Bulgaria's Democratic Opposition Rejects Calls for Coalition
IT was a victory for democracy, but a week after its first free elections since before World War II, Bulgaria seems in no mood to celebrate. Instead, the opposition's protests against the election results continue, as does the flight to the West of the well-educated - 50,000 this year, and 800 just in the week between the two election days.
Both are reactions of disappointment to the overwhelming election victory by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (formerly the Communist Party), the only ruling party in Eastern Europe returned to power in free, multiparty elections.
A political polarization has also occurred. The calls from the former Communists for national reconciliation and a coalition government have repeatedly been turned down by the opposition group, the United Democratic Forces (UDF).
The BSP, which captured 211 of the 400 seats in the new parliament and could form a government on its own, has insisted upon on a coalition. However, the UDF, with 144 seats, has declined. Its leaders say it is not up to them to save the disastrous Bulgarian economy, for which the opposition is not to blame.
``To go into a coalition with a party of crimes and sins like the BSP would be suicide for the opposition,'' said the UDF leader, Zheliu Zhelev, after the electons. Mr. Zhelev conceded, however, that the political parties will need each other if they are to succeed in writing a new constitution in 18 months.
But leading Socialist Chavdar Kiuranov charged that UDF is putting party interests above national interests, saying that ``we have to be together to solve national problems.''
``There must be no more revenge, otherwise we'll get into a vicious circle. We have to find a Spanish solution to put an end to bloodshed. We all made mistakes, but we now carry the banner of national interests,'' said Mr. Kiuranov.
However, the kind of national healing that Spain went through after Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship, does not seem easily attained in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria faces huge economic problems with a debt to the West of over $10 billion and major restructuring of its economy due to the changes in the Soviet Union, which buys 61 percent of Bulgaria's export. It also has to write a new constitution which two-thirds of the members of the new parliament can support.
In the process, few doubt that both the BSP and the UDF - a coalition of 16 political groups - will split. Kiuranov even thinks it would be better if the conservatives left the party.
Many are setting their hopes on more radical changes occurring after this fall's municipal elections. The UDF hopes these will produce such a clear election victory that the power of the conservative local party bosses will be broken.
``Maybe by then, people will have no fear any more. People will understand that they have been manipulated,'' says Krum Newrokopski of the faction of the Peasants Party belonging to the UDF.
However, it might take longer than that to complete the democratization of Bulgaria. The municipal elections will likely be followed by new parliamentary elections, once the new constitution is written and passed. Those elections, with more time for the opposition to organize, will probably better reflect the support of the political forces among the Bulgarian population.
But the former Communists in the new Socialist Party won't give up easily. They have a tradition in Bulgarian politics from back in 1891, and in spite of many difficult years, it has survived and remained strong. They will likely continue to do so in the forseeable future.