Dangerous far-right party regains political strength in Bulgaria

14 May 2013
14 May 2013 Facebook Twitter Email Print

Ataka ('Attack' in Bulgarian), a Bulgarian nationalist party - which has openly protested against the Roma minority, and wants to nationalize foreign-owned firms - has emerged as a kingmaker following parliamentary elections in Bulgaria last Sunday. The far-right party captured some 7% of the popular vote, putting it in a position to dictate terms for the formation of Bulgaria’s next ruling coalition as the winning party, GERB, didn’t gain enough seats in the Parliament to form a government on its own. GERB, Bulgaria’s last ruling party stepped down at the height of February protests against unemployment and poor government. The party had implemented tight fiscal policy and austerity measures.

Over the years Ataka's leader, Volen Siderov, has vilified Bulgaria’s large Roma minority, calling for  destruction of Roma ghettoes, many of which have no running water or electricity, and obligatory school attendance for Roma children, and obligatory employment for Roma adults. Some Ataka party members wear shirts with swastikas and make Nazi salutes at rallies. In recent years the party was also involved in a fight, which drew international attention, in front of Sofia’s only mosque. Bulgaria also has a big Turkish minority. The Roma and Turkish minorities combined account for over 10% of Bulgaria’s population. According to some reports there are around 1 million Muslims in Bulgaria, a country of 7.5 million. DPS, a political party representing in large extent the Muslim minority, came in third in the elections with 10% of the vote.

Ataka’s appeal has been greatest with Bulgaria’s poor and disenfranchised, who are frustrated with the country’s weak economy, seemingly rampant corruption, and an entrenched national elite unable to change the situation. He has said Bulgaria should leave the EU because Brussels wants to exploit the country as a source of cheap labour. Prior to the most recent elections the party was gradually losing votes and importance, but the current political situation in Bulgaria made it possible for Ataka to reemerge as a strong political party, receiving the vote of those who wouldn’t trust the two major political parties - GERB and the Bulgarian Socialist Party. At the start of the year Ataka had only 1% popular support, but Sidorov’s appeals to national pride and his calls for an end to foreign concessions and nationalizations have drawn increasing support, but worried international investors.

Ataka’s success follows the rise of the Golden Dawn neo-Nazi party in neighboring Greece, and Jobbik in Hungary, which pushes an ideology of racial purity and national pride. Commenting on the results Siderov said that one day he will be Bulgaria's Prime Minister.