(Ependytis, 17-18 November, 2001)
The return to power of a former communist politician as leader of a country is nothing new as far as the countries of Eastern Europe are concerned. But the idea of a communist in the presidential seat sharing government with a former king as Prime Minister really is a world-wide original and proves that Bulgarian voters have no hesitation in electing a peculiar governmental form if it results in improvements in their living conditions.
The otherwise amenable, according to pre-election opinion polls, departing president Petar Stoyanov watched his hopes evaporate and the ambitious claims that he was the indisputable favourite proved wrong, as he paid the price of his peoples heartfelt disappointment at the poverty which has beset the country.
Besides, the conclusion reached by all political analysts was that the victory won by Georgi Parvanov, leader of the Socialist Party, formerly the Communist Party, with 54.13% of votes cast (as opposed to 45.87% for Stoyanov) was not merely a victory for the left, but for the change which the majority of the people sought in yet another attempt to produce a government capable of lifting the country out of its present economic doldrums.
Indeed, given the fact that Prime Minister Symeon Saxkoburkotski openly supported Mr. Stoyanov, we might be justified in thinking that in the event this joining of forces boomeranged against the out-going president. This is directly linked to the continuing decline in the former kings popularity since his election in June, as he not only failed to improve living conditions within the first one hundred days of his term as promised but is faced with an economy ailing even worse than before.
Added to this, the centre-right alliance of United Democratic Forces which was Stoyanovs political base although he was officially an independent candidate in the election is plagued by infighting which has broken out between groups within the party as a result of its defeat in the June parliamentary elections. This infighting has clearly benefited the left, which had received support for its promotion of Parvanovs candidacy from smaller factions, among them the Muslim movement for Rights and Freedom, giving the left its first victory since the fall of communism in 1989.
In a clear indication of the need for peaceful co-existence with the Prime Minister in view of the countrys economic problems at a time when Bulgaria is in a transitional period, promoting applications to join both NATO and the European Union, the new president lost no time in pointing out that Symeon Saxkoburkotski shares his views in these matters. Even so, forty-four-year-old Parvanov made a powerful impression with his announcement that as well as working towards joining the EU and NATO, consolidation of political and economic ties between Sofia and Moscow were high on his agenda. In previous years, when the Union of Democratic Forces was in power in Bulgaria, there had been a time of trial when their bilateral diplomatic relations had been frozen.