The emergence of ·Attack” is a call to action for all other political forces Teodor DETCHEV* What was it that happened at the last elections? For the first time in history the proportional system functioned in the way it functions in other developed democracies that have accepted it. The proportional system has been adopted in many small European countries with the clear idea that it would lead to the election of fragmented parliaments, in which no party would have an absolute, much less a qualified, majority. Such parliaments form coalition governments, and most often endeavour to take relatively consensusbased decisions. The above statement has long since taken on the status of a law of politics, known as ·Duverger’s Law”, which states: ·The electoral system in a given country shapes the party system”. It has already been said that the proportional system in principle guarantees the maintenance of a multiparty system, with many players, none of whom, as a rule, are able to achieve an absolute majority. All of this illustrates the effect of Duverger’s Law. In the course of about 15 years, Bulgaria has been an exception. From 1994 to 2001, despite the proportional electoral system established in the Constitution, elections in this country led to the emergence of absolute majorities in parliament. The reason was in the peculiar nature of those elections. They were conducted in the form of referendums ·for” or ·against” the political elite in power at the time. In 1994 and 1997 the ·referendum” was along the lines of ·for” or ·against” the Bulgarian Socialist Party. In 2001 it evolved into ·for” or ·against” the entire political elite. For this reason we could say that for the first time, the proportional electoral system in Bulgaria has started working. Instead of accounting for the entry into parliament of seven parties as something resulting from the electoral system itself, i.e. as something natural (using the term ·normalisation” might be a bit hasty), the whole spectrum of political commentators raised a cry to the heavens, as if democracy were in danger. Democracy is not endangered by the fact that seven parties made into parliament and that the citizens WHO VOTED have maximum representation. Huge expenditures of intellectual, letter-writing and * Between 1998 and 2001 Teodor Detchev was deputy minister of labour and social policy in charge of industrial relations. In 2001 he was elected board member of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research. In 2001-2003 he was advisor to the chair of the Confederation of the Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria. In 2003 he became an expert of the European Commission for Social Dialogue, and in 2004 he was among the co-founders of the Institute for Social Analyses and Policies. He is a member of the Bulgarian Political Sciences Association.
emotional effort were provoked by the entry of the ·Attack” coalition into parliament. It provoked statements beginning with ·It’s the beginning of a new Bulgarian Renaissance” to ·The fascists have made it into parliament”. The entry of ·Attack” was as predictable as it was underestimated. It was underestimated by political scientists as well as by the voters, and even by the sympathisers of and potential voters for ·Attack”. We may be sure that a significant number of voters likely to support ·Attack”, regardless of their motivations for doing so, did not vote in the last election, thinking the group would not make it over the four-percent threshold. In this sense, any proposal of annulling the election results and quickly holding new ones would only serve the very political power of ·Attack”. If a new vote were to be held soon, it would certainly result in an even better result for ·Attack” . It is clear that the entry of Volen Siderov’s people into the National Assembly resulted from the cumulative effect of the aggregation of votes that were given for all different reasons. Thus, for example, ·Attack” picked up the votes of all those, who disapprove of the closure of the third and fourth reactors of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. Tempestuous public debates about the fate of the Kozloduy plant accomplished a great deal for ·Attack”, without their organisers ever intending it. Similarly, all the ·old” parties, like the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), left wide open the ·field” of the failures - of the people who feel downtrodden, of those who lost out during the transition years, of those who are frightened of the coming changes, of the European Union and of globalisation in general - by failing to address any messages to them. The ·Attack” slogans were music to the ears of many voters disgusted by the commercial trade with the votes of marginalised social strata, including the Roma. Even for people without any racist attitudes, the vote-buying provoked strong negative feelings, not only towards those buying the votes, but also towards the Roma who were selling them. Incidentally, none of the political parties learned the lesson from the partial election in Topolovgrad, where the BSP candidate who was confident of winning lost by a landslide after it became known that he had signed a political agreement with four Roma parties with unacceptable content. The agreement guaranteed the Roma leaders deputy mayor posts, new municipal positions as ·Roma experts in demographic and ethnic issues” and the right to have access to the forestry fund without oversight. Advertising ·Attack” as an anti-establishment party that rejects the entire political elite turned out to be a strong position. If there is any similarity between Jorg
WHAT IS THE DANGER OF “ATTACK” BEING IN PARLIAMENT?
Haider’s Freedom Party and today’s ·Attack”, it is precisely in the total rejection of the political elite and its corruption. Back then, in the same superficial way in which it is said today about ·Attack”, it was claimed that Haider had achieved his successful election results using xenophobic propaganda against foreigners and immigrants. Nobody took the trouble to find out that at that time the number immigrants in Austria was negligible, and accounted for a negligible percentage of the Austrian population, nothing like that in Germany, France, Belgium or the Netherlands. In fact, Haider received substantial support from those who were opposed to the total clientelism of the Austrian political system. The Austrians were fed up with the Proporz system in the state administration and the municipalities, where there were party quotas even for the cleaning staff. Haider ·scooped up” votes with his anti-clientelism and anti-corruption messages. In a similar fashion today many people are willing to deceive themselves that the result achieved by ·Attack” is simply the fruit of some kind of extremist hypnosis. In fact, the model of Jorg Haider’s behaviour back when his party came to power and the ·Attack” model are identical. The only difference is in Haider’s greater charisma, but for our conditions Volen Siderov will do. It is unpleasant to admit, but for many of those who voted for ·Attack” - including people with university
education - one factor that motivated them to vote for the new formation was the colossal self-confidence demonstrated by the leaders of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), and their conviction that the governance of this country was impossible without them. Although the MRF has brilliant intellectuals like Yunal Lyutfi and Lyutfi Mestan, far too many people accused the movement of political arrogance and ethnic clientelism. Several parties were prepared to win playing this card, but ·Attack” was the most successful in taking advantage of the situation. Perhaps it is time for a sober re-evaluation of our view of the Bulgarian ethnic tolerance. In fact, all empirical data about the coexistence of Bulgarians and the other ethnic groups in the country uniformly show a drastic difference between the attitudes of Bulgarians towards the Roma and their attitudes towards ALL other groups. The reason for this attitude is far from only ·racial”. Most generally, it is in the fact that the Roma are the only ethnic group in Bulgaria about which one can justifiably say that it has not stepped over into ·modernity”. The negative attitude towards the Roma is a fact which we can no longer remain silent about as if it were some shameful disease. The attitude towards the Roma in other European countries is altogether not that different. No European state can laud itself for some sort of great success in the area of Roma integration.
WHAT IS THE DANGER OF “ATTACK” BEING IN PARLIAMENT? Antonina ZHELYAZKOVA, International Center for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations My hope is that the ·Attack” parliamentary group will split apart relatively quickly, since it has gathered together people who don’t even know each other and who are extremely different from one other. This is already beginning to happen with some of them we’ve seen how Professor Saparev has distanced himself from the statements of ·Attack”. I hope that the ·Attack” parliamentary group will in the interest of self-preservation develop a policy of refraining from aggressive speech, from the language of xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic words. That would be the best-case scenario. The worst - that is, the danger - is if we begin to hear spoken in the parliament those horrible things that we heard at the ·Attack” rallies. That would mean the unbelievable permeation of our society by totally unacceptable things. That is, we are to a certain extent guessing and we have to wait to hear what kind of speech will follow. But this, of course, places a great responsibility on us as civil society, because we must consistently demand that the media pay attention and we must have a strong media presence, because we need to continuously disavow the speech of the leaders of ·Attack” and to remind people what the true human values are.
The numerous problematic issues turned out to be real ·hunting grounds” for the candidates from ·Attack”, who appeared to be in the right place at the right time. After 15 years of ceaseless speculation about the Bulgarians’ ethnic tolerance, a new anti-establishment formation appeared in the country, one that didn’t shy away from throwing down the gauntlet before the political elite, on the one hand, and riding on the back of the complexes suffered by the Bulgarian people, on the other. Without question, the most distinguishing feature of this new political entity is its aggression, something which is apparent from its very name. Unfortunately, however, the approach taken thus far to evaluate the new formation has remained far too superficial. The former employer of the ·Attack” leader hastened to denounce him as a fascist. In the officially announced principles of ·Attack” and in the coalition’s so-called ·Programme Outline” (it looks like ·Attack” continues to think of itself as a media organisation also, and not just a political formation) there is a lot of populism, aggression, and absurd, unrealisable things, but it would be hard to find any fascism in it. It is possible to read many things between the lines, but it would hardly be possible to ban a political force elected to parliament on the basis of SUSPICIONS about it. This political entity should be monitored closely and carefully, so that we may react to any act of aggression or extremism, but the calls for its prohibition are entirely inappropriate. True, the ·Attack” website features links to organisations which in their own countries are subject to particularly meticulous oversight by the organs of law enforcement and justice, like the National Democratic Party in Germany, the National Alliance in the United States, the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, among others. The inquiring reader can learn many ·useful” things from these sites. For instance, on the web site of the National Alliance they can order Deitrich Eckart’s Bolshevism from Moses to Lenin: A Dialogue Between Adolf Hitler and Me. The book is advertised as ·[a] penetrating look at the role of the Jews in world history, from Biblical times to the 20th century, by the poet and playwright to whom Hitler dedicated Mein Kampf. Lucid exposition of Jewish psychology, motives, and methods of operating. Provides new, valuable insight into the meaning of the Old Testament.” We can only add that Dietrich Eckart was the person who is claimed to have introduced Hitler to the occult practices that can most generally be characterised as black magic. Also on the National Alliance site, we can get acquainted with the latest two issues of the National Vanguard magazine. In the magazine one can read ·indepth, scientific articles”, which explain ·the biological and cultural reasons that make Jews tend to work against beauty and oppose all manifestations of beauty as we see it in Western art.” We can learn about ·the
secular religion, driven by Jewish ethnocentrism, that is growing up around the ‘Holocaust’,” as well as the fact that ·Israel uses Nazi laws to determine the Jewishness of immigrants.” And so on, and so forth... Only, the ·Attack” website - www.atakabg.com belongs to... the television show “Attack”, and not to the political entity of the same name... If we take a look back in time, we can see that there are two approaches to political entities of the ·Attack” type. One is the approach applied by Berlusconi in Italy towards the Northern League. Silvio Berlusconi did not hesitate to include in his government - twice - the leader of the separatist Northern League, Umberto Bossi. Obviously, this tactic was aimed at ·blunting” the sharp edge of an organisation that began as openly separatist and anti-establishment. After its participation in two rightist cabinets (the second time as part of the House of Freedoms coalition), the Northern League slowly transformed itself from a separatist party into a regional one. The second approach is the attitude taken towards the so-called Vlaams Blok in Belgium, and more specifically in Flanders. The Vlaams Blok is a xenophobic, separatist organisation, struggling for the ·absolutely nonviolent” break-up of the Kingdom of Belgium and the establishment of an independent Flanders. Founded in 1977, in elections the Vlaams Blok has managed to garner the support of nearly one million voters - up to 24.1% of the vote in Flanders, where about 60% of the population of Belgium resides. (It is important to note that in Belgium, voting is obligatory under the law). Despite this, all of the other parties in Belgium have subjected the Vlaams Blok to a total quarantine. None of them waver from that position, even though the Vlaams Blok has more than a few deputies in the European Parliament. The Belgian parliament changed the kingdom’s constitution in 1999, with the aim of establishing barriers to xenophobic and separatist propaganda. The parliament adopted a series of new laws, among them an anti-racism law and an anti-discrimination law, the latter of which criminalized discrimination. According to Belgian law, every member or employee of an organisation that spreads ·discriminatory” propaganda may be prosecuted in court, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment. Things went so far that the Vlaams Blok was sued in court. The Court of Appeals in Ghent, and afterwards the Belgian Supreme Court, pronounced the Vlaams Blok to be a criminal organisation. The party was forced to re-establish itself in order to avoid its members from being criminally prosecuted. In examining these two extreme cases, we may add that for the time being the approach of Bulgaria’s parties is leaning towards the Belgian alternative. All of them have excluded ·Attack” from their proposed coalition combinations and have displayed a squeamish attitude towards it. The isolation of ·Attack” in parliament, however, also has its advantages for the
organisation’s leaders. There is no doubt that for many of the ·Attack” MPs, their presence in parliament is far more important to the attainment of the coalition’s programme goals. Putting the quasi-nationalists ·under quarantine” creates the conditions for ·Attack” to have significant political longevity, and even for an increase in its influence. The expectation that ·Attack”, as an eclectic formation, would quickly fall apart, may turn out to be entirely unjustified. An anti-establishment formation does not need partners, but targets, who it can also attack in the media. At least in the beginning, Volen Siderov suffers no lack of either of these. Even in the conditions of a possible media blackout, the anti-establishment organisation may fall back on the ·subcultures” and pressure groups associated with it, even becoming a hero for being in such a position. As a matter of fact, the entry of ·Attack” into parliament is convenient for the other political entities, no matter how cynical this may sound. The presence of Volen Siderov and company in the National Assembly provides the perfect indulgence for the formation of all sorts of coalition combinations. After the appearance of ·Attack”, any accusation of lack of principle in the formation of a coalition government, or even of voting groups, can be rejected with the aid of the new threat. It is even possible that a peculiar sort of synergy could arise - that the emergence of ·Attack” could ease the establishment of a formal or informal majority, with the participation of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the National Movement of Simeon II, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, and why not even someone from the right. And then ·Attack” would have a perfect target for its fillips against the ·plutocracy” and the ·mother-sellers”. For their part, instead of taking part in debates ·for and against” the prohibition of ·Attack”, the political parties need to think seriously about whether they can’t take away some of its firepower by doing something positive with regard to its key points. The rise of ·Attack” is indicative as an action taken by the voters and addressed to all of the other political forces. We have to admit, unfortunately, that in many cases the taking of decisions regarding the numerous critical points is subordinate to the so-called ·garbage can” model of James March. Interpreting March’s model, Dr. Rumen Georgiev explains in his new book Working Decisions: Methodology and Organisation that ·an oftencountered phenomenon is when the employees of an organisation fight for the right to participate in decision-making, and then don’t participate; when they demand to be provided with information, and then don’t use it; when they expend time effort and taking a decision, and then don’t show any interest in whether it gets carried out, etc. Therefore, the seeking out and taking of decisions may be viewed as a strange sort of garbage can, into which different sorts of decisions are thrown after they have been generated.” The ·garbage can” model reflects the fact that in
practice, the process of taking working decisions is often far from rational. There is justification for saying that the actions of organisations may be viewed as ·an accidental collection of heterogeneous and most often irrational decisions, weakly connected with each other and with the goals of the organisation”. Unfortunately the formation of a policy on Roma issues is a typical illustration of the ·garbage can method”. The example of the adoption of the programme for integration of the Roma population in Bulgarian society provides a sad confirmation of the above-mentioned idea. Such a programme was indeed developed, with participation not only of experts but of more than 80 Roma NGOs. (In practice, most of the large Roma clans in the country were represented). The process of developing the programme also required the establishment of a special structure: the National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Issues, with its own secretariat. The programme for integration of the Roma population in Bulgarian society was set up within this institutional framework. The programme was considered to be sensible and forward-looking. At its foundation was the idea of a radical improvement in the educational level of the young generation of Roma; of those who were entering school or already attending school at the time of its implementation. The backbone of the programme was school desegregation - the idea was that the ·Gypsy schools” in the Roma neighbourhoods (now we can say it openly: in the ghettoes) would be closed and that the Roma pupils study alongside Bulgarian children in normal comprehensive schools. Fully in keeping with the ·garbage can model”, after the programme was approved, the key participant in taking that decision - the executive branch - lost all further interest in the matter. The paper was tossed ·under the sofa cushion” - that is, into James March’s garbage can. The 80 Roma NGOs did not show much persistence in demanding that the programme be carried out, either, even though if someone had called into question the participation of any one of them, he would immediately have been branded an enemy of society. The emergence of ·Attack” in the political life of Bulgaria should serve as a hint to the political powers and to the state administration that the ·garbage can method” is unacceptable as a methodology for taking working decisions in today’s situation. The only possible counterargument to the invective from ·Attack” about corruption, ·patronage over crime” and political cynicism, would be effective and professional actions by the three branches of power in the interest of the citizenry. Unfortunately, it is difficult for us to imagine that there could be a significant improvement in the state administration, social policy and judicial system within the next few months. It is more likely that the current status quo will be maintained, which will continue to provide the perfect environment to encourage the growth of formations like ·Attack”.
Published on Mar 7, 2011
What was it that happened at the last elections? For the first time in history the proportional system functioned in the way it functions in...