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    Copyright: All those wishing to use or publish the following text are welcome to do so, provided that they indicate the source and inform the AIM office in Paris which is interested to receive comments and reactions on the information it provides. AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SAT, 24 FEB 2001 02:11:46 GMT

    The Tzar's Move Baffled the Political Chess players

    The Decision of the Bulgarian Tzar Symeon II to Go into Politics Appalled the Ruling Party

    AIM Sofia, February 13, 2001

    The end of intrigues and speculations whether Symeon Kobyrgotski will join politics and how.

    "Thousands of people who would like to vote for Symeon will have their chance" stated the Tzar himself on February 10 in his "Vrna" residence, near Sofia leaving no doubt that he would run in the June elections.

    This was the first time that the Tzar was so categorical because several days before that the Constitutional Court brought a decision on the issue raised by a group of delegates on the interpretation of Article 92, para.2 of the Organic Law, which requires of every presidential candidate to be the resident of Bulgaria five years prior to his nomination. As it is common knowledge, 64-year old Symeon II lived in exile in Madrid after the communist regime came into power in 1944. Only last year he got official documents on the Bulgarian citizenship, was issued a passport and given a registered address in his homeland.

    The decision of the Constitutional Court calmed down President Petre Stojanov, who will probably be running for the second term. However, things are different as regards the other political parties, primarily the ruling Alliance of Democratic Parties (SDS).

    "The ruling of the Constitutional Court has deprived Symeon II of the possibility of running for President, but cannot prevent him from joining the political life in the way he thinks appropriate", emphatically stated Aleksandar Arbadzijev, the Constitutional Court judge. Symeon II replied without any hesitation: "I am the alternative"! As if marking the start of his electoral campaign by this declaration, although it is remained unclear what will the political force he intends to lead look like and be called.

    According to a delegate of the Bulgarian Euro-Left, Dragomir Draganov, the monarch will join the politics with his right-centrist organisation, called the National Alliance "Tzar Symeon - the Unifier" which, according to him, will secure 20 seats in Parliament.

    According to observers, this objective is not unrealistic bearing in mind the reputation of the Kobyrgot successor who stands out in comparison to the Bulgarian politicians of today. This is what Symeon II said about himself: "I didn't waste time on demagogy, nor was guided with my personal interests and ambitions. I helped my compatriots with my own means, and not with some illegally acquired funds from unknown sources. I am not power-hungry because I was born to power, nor do I care for party interests since I am free and independent. I am not guided by populism as I do not know how to cheat people because I love them too much. I want to show that since I have the wish and will to work together with them for the benefit of all the people, nothing will be impossible".

    This self-portrait struck the hearts of the so-called political elite. For, apart from giving a precise picture of today's Bulgarian politicians it shows what the true politician should be like. And the personality of Tzar Symeon II greatly differs from that of the majority of national delegates.

    When the Tzar came to Bulgaria for the first time in May 1996, he was received as an alternative to and negation of the hitherto Socialist rule headed by Jean Videnov. Now, his announced intention to join politics is in the same way seen as an alternative to and the negation of the hitherto method of rule. That is precisely why the statement of Symeon II threw into panic primarily the ranks of Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's party which thinks of itself as Christian Democratic force.

    Already on Saturday, January 10, when Symeon made his political ambitions known, Kostov rallied his closest associates in the ski-center Borovec so that they could analyse the repercussions of this move on the SDS. This analysis showed that the monarch was a threat for SDS. Irrespective of the fact that until recent this party spoke of him with respect, Symeon suddenly turned into its enemy. The directive from Borovec immediately put in motion all state propaganda institutions. According to Director General of the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), Panajot Denev, "the Tzar could disrupt the normal future development of Bulgaria" and turn into a hampering factor in reforms and negotiations with EU, as well as in the process of Bulgaria's accession to NATO. Allegedly, Symeon II does not enjoy such great reputation in the world and doesn't have any valuable contacts which all those surrounding "who have failed in politics, are trying to prove". Diverting the voters from the right track for Bulgaria, "Symeon II would obstruct the country's normal development" stated Panajot Denev with indignation. The possibility of some smaller parties becoming independent under the Tzar's patronage could easily divert the voters.

    This prospect of serious drain of the ruling party's "blood" is the gravest problem for its leaders. The more so as the Christian Democrats have already started splitting into monarchists and republicans. One want to change the Constitution so that the Bulgarians who have not been living in Bulgaria during last five years could get a chance to run for President. A SDS delegate, Dimitar Ivanov said that a petition has been prepared which should initiate a procedure for amending that Article of the Constitution. He stated that if his colleagues from the SDS delegate group "fail to understand what is all this about, the new Parliament will". Nevertheless, it is highly likely that the Constitution will not be amended. This gave Symeon II additional courage to attack the Parliament.

    But, how come that he has not yet discarded his imperial crown? It is hardly likely that Symeon II would have any problems at royal courts of Europe because of his announced readiness to join the Bulgarian politics. He could freely transfer his kingly duties to his heir Kardam and join the political scene. But with whom? He could hardly join forces with the new right-wing parties, such as the Civil Party of the former Minister of the Interior, Bogomil Bonev, or with VMRO, "Djurdjevdan" (St George's Day) or the Democratic Alliance, which have problems with securing seats in Parliament on their own and hope to form a coalition under the patronage of the former monarch.

    According to those around Symeon II, if he decides to try getting into Parliament, he will most probably form a brand new movement which would be registered as a party according to the stipulations of the new Law on Elections. This movement would have nothing in common with the existing political protagonists and parties.

    Actually, the idea is to thus turn the proportionate parliamentary voting into majority vote. For that purpose it will be necessary to register the electoral slates with twenty candidates each, in 31 districts all around the country. In other words, he will need to have at his disposal 500 people ready to immediately join the electoral campaign under the slogan "For Tzar, for the homeland"! It is obvious that Symeon II would much rather rely on people who had nothing to do with politics and power till now. There is no doubt that there are personalities in Bulgaria who would join such action without any hesitation. On whose votes can Symeon II count? Primarily, the votes of those Bulgarians who traditionally do not go to the polls, and it seems that they represent almost one half of the electorate. If even one third of them would circle the "imperial" candidate, that would be a landslide victory for Symeon. In that way he would be able to eliminate the bi-polar mode of rule.

    For the time being these are only assumptions. Most likely in the beginning of March, when he returns from Madrid where he has gone on February 11, Symeon II will make his intentions more clear. Until then, the parties which feel that their political comforts are threatened will undoubtedly do their best to "prove" the hopelessness of Tzar's every move on the Bulgarian chessboard.

    Plamen Kulinski

    (AIM)