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Bulgarian Ethnic Model. A Pragmatical National Version of the Multiethnic Dialog

Part III

Ideological Approaches

    Political pluralism and diversity are the main characteristics of Bulgarian post-totalitarian reality. It seems that the local political system is going to acquire additional strands after the parliamentary elections on 17 June 2001. The bipolar well functioning political party system (ex-Communists - Democrats) is challenged by the rising of strong centrist and liberal tendency represented by the promanarchic coalition "Simeon II" and supported by the ethnic Movement for Rights and Freedoms. In general, we may gain an insight into three principal political trends that adopt and implement different approaches towards the problem of national ethnic concept building. All of them defend varied theoretical points of view, which content can be dedicated and analyzed as political methodological matter during the process of providing eventual conceptual solutions. The last is product of appropriate high skilled political party think tanks or explicit realization of non-drifted "intuitive" similar concepts of the ruling political subject. As a whole, we can mention the following:

    1. During the periods 1991-1992 and 1997-2001 the ruling Union of Democratic Forces provided the conservative pattern outlines for ethnic minorities' involvement.xxix Smaller political organizations like VMRO, Civil Party of Bulgaria, etc…with moderate impact on domestic public opinion, enriches the right wing visions. In mid - 2001 Bulgarian Conservative wing remains not quite fermented and structured from ideological point of view despite its international UDF and the Popular Union are electoral type political organizations. This circumstance bases the confined and selective flux of experts dealing with minorities' problems. As a whole, the Conservative political subjects may be characterized by lack of strongly theoretical purposes.xxxi The sole sources in this matter are ad hoc organized workshops, interviews and statements of the ruling UDF leaders provoked by incidental cases. The views in question are enriched by the similar mass media interventions of the leaders of other right wing political parties - CPB, VMRO, etc… The Conservative approach for minorities' involvement in the power includes the following items:

  1. Implementation of "non-quota" approach, which entails significant political and social offspring during the respective political model dominance. On February 2000, during the UDF workshop in Pamporovo Ivan Kostov, the UDF leader stated that the ethnic identity is not favor. The representatives of the local minorities are going to be involved in the State administration (including the high level) according to their capacity of Bulgarian citizens with requested professional skills, but not as Turks, Gypsies, Pomaks, etc…xxxii

  2. Direct contact with the relevant minority representatives by means of getting round of the spontaneous shaped in-group elite of each community. Logically, the Bulgarian Conservatives founded artificial elites, which gradually transformed themselves in semi-dependant political subjects. Par example the National Movement for Rights and Freedoms (NMRF) was founded by MRF rebel Guner Tahir and was assisted by UDF. This minuscule political party survives only for decreasing the MRF electoral influence. G. Tahir, himself remains critical towards UDF Conservative approach towards Turkish community's involvement in the power.xxxiii

  3. It seems that this way of interacting with the minorities is not the best within Bulgarian political and social traditions. The Conservative method provokes constant misunderstandings with the appropriate political party or the minority cultural elite. The MRF isolation from the power suggests risk of social tension. The increased verbal tension between UDF and MRF culminated in the instinctive statement of Ivan Kostov that "MRF is malediction for Bulgaria".

    2. The Socialist ideological approach is perfectly opposite to the above mentioned Conservative pattern. It is initiated and implemented by one of the most important posttotalitarian Bulgarian political subjects - Bulgarian Socialist Party (ex-Communist). Well-adapted and updated in reference to the even-changing electoral circumstances, often the Socialist model reaches "theoretical enrichments" of the BSP conjunctive coalition allies - Socialdemocrates, Communists, Ecologists, Nationalists, etc… The leftist conglutinated political ideas remain congenital Communist nature because implicitly the concerned pattern inherited the principles of the former Totalitarian State and the ruling Bulgarian Communist Party. However, we may generalize the pattern under consideration by the following focal characteristics:

  1. Currently, BSP focuses on the "quota" approach - proportional involvement of the minorities in power through preelectoral flattering with MRF. On February 2000 G. Parvanov, leader of BSP declared at the theoretical conference entitled "National Idea and Ethnic Relations from 20-th prior to 21-st Century. A Bulgarian Model" that BEM is innovated by all significant political factors including MRF. Because of the decreased Socialist influence and the equalized with UDF electoral presence, in 1999 BSP appointed up MRF activists in the municipalities where it won a majority (example Varna), after the regional elections. The Bulgarian Socialists implemented the same policy towards the left Roma organizations like "Confederation of the Romas in Bulgaria" and on some extent towards "Euroma".xxxiv

  2. BSP theoretical purpose for the ethnic problems solution remains conjunctive, unprincipled and on some extent, demagogue. A Communist nostalgia infiltrates the Socialist official interacts and declarations. The leader G. Parvanov stated in the above-mentioned forum that "the positive sources of BEM had to be found far in the Bulgarian history. Except the grave political mistake called "revival process", Bulgarian State took care and always guaranteed social welfare of the local ethnic minorities during the last 45 last years (the Communist rule)", claimed the Socialist leader.

  3. In general, the Socialist model may be assessed as contradictory, equivocal and even utopian during the posttotalitarian period. As a matter in fact, in 1999 BSP itself referred the question of the illegal status of MRF to the Constitutional Court claiming that it is ethnic political party (prohibited by the Constitution). In 1994 personally G. Parvanov headed anti MRF campaign in Kardjali during the communal elections. Most recently, in 1998 BSP remained the sole significant political subject, which demonstrated obstructionist behaviour to the discussed in the parliament ratification of the Framework Convention for Protection of National Minorities. Only 2 years later in the above-mentioned conference G. Parvanov regretted that Bulgarian politicians step very slowly towards the implementation of this Convention.

    3. The Liberal ideological amalgam is the third significant ideological tendency in Bulgarian society. In outline, Bulgarian Liberalism remains incomplete and unachieved from structural point of view after MRF chaotic and unsuccessful attempts for its political institualization. All other political subjects that endorsed liberal ideology are minuscule without relevant impact on the liberal public opinion. However, the legislative elections on 17 June 2001, looks enable to identify new important liberal subject - coalition around Bulgarian ex-monarch Simeon II. In the organizational inception, it seems quite heterogeneous, but undoubtedly the parliamentary presence of the liberal subject in question will forward and will improve Bulgarian posttotalitarian democracy, including human rights protection and minorities' involvement process in the power.

    The program of this announced itself moderate ideological alternative acquires more cognitive and pragmatic character because its authors had to endure personally and collectively the inconvenience of Bulgarian nationalism and intolerance. The Liberal vision of the ethnic problems' solution may be identified as MRF political program or in short, "basic program for minorities' involvement in Bulgarian society and public administration". It encompasses the following components:

  1. A radical and full value implementation of the European standards of national minorities' protection. MRF claims that BEM is its own historical contribution (including the personal theorization of Ahmed Dogan) and as political pattern it obtained the appropriate international recognition. MRF is candidate-member of the Liberal International. On January 2001, on the 4-th National Conference of MRF A. Dogan declared that "unconditionally BEM is oriented towards liberal values system. It includes a balance between the principles of minorities' integration and the principles of protection and development of their ethnic and religious identity".xxxv Lutvi Mestan, MRF deputy and activist stepped forward by stressing that BEM and SEE realities impose a new principle: "Identification before integration".xxxvi Its culmination will happen after the Bulgarian parliament approves special antidiscriminative law that aims preliminary to eliminate the ethnic minorities' social unadaptability.

  2. The Liberals emphasize the national and foreign investments' stimulation in the so-called "mixed regions". The liberty of the economic initiative needs an ongoing reform of the municipal administrative system and forwarding the local governance decentralization process. In this way, the minorities, pushed out from the central power, would recuperate their dignity and regain the lost rights and freedoms.

  3. The cultural identification remains one of the leading liberal principles within BEM development. MRF enriched this field of the minorities' protection with innovative proposals by constructing a wide-range of networks of alternative programs on both theoretical and practical sides. It encompasses: the right of study of the minority language, the right of practice the minority language in the public areas, publishing materials on the minorities' languages in the electronic and the press media, minorities' languages using in the administrative correspondence and the public services, independent schools of the minorities, non-intervention of the State in the religious cult and the cultural traditions, including the State assistance for the development of the minorities' cultural institutions, etc…

    The refusal of the so called "revival process" became one of the main symptomatic and distinguishable ideological marks towards the minorities in post-totalitarian Bulgaria. The political assessment at the assimilative policy of the Bulgarian Communist Party during the period 1986-1989 should always represent a challenge for the biggest national political organizations. They have to juxtapose their motivated condemnation for the ethnic assimilation policy and the specific proposed ideological approach for ethnic minorities' protection.

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Notes - Part III

xxix.UDF ideology corresponds exactly to the so-called "liberal-conservative synthesis". It grew up as instinctive and schematic ideological antithesis of the powerful Socialist Party. As a whole, the National movement "Simeon II" pretended to attract the central and centrist supporters.Back

xxx.UDF and its smaller allies Democratic party and Bulgarian Agrarian Popular Union are members of the European Popular Party, headed by Mr. Wilfried Martens;Back

xxxi.No specified minorities' policy programs except the Civil Party of Bulgaria;Back

xxxii.For more details see newspaper "Trud", 17 February 2000;Back

xxxiii.In an interview in "24 hours" newspaper published on 14 March 2001, Guner Tahir declared that UDF policy towards the minorities is totally wrong. Despite this media intervention G. Tahir once again signed a pre-electoral accord with UDF for mutual participation in the legislative election.Back

xxxiv.An excellent pre-electoral and post-electoral cooperation between BSP and Euroroma in the regional center of Lovech;Back

xxxv.For more details see MRF' Program Declaration published on 29-30 January 2000;Back

xxxvi.For more details see Report N 1, workshop "Ethnic Politics", 1 March 2001;Back