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WED, 18 APR 2001 23:46:40 GMT

The King's Comeback

The national movement around Simeon II will change the political map of Bulgaria

AIM Sofia, April 7, 2001

King Simeon II has put a stop to his long-time silence and declared the beginning of his political career. In his emotion-charged address he delivered in his restituted palace Vrana near Sofia, the son of the last Bulgarian ruler Boris III, announced the setting up of a national movement "Simeon II" which will run in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The aim is to have as many delegates of this party as possible enter Parliament so as to create conditions for implementing in practice the basic principles of Simeon's programme. Thus, after more than 55 years, Coburg-Gotha's successor has a chance of once again running the country. This time not as a monarch, but as a politician in the Republic of Bulgaria.

According to forecasts, the new national movement "Simeon II" has a chance of disrupting the traditional bipolar model of rule applied in the last 11 years and even win parliamentary elections. Simeon II can win over those voters who are disappointed with the current system, who represent a significant part of the Bulgarian population. Simeon Coburg-Gotha emphasised several basic principles he would abide by in his political activities and, at the same time, left the answer to certain questions for some future time.

The thesis on morals in politics was one of the points he made in his address. "Urgent changes of the political system and its morals are required. We need honesty. Honesty in everything!" said the King. Simeon II harshly criticised "the political primitivism". He stigmatised the corruption, which, according to him, became "Bulgaria's main enemy condemning the people to poverty and putting off the essentially needed foreign capital".

"It is neither moral nor politically justified to have the majority of people here live in misery according to European standards, while on the other side individual politicians are rolling in money, for dozens of our sons and daughters to leave Bulgaria because they have no prospects here, and at the same time have almost a half of Bulgarians who claim that they have no one to vote for", he said.

These words of Simeon II were particularly addressed to those voters who are disappointed with today's politicians, to people with low wages, to the young and labour active population. His words that a major part of delegates should be women because "by their participation politics would become more human and thus more successful" were calculated to draw the sympathies of the voters of fair sex.

Simeon II said that he could offer a package of economic measures which, "coupled with the famous Bulgarian hard work and enterprising spirit would change the people's lives" in 800 days at most. He pointed to the much-needed foreign investments required so that the living standards could be raised.

King Simeon's address also raised some issues. He announced the establishment of the national movement "Simeon II", but did not explain whether he would himself be running for delegate. The question who will around him to carry out his programme or at least fill the slate, remained hanging in the air.

Simeon's long silence has provided fertile ground for numerous speculations. Many politicians have been mentioned as possible participants in a future monarchist structure. The only thing that is clear now is that the national movement "Simeon II" would not be a coalition of parties nor of political leaders. According to him, it would rally about professionals who "had been working, suffering and believing in the future of our nation". He promised that he would also invite active politicians because of their experience and professionalism, but did not disclose their names.

In order to give himself a greater weight, Simeon II avoided answering some question which worry his direct competitors for power and mostly turned to the voters. "This party will not focus its attention on individual parties or personalities, but rather on Bulgaria's basic problems".

The expected news on Simeon's joining the political life and the emphasis from his address immediately became the subject of numerous analyses and forecasts. According to the majority of observers, his speech was proper, restrained and wise. The only rather sensitive detail was the fixed deadline of 800 days for getting out of the economic crisis and improving the life of all Bulgarians.

Political scientists and sociologists are competing in their forecasts of the future success or failure of the King at the parliamentary elections. It is a fact that Simeon II will attract a part of voters of the ruling Alliance of Democratic Forces (SDS), as well as a great number of people who did not even plan to vote. According to the latest sociological studies, the prospects of the future formation around the King, SDS and Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) are practically equal. The idea to name the movement after Simeon II was considered a positive move since he has enormous personal authority.

One of the reasons for Simeon's high rating, however, is the fact that his name has not been discredited under the previous political regime. His joining the politics might change things. And that is reason enough for numerous skeptical remarks. "From now on Simeon's rating will only fall - the more he transfers into deeds what he is professing," said Dejan Kjuranov, a political scientist. "He can expect a great deal of undermining, since this is not the matter of politics, but of personality", said his colleague Koljo Kolev from the "Medijana" Agency.

However, the fact remains that the King will attempt to realise a majority election in a proportionate electoral system and thus take the space which other parties have voluntarily vacated.

It is expected that three major and two smaller formations will make it to the next parliament. As far as the ideological direction is concerned the future imperial movement is closest to SDS and it is quite possible that they will form a future coalition. However, judging by the latest information from Simeon's headquarters, such cooperation is not so realistic. Simeon II and Ivan Kostov held a two-hour meeting the night just before the King issued his statement in the park of the Vrana palace. It is also considered that a large number of active politicians, who left SDS or were expelled from it, will rally around Simeon II. Bearing in mind the fact that their pre-election messages and objectives are mostly directed to the same part of the electorate, it is hardly likely that the love between SDS and the national movement "Simeon II" will flare up.

One thing is certain: the elections of June 17 will be more than interesting because there are already three players and not two, as before, and their chances are absolutely equal. Only time will show.

Georgi Filipov

(AIM)