History of Bulgaria since 1989
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|History of Bulgaria|
History of Bulgaria since 1989 is the history of Bulgaria after the fall of socialism and after the establishment of democratic rule.
The reforms towards liberalization, both social, political and economic in the Eastern Block started with Gorbachev's reform program in the Soviet Union which was felt in Bulgaria in the late 1980s. In fact, the release of tightening started with the end of the Stalinist era and continued slowly to the point that many previously forbidden literary texts were translated, the same was relevant for Hollywood movies, etc., stores appeared with Western products that had elements of advertisement (advertisement of products was generally unknown and not used in the Eastern Bloc since everything was accessible and the same to all), these new features of the late communist years acknowledged the gradual breaking of the Iron Curtain for the Comcon people. This, together with the policies of Gorbachev, led to more freedom and expectations for democracy among people.
In November 1989 demonstrations on ecological issues staged in Sofia, and these soon broadened into a general campaign for political reform. That Communists generally didn't break the demonstrations was a sign of a possible change that would come. In fact communist politicians reacted by eventually voting for the removal Todor Zhivkov as a communist party and country head and replacing him with Petar Mladenov, but this gained them only a short respite in power. In February 1990 the Communist Party, forced by street protests gave up its claim on power and in June 1990 the first free elections since 1931 were held, won by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (the new name of the Communist Party). In July 1991 a new Constitution was adopted, which regulates a representative elected President and a Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Like the other post-socialist regimes in eastern Europe, Bulgaria found the transition to capitalism rather painful and not easy as expected. The anti-Communist Union of Democratic Forces (in Bulgarian: СДС, SDS) took office between 1992 and 1994 to carry through the privatization of agricultural land, properties and industry issuing shares in government enterprises to all citizens, but these were accompanied by massive unemployment as industries was no longer tightened to the broken Comecon and failed in competition of the global market without the participation of Bulgaria to new regional or world trade organizations, at the same time Bulgaria's industry showed to be backward which was amendable but in the hurry of political changes neither government, nor people were ready for industrial modernization. In fact the disbandment of former State security that was tightened to the Communist party (Bulgarian: ДС, DS) although brought relief to many Bulgarian people previously feared to speak or express other than communist views, at the same time boosted criminality never seen before in Bulgaria. The police were not ready to care about and chase the criminality which was before kept low with the fearful methods of DS. This led to mass stealing of capital, machinery, materials and even furniture from the industry and also institutions. Referring to industry this led to soon failing to work of many factories, etc.
The Socialists presented their political visions as the defenders of the poor against the excesses of the free market. Reaction against economic reforms appeared because reforms left many unemployed (unemployment was almost not existing before in Bulgaria) and many towns literally was left to drop economically just in months, this allowed Zhan Videnov of the Socialist party to win the 1995 parliamentary elections. Videnov was very young when he stepped in the PM post and his inability to show political strength and his incompetence was soon acknowledged by people surrounding him who took advantage of it for own purposes and personal enrichment. This incompetence and the misguided policies of the Socialist government in all exacerbated the economic conditions. The government was clearly unsupported by Western countries and thus Bulgarian foreign policy seriously suffered, and in 1996 the economy fell into hyperinflation and many banks went bankrupt. In the presidential elections of that year the SDS's Petar Stoyanov was elected. In 1997 the BSP government collapsed after a month of nation-wide protests and government was appointed by the President Stoyanov which coped to calm the economic situation. Later SDS came to power.
The new Democratic government headed by Ivan Kostov enjoyed strong support and moved Bulgarian economy ahead, but allegations of corruption and inability to cope with some of the serious problems in the country caused frustration. The electorate became to some extend dissatisfied with both parties - BSP and SDS. At that point Stoyanov who still held some good positions and had public approval took part for presidential elections seeking second mandate, but he scandalously failed with a blunder on TV and lost support, and the elections too. The newly elected President, former BSP leader, Georgi Parvanov was not very well known to the public although he was in politics since the early 90s, and was well received for his wise political behavior. Although a BSP candidate he was rather perceived as an independent figure and he also always stated to be president to all Bulgarians without any political reference. At that point with the already dissatisfaction with both parties - BSP and SDS, people was looking for new alternatives and new politicians.
In 2001, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Bulgarian: Симеон Сакскобурготски, Simeon Saxcoburgotski), who had fled from socialist Bulgaria as a nine-year-old boy in 1946, became Prime Minister of Bulgaria. Several years prior to that, in 1996, he had visited Bulgaria with his family of two princes and a princess and it was then when he announced he would soon come back to his homeland to form a new political party. Several years later, Sakskoburggotski formed the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and swept away both major parties in the elections of June 2001 with a landslide victory. As Prime Minister, he followed a strong and strictly pro-western course, as a result of which Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. Economic and political conditions visibly improved, although economic growth was not as high as expected and unemployment and emigration remained at relatively high levels. Problematic areas remained corruption, health care, organized crime (though scaled down), and higher education, which all need to be massively reformed.
At the next parliamentary elections NDSV didn't reach enough votes to form alone a government, in fact BSP gained the largest share of the votes, followed by NDSV. And because none of the parties had enough seats in Parliament to establish a government on its own after more than a month of negotiations initiated by President Parvanov for the forming of coalition government that was needed for the EU joining, a coalition was formed between BSP, NDSV and MRF (Movement for Rights and Freedoms). Although divided by deep ideological and political differences, the three parties were united by a major goal: accomplishing the reforms necessary for joining the European Union in 2007. But ineffective administration and high-level corruption remained serious problems that was limiting the entrance of foreign businesses and entrepreneurs in the country. Additionally Sergai Stanishev's government was caught in his last months by the world financial crisis but denied its existence and refused to initiate steps for protecting Bulgarian economy from it 1 for which he received wide disapproval.
In the parliamentary elections in 2009 the center-right party GERB won, taking 117 seats in the 240-seats Parliament. The Socialists were a distant second, with 39 seats. NDSV coundn't take enough votes to enter Parliament.2 The new government of Boyko Borisov stated some serious intentions for educational changes for liberation of the system and ability of students to easily choose universities and most important placed the accent on fiscal discipline. In particular, the Ministry of Finance reduced the budget deficit following a policy of administrative reform and privatization. Subsidies to state-owned enterprises in the transport and energy sectors were cut. Deputy Prime Minister Simeon Djankov led a reform team that included the Minister of Infrastructure Rosen Plevneliev, the Minister of Economy Traicho Traikov and the Minister of Environment Nona Karadjova. 34 The government fell in February 2013 after multiple street protests, over wiretapping scandals involving the Minister of the Interior Tsvetan Tsvetanov.
- (Bulgarian) We are stable, ready for everything, there is no crisis // Стабилни сме, готови сме за всичко, криза няма, news.bg, 9 October 2008
- Bulgaria opposition wins election", BBC, 2009-07-06
- Bulgarian Minister Proclaims 'Sweeping' Reforms in Education, Science, Sofia News Agency, 20 September 2010
- Bulgarian FinMin Stresses Fiscal Discipline at Harvard, Promotes Own Brainchild, Sofia News Agency, 2 March 2011