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February 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 2)
Out with the Old, In with
World Press Review Correspondent
In an upset in
presidential elections in November, Bulgarian voters, impatient
with corruption and deteriorating living standards, turned out
their incumbent President Peter Stoyanov. Stoyanov, backed by
the conservative Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), was defeated
by Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Georgi Purvanov, a
former communist. Voter turnout was the poorest since 1990:
Just 41 percent bothered to go to the ballot box.
|Sofia, Nov. 1, 2001: A protestor armed
with a loaf of bread at a protest rally against poverty
and the state of the nation organized by Bulgarian trade
unions to mark the first 100 days of the new Bulgarian
government, led by Simeon Kobourg Gotha. Some 10,000 people
gathered for the rally (Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov).
And while sociologists were baffled by the surprise outcome,
for most media Stoyanovs fiasco was forewarned. The
vote on Nov. 18 was not contested by the BSP and UDF; the poor
voted against the rich, observed Standart News
(Nov. 20). In fact the commander [ex-prime minister and
UDF leader Ivan Kostov] predetermined the election result, in
both rounds, by everything he did and did not do from 1997 on.
Poverty, notorious Managers & Employees Associations, shady
privatization deals that left thousands jobless...all
this weighed like a millstone on Stoyanov.
On the other hand, Purvanov, according to Standart News
(Nov. 19), is quiet, kind, and patient...able to compromise....He
can really boast two deeds: giving back the mandate to form
a second socialist-led government on Feb.4, 1997 [amid hyperinflation
and nationwide protests]. And he was the only MP of the BSP
who remained in the plenary hall to pay respects to the victims
of communism together with his right-wing colleagues.
Local and foreign observers delighted in the paradox: A president
who is a former communist will have to cohabit with the former
king Simeon II Saxe Coburg-Gotha, who was elected prime minister
Simeon II was exiled as a child by the selfsame communists.
And although moderate socialist Purvanov has pledged allegiance
to the course of European Union and NATO integration, revisionist
figures inside his party may provoke social tensions that can
sabotage the ruling National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) agenda,
analysts say. Planned price hikes of electricity, fuel, cigarettes,
and medicines, plus the higher taxes on homes and autos, may
prove too heavy a burden for most Bulgarians, reflected Sega
But is time actually working against the new prime minister?
It is clear that the wheel of history is turning back
for Simeonin the sense that the current situation may
help recast him in his original role as king of Bulgaria,
speculated analyst Georgi Daskalov, writing in 24 Tchasa
(Nov. 19). For more than half of Bulgarians, the presidential
institution is nonsensical. And Simeon is cunning enough to
take advantage of this, concludes Daskalov.