For Bulgarian Leftists, a Dramatic Deficit of Political Options

The Bulgarian Socialist Party long ago lost credibility among young, progressive, pro-Western leftists. But who else is there on the Bulgarian Left?

For progressive, pro-Western, left-leaning voters in Bulgaria, options are limited when election time comes around. Very limited.

They might be expected to vote for the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which claims to be the biggest party of the Left. But the BSP is widely seen as the unreformed heir to the Communist Party; its views are anti-LGBT and pro-Kremlin, and its leader, Kornelia Ninova, has dabbled in vaccine skepticism in a country with one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 vaccine uptake in the European Union.

Since 2018, meanwhile, the BSP has found common ground with nationalists opposed to the Istanbul Convention, who say the Council of Europe treaty on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic women is a threat to ‘traditional values’.

This leaves young, leftist voters with a difficult choice: don’t vote, or side with the centrist pro-EU parties Democratic Bulgaria or We Continue the Change. Both options involve considerable compromise.

“The Bulgarian Socialist Party stands as a shadowy monopolist on the left although it’s been a long time since the party had anything to do with real left causes,” said Julia Rone, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge.

According to associate professor Valentina Georgieva of the Department of Cultural Studies at the University of Sofia, outside of the BSP the left is “composed of a number of small activist groups that sometimes form alliances, but more often have different initiatives. It is very fragmented, with some vocal representatives on social networks but hardly any political representatives.”

“It is much more oriented towards activism than towards party building and political representation.”

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