a mem­ber of the ‘Vazrazh­dane’ (Revival) par­ty. In fact, Mali­nov is a mem­ber of the Русофили за възраждане на Отечеството (Rus­sophiles for the Revival of the Father­land), a left­wing, nation­al­ist Bul­gar­i­an polit­i­cal par­ty. We apol­o­gize for the mix­up in the names and have cor­rect­ed the post.

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