Bulgarian Socialist Party
Logo of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. Source: bsp.bg
The Bulgarian Socialist Party has been one of the mainstream political parties in Bulgaria since the end of the communist regime in 1989. It is the descendant of the former Bulgarian Communist Party. Since July 2009, it has been in opposition to the government of the center-right party GERB.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) claims to be the descendant of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party (BSDP), the first leftist and socialist party in the country founded on August 2, 1891, on the Buzludzha Mount Congress in the Balkan Mountain. Its founders included Dimitar Blagoev and Georgi Dimitrov, among others. At the time of its founding, its popular base was rather small as there were only about 3 000 industrial workers in Bulgaria back then.
In 1894, the BSDP was expanded and renamed Bulgarian Workers' Social-Democratic Party (BWSDP). In 1903, the BWSDP split into "narrow" socialists and "broad" socialists.
In 1919, the BWSDP of the "narrow" socialists accepted the postulates of Leninism, and was renamed "Bulgarian Communist Party ("narrow" socialists)".
After the rightist coup of June 23, 1923, the BCP was banned, and engaged into illegal political and terrorist activities for the next two decades. In 1925, some of its activists staged a terrorist attack by blowing up the St. Nedelya Cathedral in downtown Sofia in a botched attempt to assassinate Tsar Boris III.
In 1927, a new party, the Workers' Party was set up as a legal wing of the BCP. The WP was active in social unrest in Bulgaria in the 1930s.
In 1933-34, the Bulgarian activist of the Communist International, Georgi Dimitrov, was tried in Nazi Germany for the Reichstag Fire, and was eventually acquitted turning into a prominent figure in the international communist movement. Dimitrov was given Soviet citizenship by Stalin, and appointed head of the Communist International until its dissolution in 1943.
After Bulgaria joined the Axis on March 1, 1941, and Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the several thousand members of the Bulgarian Communist Party staged guerilla and sabotage operations against the Bulgarian government of Tsar Boris III.
However, the BCP only rose to prominence after the Soviet Army entered Bulgaria on September 8, 1944, and the ensuing coup d'etat on September 9, 1944, which was formally carried out by the Fatherland Front - an umbrella organization of the leftist and socialist forces in Bulgaria.
After organizing a People's Court, which tried and executed many alleged fascists and officials of the former regime, the Front held a referendum in which 92,7% of the voters opted for a republican government (there are claims the referendum results were forged with the aid of the Soviet Union), thus abolishing the monarchy. In 1947, a new republican constitution was adopted; it was known as the Dimitrov Constitution named after Georgi Dimitrov, who came back from Moscow to head the Bulgarian government at the time. The Fatherland Front formally governed until 1949.
From that point on, the Bulgarian Communist Party achieved a total monopoly of the political power, and Communist Bulgaria started to copy the socio-economic and political development of the Soviet Union as strictly as possible including many of its rampant flaws. A multi-party system was preserved in theory with the existence of the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union, which was practically a satellite party of the BCP.
In the later 1940s, Stalin and the Yugoslavian communist dictator Tito reached an agreement for the actual creation of a Macedonian nation in the predominantly Bulgarian-populated regions of southern Yugoslavia. The BCP agreed and adhered to this plan until Stalin and Tito fell out in 1948. Their quarrel practically saved Bulgaria from its planned accession to Yugoslavia.
After a brief period of very brutal Stalinist repressions (including land collectivization measures) in the early 1950s under PM Valko Chervenkov, the regime became slightly more moderate under Todor Zhivkov who became First Secretary of the BCP in 1954, and later combined that position with the position of Prime Minister (1962-1971), which was transformed into a Chair of the State Council (1971-1989) after a new constitution was adopted in 1971.
Twice during its rule, Zhivkov's regime tried to initiate Bulgaria's accession to the Soviet Union but the Soviet leaders turned down both attempts.
The era of glasnost and perestroika initiated by the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1985 eventually led younger reformers within the Bulgarian Communist Party to topple Todor Zhivkov in an intra-party coup on December 10, 1989 (The Berlin Wall fell the night of November 9, 1989).
Before that, however, in 1985-1989 the BCP under Zhivkov's leadership undertook an assimilation campaign known as the "Revival Process" in which first ethnic Bulgarian Muslims (known as Pomaks), and then Bulgaria's ethnic Turks were forced to replace their Arabic-sounding names with Slavic-sounding ones. In 1989, this led some 300 000 Bulgarian Turks to immigrate to Turkey (half of them are reported to have returned in the years after the collapse of the communist regime). In the 1970s and 1980s, the BCP under Zhivkov became increasingly nationalistic organizing large-scale celebrations of the 100th year since Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman Empire (1978), and of the 1300th year since the setting up of the Bulgarian state (1981).
At the beginning of 1990, the BCP renamed itself "Bulgarian Socialist Party (April 3, 1990), and decided to adopt the so called "democratic socialism", i.e. espousing socialist values while adhering to the principles of Parliamentary democracy.
In June 1990, the BSP won the elections for Bulgaria's VII Grand National Assembly; it got 47,15% of the votes, and 211 deputies in the 400-seat Grand National Assembly, which adopted the country's new and present constitution ushering Bulgaria into its post-communist transition.
In 1990, the BSP formed two consecutive governments led by PM Andrey Lukanov (February-September 1990, and September-December 1990).
In 1991, the BSP lost the Parliamentary Elections to the rightist Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) by a small margin. However, after 15 months, the UDF government lost a no confidence vote; the new government of Lyuben Berov was formed with the mandate of the ethnic Turkish party DPS and supported by the BSP.
The BSP won a clear victory in the December 1994 Parliamentary Elections together with a wider leftist coalition that it dominated, the Democratic Left, and formed a government led by Prime Minister Jean Videnov (January 1995-February 1997). After Bulgaria saw an unprecedented economic and financial crisis, bank bankruptcies, and hyperinflation, the BSP government was brought down by violent street protests, and early elections were called.
The BSP and its Democratic Left coalition lost overwhelmingly the April 1997 Parliamentary Elections to the UDF; the UDF formed a government left by Ivan Kostov, which stabilized the country, and exerted all its efforts to seek EU and NATO membership; Kostov's UDF government served its full mandate.
At the June 2001 Parliamentary Elections, the BSP remained third with 17% of the votes, and the UDF remained second with 18%, as the party of Bulgaria's former Tsar, Simeon Saxe-Coburg, the National Movement "Simeon Saxe-Coburg" (NMSS), won an overwhelming victory. However, it got only 120 deputies in the 240-seat Bulgarian Parliament, and formed a coalition with the DPS. The BSP actually also did get to take part in the NMSS-DPS government, as two of its Supreme Council members, Kalchev and Paskalev, were appointed Ministers.
In 2003, the BSP became a full member of the Socialist International, and in May 2005 - a member of the Party of European Socialists.
At the June 2005 Parliamentary Elections, the BSP emerged as the number one political force in the country by winning 31% of the votes but only 82 MP seats. After tricky negotiations for two months (June-August), the BSP and its runner-ups, the NMSS with 20%, and the DPS with 13%, formed a center-left government of the so called "three-way coalition" in which the BSP got 8 Ministers, including the Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev, the NMSS got 5 seats, and the DPS - 3 seats.
The BSP-led three-way coalition government did manage to realize Bulgaria's EU accession on January 1, 2007. After that, however, and especially in the summer of 2008, it was severely criticized by Brussels over its failure to crack down on corruption and organized crime, and saw some EUR 850 M of EU funds being frozen until the problems are fixed. Towards the end of the BSP-led Cabinet's term, some progress is reported as the European Commission has unfrozen part of the blocked funds.
After losing the 2009 parliamentary elections to the center-right GERB party, BSP has been in opposition to the Cabinet of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
In May 2012, the BSP party congress reelected and reaffirmed the leadership of the party chairman Sergey Stanishev who faced former Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov (President for two terms in 2002-2012) in a tough leadership battle.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party defines itself as a classical European socialist party fighting for economic development, social solidarity, and social security, and the welfare state. It claims to have been fully reformed and to have done away with its communist past adhering to the principles of the so called democratic socialism and parliamentary democracy.
Its admissions to the Socialist International (2003) and the Party of European Socialists (2005) are cited as proofs of the success of its modernization. Ideologically, the BSP is probably closer to the French Socialists than to the German Social-Democrats.
While BSP's social base is supposed to include the working class and much of the middle class, the intelligentsia, etc, in fact a huge share of its supporters are elderly people and pensioners many of them motivated by nostalgic feelings for the communist past. One of the major issues for BSP is the aging of this group, and the party is constantly making efforts to attract younger votes by showing off its modernized image.
In July 1990, the BSP won the elections for a Grand National Assembly with 47,5%, and got 211 of the total of 400 seats.
In October 1991, the BSP came in second to the UDF with 33,14% (1 836 000 votes), and got 106 seats in the 240-seat Parliament.
In December 1994, the BSP-led leftist coalition won the elections with 43,50% (2 262 000 votes), and got 125 MP seats.
In April 1997, the BSP-led leftist coalition lost the elections receiving 22,44% (940 000 votes), and got 58 MP seats.
In June 2001, the BSP-led Coalition for Bulgaria remained third with 17,15% (783 000 votes), and got 48 MP seats.
In June 2005, the BSP-led Coalition for Bulgaria came in first with 31% (1 130 000 votes) and got 82 MPs seats.
In April 2007, the BSP-led Platform "European Socialists" came in a close second in Bulgaria's first European Parliament Elections, winning 21,41% (415 000 votes) and got 5 MEP seats.
In June 2009, in the Bulgarian elections for MEPs the BSP-led Coalition for Bulgaria won 476 618 votes, or 18.5% of the votes cast, and got 4 MEP seats out of Bulgaria’s 17.
In July 2009, the BSP lost the Bulgarian parliamentary elections, ending second to center-right party GERB, with a total of 747 849 votes, or 17.7% of the cast votes, winning a total of 40 proportional MP seats, and 0 majority MP seats in the unicameral Bulgarian Parliament (out of total of 240 seats).
In October 2011, in the Bulgarian presidential elections, the BSP candidates for Bulgarian President and Vice President, Ivaylo Kalfin and Stefan Danailov, ended second with 974 000 votes, or 28.96% of the cast votes, in the first round, and second with 1 531 193 votes, or 47.42% of the votes cast in the runoff, losing the elections to GERB candidates Rosen Plevneliev and Margarita Popova.
International Political Affiliations
Member of the Socialist International since 2003
Member of the Party of European Socialists since 2005
Member of the PES Group in the European Parliament since 2007
Coalition for Bulgaria
The BSP-led "Coalition for Bulgaria" also includes: Bulgarian Social Democrats, Political Movement "Social Democrats", Movement for Social Humanism, Party "Roma", Communist Party of Bulgaria, Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Alexander Stamboliyski", Green Party of Bulgaria.