Heard in Europe

The leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES) is more comfortable in Brussels than he is at home. The latest example was the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) congress on 5 April, in Sofia, where dissident activists unfurled a large banner reading “Stanishev out of the BSP” on the balcony of the congress hall.

The banner was removed after a minute or so. However, its brief appearance eclipsed any other issues, and highlighted once again how divided the BSP is.

In the presence of Sergei Stanishev, the party congress actually adopted an amendment to its statute dubbed by the press “anti-Stanishev”. That’s because the amendment, without mentioning Stanishev, prohibits a leader of the party who has stepped down ahead of the expiration of his term, to be a candidate for election again during the same term. The amendment also forbids such a person from seeking election less than one year after the expiration of the term during which he has stepped down.

Stanishev stepped down from the BSP leadership in mid-2014, when it was obvious that the coalition in which the BSP was the senior partner, would lose power.

On 5 October 2014, early parliamentary elections were held and the BSP obtained 15.4% of the vote, the worst result in the party’s history. Stanishev is seen as a serial loser, and election results over the years confirm this.

In the meantime, Stanishev took an MEP seat, as he was head of the BSP list for the May 2014 European elections. At that point, Stanishev said that he wouldn’t take the MEP job, and that he only lead the list to assume political responsibility during the election. Asked if he would take his MEP job, Stanishev kept the secret until the very end, until the last day of June, when elected MEPs could still register.

Although the BSP has a new leader, in recent months Stanishev has spent more and more time in Bulgaria and conveys the impression that the party has two heads. Unsurprisingly, many Socialist politicians in Bulgaria see Stanishev’s return to national politics as destructive. Pundits have warned that if the BSP wants to disappear from the political landscape, Stanishev should be seen around more often.

Ironically, Stanishev is likely to be reelected as PES President later this year. One reason is that apparently nobody else wants the job. Another one is that very few in the Brussels bubble pay any attention to national politics.



Photograph courtesy of OffNews, Bulgaria. All rights reserved.

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