Bulgarian extremist party stages Brussels roadshow

Ataka leader Volen Siderov [Dnevnik, the EURACTIV partner in Bulgaria]

The 23 MPs from Bulgaria’s extremist Ataka party, who are in Brussels today (27 September) to demand an apology from an MEP who called them ‘xenophobic’, may really be trying to avoid a no-confidence motion against the Socialist-led minority government in Sofia, sources say.

The Ataka politicians arrived in Brussels with a TV crew from their own channel, Alpha, but were unable to enter the European Parliament as no MEP would agree to meet with themEURACTIV has learned.

The official purpose of their visit is to stage a protest against  the German MEP Doris Pack (European People's Party), who called them a xenophobic and anti-European organisation.

At the last elections in May (see background), Ataka ("attack" in English), obtained 7.3% of the vote and 23 seats in the 240-member Bulgarian parliament. Ataka is a nationalist party, founded by the former journalist Volen Siderov in 2005. It has been criticised for  ultra-right racist anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish statements, as well as its use of far-left anti-capitalist rhetoric.

A spokesperson for Hannes Swoboda, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, told EURACTIV that, strangely, after the S&D's refused to meet with them, the Ataka group asked them to help organise a meeting for them, with the European Peoples’ Party (EPP).

Bulgarian diplomats said that they had also received requests to help Ataka set up meetings with Brussels officials, and that they had turned them down as inappropriate. It is not usual practice for government officials to set up meetings for political parties.

Ataka could have used help from its two MEPs who were elected in the 2009 European elections, Slavi Binev and Dimitar Stoyanov, the latter being Siderov’s step son. But after Siderov divorced with Stoyanov’s mother, both MEPs changed affiliation, and founded other political projects, hostile to Ataka.

Having obtained no appointments, the Ataka MPs flocked to the EPP headquarters at Rue du Commerce, but were only able to place a letter in the mail box as the doors of the building remained closed to them.

The Bulgarian press quotes Ataka's Deputy Chairperson, Desislav Chukolov, as saying that the letter calls for Doris Pack to apologise. A document known as “the Siderov Plan”, which presents some sort of Ataka manifesto was also sent to the EPP. Chukolov said that Ataka expected the EPP to say whether it considered the Siderov plan to contain any racist or xenophobic ideas.

Real reason for Ataka's absence

Critics say that the real reason for Ataka's ill-prepared Brussels roadshow is the internal political situation in Bulgaria.

The EPP-affiliated party of the former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, GERB, has filed a motion of no-confidence in the Socialist-led minority government, and debates are being held before a vote which should take place today (27 September).

One hundred and twenty one votes are needed to pass the no-confidence motion. GERB has 97 MPs, while the Bulgarian Socialist Party and its coalition partner, the Movement of Rights and Freedoms have 118 votes.

Ataka's absence prevents the passing of a motion which could trigger their electoral meltdown. And it spares the blushes that the group would have, if they voted to support the current government in Sofia.

Ataka’s political ratings have been in freefall over recent months. Another “patriotic” political formation, the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) is apparently taking advantage by attracting disenchanted Ataka supporters.  

NFSB leader Valeri Simeonov dubbed the Ataka roadshow in Brussels “stupid theatre”. According to him, Ataka had “nothing to do” in Brussels, and their visit was only an excuse for not being present at the no-confidence vote.

Bulgaria's Socialist-led government took office on 29 May, ending months of political impasse but instituting an administration without broad pubnlic support. Plamen Oresharski, a non-partisan former finance minister, is prime minister.

One of the first decisions of the Oresharski cabinet was to appoint Delyan Peevski as leader of the country’s State Agency for National Security (DANS). Peevski, the owner of the New Bulgarian media group, is considered a controversial power-broker.

The vote in the Bulgarian parliament on 14 June which installed Peevski as chief of DANS took the country by surprise, and unleashed unprecedented reaction in social media and in the streets. He later withdrew from the job.

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