Tag Archives: ivanov

Bulgaria’s Borissov (and EU) gets reprieve from dissatisfied voters

Leading EU officials will be relieved that Boyko Borissov is likely to begin a third stint as prime minister, but Bulgaria faces lingering concerns about its economy and corruption. (Facebook)

It’s been nearly two-and-a-half years since the last election, but Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov’s center-right party won just about the same percentage of the vote that it did in 2014 — around 32.7%. 

That performance was good enough for an 11-seat increase in the National Assembly (Народно събрание), making Borissov more likely than not to retain the premiership. It’s a remarkable turnaround after Borissov, dogged by allegations of corruption within his government and after his party suffered a humiliating defeat in last November’s presidential election, resigned earlier this year and triggered snap elections.

If he can form a governing coalition, it would be Borissov’s third non-consecutive stint as prime minister, his first coming in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2009. At a time when Russian president Vladimir Putin is working to undermine European democracy, top European leaders and EU officials alike view Borissov as a soothing center-right ally firmly devoted to European integration. EU leaders will certainly far prefer a Borissov government with Bulgaria set (for the first time) to assume the six-month rotating EU presidency in early 2018.

As both an EU and NATO member, Bulgaria is a key ally on the eastern periphery of the European continent. It’s a northern neighbor of the economically depressed Greece and the increasingly autocratic Turkey and just across the Black Sea lies a divided Ukraine and Russian-annexed Crimea. These days, it’s an increasingly tough neighborhood. Despite European anxieties about reliance on Russian natural gas, Borissov last year was already considering the resurrection of the on-again, off-again South Stream gas pipeline from Russia (talks began in 2006, but ended after Borissov won the 2014 election), even as the country’s new president called for better relations with Russia. While the number of ethnic Russians in Bulgaria is negligible (far less than ethnic Turks, which comprise nearly 9% of the population), a large majority of Bulgarians belong to the Orthodox church, sharing important cultural touchstones with Russia.

Earlier this year, voters seemed likely to punish his party, the center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB, Граждани за европейско развитие на България) for years of economic malaise and widespread corruption. GERB’s presidential candidate last November, Tsetska Tsacheva, the former chair of the National Assembly, lost a second-round runoff by a 23% margin to Rumen Radev, an independent and former Bulgarian Air Force commander endorsed by Bulgaria’s center-left.

At the time, coming days after Donald Trump’s successful, if once implausible US presidential campaign, Radev’s victory was yet another incremental geopolitical victory for Russian president Vladimir Putin, given Radev’s call for closer ties with Russia. Indeed, Tsacheva’s defeat was the proximate cause for Borissov’s resignation.

Instead, after the March 26 elections, GERB won 95 seats, the largest bloc in the National Assembly. Continue reading Bulgaria’s Borissov (and EU) gets reprieve from dissatisfied voters

Macedonian election results: double victory for ruling VMRO-DPMNE


It wasn’t a surprise, but Macedonia’s conservative president Gjorge Ivanov (pictured above) won reelection to a second four-year term in Sunday’s elections, and its conservative prime minister Nikola Gruevski won a fourth consecutive term, with his ruling party making minor gains in the Macedonian parliament that they’ve controlled since 2006.macedonia

Gruevski’s ruling VMRO-DPMNE (Внатрешна македонска револуционерна организација – Демократска партија за македонско национално единство; Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity) actually improved their total from 56 seats to 61 seats, nearly a majority in the 123-seat Собрание (Sobranie), the country’s unicameral assembly.

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RELATED: Macedonian right seems headed for fourth consecutive win 

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Despite a high-profile call to boycott the presidential vote in the first round by the country’s ethnic Albanians, an issue that initially brought the government down when

Gruevski’s junior coalition partner, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI, Bashkimi Demokratik për Integrim), brought the government down earlier this spring over the issue of Ivanov’s reelection. Despite a high-profile call to boycott the presidential vote in the first round by the country’s ethnic Albanians, the DUI also improved its standing from 15 to 19 seats, and it will likely resume its place in government.

The opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM, Социјалдемократски сојуз на Македонија) lost ground, dropping eight seats to just 34.  Continue reading Macedonian election results: double victory for ruling VMRO-DPMNE

Macedonian right seems headed for fourth consecutive win


Of all the former Yugoslav states, none has a more difficult path to full EU membership than Macedonia — for reasons that have less to do with its economy than with its culture. macedonia

In what has to be the most inane conflict in international affairs, Greece has blocked Macedonia’s potential EU (and NATO) accession for years over a dispute involving the naming of the country. The term ‘Macedonia’ covers both the Republic of Macedonia that bears its name and a greater geographic region that encompasses northern Greece as well. Greece worries that Macedonia’s use of the name ‘Macedonia’ violates its own cultural and historical heritage. The reality is complex. What is today’s Republic of Macedonia was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from the first half of the 15th century until the empire’s collapse. Macedonia was annexed by Serbia in 1912, and it was incorporated as a serparate state in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1944 before it emerged as an independent country with Yugoslavia’s disintegration in the early 1990s.

Even though Greek politicians have had much more to worry about in recent years than a naming contest with a small, neighboring country of just 2.06 million people, the battle lines between Macedonia and Greece have become tighter as ever following the election of Nikola Gruevski  (pictured above) in 2006 on a center-right, nationalist platform that’s exacerbated the world’s silliest international dispute after Greece actively vetoed Macedonian accession to NATO in 2008. Continue reading Macedonian right seems headed for fourth consecutive win