Bulgaria's Difficult Relationships with Messiahs
If you take a walk in Bulgaria's capital Sofia, you may witness the names of the two biggest local football teams, Levski and CSKA, sprayed on various walls. Both are almost always viciously crossed out by rival fans.
When it comes to politics, it is not names that you will notice sprayed on walls, but rather general statements such as "Politicians are rubbish, they lie to us and steal!" or "If elections changed anything, they would have abolished them."
Bulgarians can engage in conversations with strangers on buses or trains relatively easily, especially if the topic is the worthlessness of all politicians.
To put it in a nutshell, Bulgarians are well-known for their political nihilism.
Yet again, it appears every now and then that Bulgarians fall madly and deeply in love with political "Messiahs", engaging in relationships doomed to fail – only to repeat the same mistake all over again.
The average Bulgarian voter rarely looks at substance over appearance and is ready to believe the next "saviour", who may already be on his way, German analyst Martin Weiss suggested in an article published at the beginning of January 2012.
It is obvious that Bulgarians have complicated relationships with what appear to be their "saviors", but are these relationships love-hate ones?
For one who follows the country's political life closely, it appears that the voters make are almost entirely based on hatred. Neither Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, nor recently elected President Rosen Plevneliev are qualified for their current jobs – and many of their voters seem to grasp that – yet, there is so much hatred for the previous ones that people embrace them with a certain sense of inevitability.
The vital question now is: what will follow the inevitable collapse of Borisov's ruling centrist-right GERB? Will there be another self-proclaimed "savior" – and when will that happen?
Former EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva seems to be the only Bulgarian politician currently gaining momentum. She has two basic strengths. Firstly, she is a former EU beaurocrat and many voters admire that because of what they perceive as a stark contrast between EU beaurocrats and their own rulers in terms of corruption. Secondly, she has wisely chosen to play the "I am not a politician but I am forced to become one" card, the same one successfully used by Borisov.
If you want to appeal to at least a portion of Bulgarian voters, you have to pretend to be "non-partisan" and "independent" as much as possible. Create a civic movement, say it will not aim at becoming a party and then transform it into a party when the right time comes – this quasi-political process has become a tradition in recent years.
Of course, Kuneva is not the only political figure that has the potential to reach the "savior" status. Current EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva can achieve it much more easily, or at least her approval rating suggests so. However, Georgieva has not hinted that she will engage in domestic politics and is therefore not on the agenda.
Numerous patriotic formations have been created recently, apparently trying to fill the void left by agonizing far-right Ataka. Their leaders' aspirations to also become "Messiahs" are so pathetic that they do not deserve being commented on.
A left-wing "Messiah" is highly unlikely to emerge. The Bulgarian Socialist Party has completely monopolized the left-wing spectrum of Bulgarian politics, impudently claiming the successors of the Communist dictatorship are the only ones allowed to represent socialism in the country.
The next "savior" will most probably present herself (himself) as centrist.
Here is how the pattern of Bulgaria's politics looks like in recent years if we focus on the role of "Messiahs" in it:
1. A future "Messiah" emerges, usually by dropping out of an already existing party.
2.He or she gains media popularity and launches a "civic movement."The "civic movement" gains momentum, wins the general elections and creates a government (with the support of some minor formations, if necessary.)
3. The "Messiah" fails to live up to his or her bombastic promises and the party loses much of its support over the government's four-year term.
4. If no new "Messiah" has emerged in the meantime, a coalition government is formed by old parties. The formation once created by the "Messiah" is now an old party, too, since it has already been in power.
5. Voters are fed up by all these old parties and embrace the new "Messiah", since they feel they have no other choice.
This vicious circle may come to its end, but not in the near future.