Novinite.com Blitz: Will Bulgaria's New GERB Government Be Stable?
As Bulgaria's Prime Minister-designate Boyko Borisov announced his new cabinet on Thursday, July 23, 2009, the Editorial Team of Novinite.com approached top officials, businessmen, journalists, foreigners living in Bulgaria, and general public figures with its BLITZ QUESTION:
Will Bulgaria new cabinet be stable? What should be its top priorities?
Following are the answers we received, arranged alphabetically by order of last name:
Dr. Dirk Förger
Media Program South East Europe,
Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Germany
This depends on whether they will really do what they said before about fighting corruption, improving rule of law and limiting certain "business-men". They should share power and built a real coalition (i.e. with the Blue Coalition) instead of being dependent on doubtful parties like Ataka. This could also teach the politicians to be modest and share power for the sake of all people in Bulgaria - instead of only looking for their own benefit and profit.
For sure by far the most important point is to improve rule of law and law enforcement. This is the foundation of a real democratic state. As an important "side effect" this also would improve the power of the media in Bulgaria as an important controlling element.
Dr. Athoniy Galabov
Professor of Sociology, Political Science Department
New Bulgarian University, Sofia
The stability of the next Bulgarian government depends on the choice and strategy for combining its governance priorities. The Bulgarian experience has shown that the active management of a crisis in fact contributes to stabilizing the support for the government. We had such an example with the government of the United Democratic Forces from 1997 until the beginning of 2000. The risks for stability are mainly connected with losing the rhythm of reform; democracy is stable only when it is in action.
There are at least two reform directions from which the new governing majority would have to choose. The first is more of a tactical on, and is determined by the operational tasks for managing the economic crisis and minimizing its effects. The second direction is a strategic one, and combines both the active management of the crisis, and the resuming of the stalled or mistaken reforms. For the time being, it seems as if the GERB party will choose the first option. If they were going to choose the strategic reform, they would be starting with the constructing of a stable center-right majority. The one-party government is more suitable for tactical and operational tasks.
The quality of the government depends on the commitment to the selected priorities. The limiting of the public spending cannot be achieved without the optimization of the administrative structures. The improving of the efficiency of the government necessitates the symmetric development of the processes for decentralization and reducing the concentration of power.
The policies in the fields of security, energy efficiency, and environment, transparency and accountability, as well as the anti-corruption measures are horizontal ones, which means that they would have to be managed and developed in all government sectors. If the new government's efforts are directed in those spheres, it could achieve visible results, which would satisfy the need for public trust, and hence - boost the cabinet's stability.
Leading Bulgarian Financier and Banking Expert
Professor of Banking, UNWE, Sofia
The new cabinet has all chances to be a stable one because it has enough parliamentary support, including the chance to establish a constitutional majority. At the same time, we must point out that the political stability of a government is not a linear function of the number of the parliamentary votes. It is possible that a party that had won a huge number of votes, for example 75% of the parliamentary votes, would end up not being able to support a stable rule and "oust itself" as result of a division in several fractions, the impossibility to reach consensus among its Members of the Parliament or as result of external pressure over an unsuccessful rule.
In this case, with the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party, we have a young political formation and we don't know much about it. We can only hope that it would find its own successful way to consolidate the opinion for the common good of the society and consequently - receive a lasting enough, sufficient support, in order to be able to realize its legislative intentions. We can only hope that this is what exactly is going to happen.
The top priority, no matter what, is to maintain economic stability - regardless of what the leader in power thinks, this is issue number 1. This priority includes: a) maintaining the currency board, b) maintaining the flat taxation of the income. A very important priority for the cabinet is to reinstate the somewhat faded image of Bulgaria as an attractive place to invest. Overall, foreign business are sympathetic to the new leader and his future government (the "revolutionary" who ousted the "former communists", i.e. he is pro-Western; this cliché still works in the Western media and economic analysis).
The reinstatement of the trust would have direct influence on the renewal of the projects halted by the crisis; if this happens, Bulgaria could mark a positive growth of its Gross Domestic Product in just months; the currency board will become more stable as well as the macro-economic parameters. The other priorities are the recommendations stated in the European Commission's report published Wednesday. They reflect Bulgaria's own expectations in the areas of fight against corruption, law enforcement, efficient justice system.
Real Estate expert, Owner RE/MAX Connection.
The new government should create a stimulation bill for families, who buy real estate for the first time. This measure should be guaranteed by the government with low interest rates, preferably fixed, and low self-participation in the mortgage, 5%. This will make homes more affordable to young families.
Regulations are needed in the real estate sector, coordinated with EU practices. Real estate agent should be clearly defined as a profession, with rights and responsibilities.
Journalist, Darik Radio and Nova TV
My answer is: I don't know. I really don't know.
Dr. Anna Krasteva
Professor of Political Science
Head of Political Science Department, New Bulgarian University, Sofia
Boyko Borisov's government is doomed to stability because at the moment there are no other real political players. The Bulgarian Socialist Party is in a state of collapse but it cannot figure out the reasons for that which led the voters to boycott it. The DPS does not have the moral authority to be an opposition correcting those in power. The self-confident rhetoric of Ivan Kostov (Co-Chair of the Blue Coalition) who has only 5 MPs (15 MPs total for the whole Coalition) cannot turn into any outright policies. RZS ("Order, Law, Justice") party has no clear political identity. The clear identity of "Ataka" is a marginal and anti-establishment party. President Parvanov has quieted down.
Boyko Borisov needs to prove that he can bring the necessary stability and to transform his image capital into a governance capital. Moves like inclusion of Bozhidar Dimitrov in the government bring the opposite effect. Friendship is not a foundation of government, and the public opinion clearly wants to see a new elite that is not connected with the State Security service of the former communist regime. A split in the right would be even more problematic, i.e. a situation in which GERB is supported by the two instable left-right parties Ataka and RZS and is warring with the Blue Coalition of UDF and DSB. If the BSP and DPS take a long time to turn into an opposition, there is a risk that GERB might turn the Blue Coalition into its major opposition.
For the first 6-12 months the credit of trust will provide for stability. After that the minority government of GERB will have three scenarios - efficient and stable government, coalition compromises with problematic partners, or early elections.
The most important priority should be to restore statehood. The EC and the Bulgarian public opinion are unanimous that the state and the public resources must not privatized any more in favor of clientelist interests. This is where the reformist potential of the new Prime Minister must come into play. His credit of trust depends on this priority. The government will be stable if the citizens believe it and witness less corruption and more statehood.
The anti-crisis program is the second priority. If the first priority requires radical change, the second one requires conservativeness - abstaining from haphazard moves and reforms, more restrained budgets, smaller and more efficient administration. The third challenge is for the Prime Minister himself: to transform himself from a popular leader into a responsible leader, and to turn his media popularity into a statesman's authority.
Member of the National Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party
Publisher of the left-wing Duma Daily
I think that the new Bulgarian government will not be a stable one because the GERB party has already rejected the reasonable offers from its potential partners - i.e. the suggestion of the Blue Coalition for adopting new rules at the Parliament in order to prevent MPs who split off from their parties from creating new parliamentary groups. A stable government with the support of the nationalist party "Ataka" does not seem European.
The priorities of the new government should be: the measures to get Bulgaria out of the financial and economic crisis, fighting corruption, and boosting the judicial system.
Member of the Bulgarian Parliament from the GERB Party
Chair of the Youth GERB
We are going to do everything that is necessary and depends on us in order to ensure the stability of the Bulgarian government but that is not a unilateral act and participants in Bulgaria's political life, and every single citizen are going to contribute to the stability of the state through their actions. Our priorities have to do with the state of crisis - both a financial and a political crisis - and we could also speak of a crisis of values - that we are in at the present moment.
Through our program for European development of Bulgaria we want to create favorable conditions for functioning and development of the business sector in the country, to preserve as many jobs as possible, to provide for the education and the instilling of an entrepreneurship spirit with the young people, restoring the rule of law in the country, creating greater security for the people, and fighting high-level corruption. In the foreign policy field, the priorities are Bulgaria's Euro-Atlantic orientation, a good neighborly policy, and active policies regarding the Bulgarians abroad.
UK Author of The Big Bulgarian Adventure and Bulgaria Bites Back
Not yet, but one hopes for greater social stability as some money has been spent on improving the infrastructure and this should have a knock-on effect.
The government should look after the old, the defenceless, and stay as green as possible. Then push big time as a valid tourist destination...travel shows in other countries, proper advertising as if BG is proud of itself, features in the quality papers outside BG.
Executive Director, Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum (BBLF)
The government is quite determined to implant hard discipline close to a war time one in the Parliament and in the spoiled governmental institutions. This is to be accompanied by severe measures towards many who have trespassed the laws during last two governments and towards those who are caught out to violate the new rules introduced by the new majority.
If it is achieved the government will stay stable despite the painful anticrisis measures it has to undertake and it will enjoy the support of the ordinary people and GERB may accumulate bigger majority for the next mandate. If it is not accomplished the disappointment among electorate will throw GERB down the drain at next local elections and Boiko Borisov as a man of honor will have to submit his resignation.
Prof. Dr. Werner Weidenfeld
Professor of political science at Munich University, Germany
Director of the Center for Applied Policy Research in Munich
Well, it depends. Even though a record voting participation, the GERB and his popular candidate have not come into the absolute power and must now create a healthy and resilient coalition. The winner of the elections Boyko Borisov and his new team have a large number of problems to be solved soon. He announced that he will fight the economical crisis and that he will stop the omnipresent corruption. That fits the goals of the other right wing parties and could lead to get frozen money from Brussels. Insofar must Borissov hold what he announced and the coalition must quickly start to do a good job.
Priorities - first of all, getting and keeping trust with the population and the elites. The problems of the country are well known and the voters obviously had no more confidence to the former left wing government. Only on the basis of trust Borrisov and his government can catch the economical challenges of the future and fight against corruption successfully. Last is decisively in the context of the relationship to Europe and the European Union and the quality of this relationship is one of the most important aspects of the future of Bulgaria.
His Excellency Steve Williams
UK Ambassador to Bulgaria
The new government is taking office with a decisive mandate from the Bulgarian people, which should contribute to stability.
Its priorities should be the same as for most governments - the economy,global challenges like climate change and energy security, education, health, infrastructure, welfare reform and others. The fight against corruption and organised crime is integral to all of these issues.
Director, Media Development Center, Sofia
I believe that the government will be stable for a number of reasons. On the one hand, it has strong parliamentary support; on the other, the members of the new government appear to be professionals and people who do not bear a burden of their past. Let us not forget that we are yet to experience the effects of the global crisis, and in this respect it seems to me that none of the other players in Bulgaria's politics is eager to lead the country through this next period of challenges.I do not rule out some ministerial changes in a year or two but I do not see any reasons why the new cabinet should not be stable.
Among the top priorities of the new Bulgarian government, I would point out first the purposeful and result-oriented work for improving Bulgaria's image in Europe and around the world, and meeting the high public expectations for investigations and trials of corrupt politicians and top-ranking officials; just as important is the adoption of adequate and purposeful measures for reducing the effects of the crisis, especially on the people with the lowest income.
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its good to see a new government promising to fight curruption i have noticed there seems to be more arrests on curruption lets hope it continues it would be nice for the new minister of justice to investigate the michael shields case,ie the policeman involved in the case boasting of how much money he recieved under the table to get the thug who commited the crime and how they went back and arrested an innocent 18yr old ,this case has done a lot of damage to bulgaria half empty hotel ,with the high euro against the pound ,bulgaria shud be booming,yet the varna resurts are closeing hotels and laying staff off this case as lost bulgaria a lot of money at a time when it needs it