Mihail Mikov was elected Leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party on 27 June 2014, following the resignation of Sergey Stanishev who had just become a Member of the European Parliament. Mikov won the position after two attempts, beating the former Minister of Economy and Energy Mr Dragomir Stoynev by just 44 votes. Here, Nikolay Manov explores his prospects for improving the party’s prospects.
Born in 1960 in the town of Kula, near Vidin, Mikov studied law at the University of Sofia, where he specialised in Human Rights, Anti-corruption Methods, Local Government and the Taxation of Non-Governmental Organisations in France, Italy, Portugal and the USA. He became a Member of Parliament for Vidin in 1997, and in the period 2008-2009 was a Minister of Interior following the dismissal of Rumen Petkov. It is curios to note that Mikov is one of the people who initiated the change in the Constitution which created the office of Ombudsman. He was the Chairperson of the 42nd National Assembly (2013-2014). He is famous for his sense of humour and the jokes he used to make while presiding. In a recent interview he dismissed the chances of radical change, saying “[he had] been elected leader, not a magician.”
Two hypotheses exist regarding the future of the BSP under Mikov. The first supports the view that Mikov will not make significant changes and will keep the governing style of Stanishev. He is unlikely to change key people in the party’s Executive Bureau, while the members of the National Council were elected in 2012. The second hypothesis argues that Mikov might spend the first few months of his term pretending that he will act in accordance to the principles inherited from Stanishev will then introduce changes. Given that the BSP is currently experiencing its lowest level of approval in the last 15 years, this latter option seems the most likely. Popular confidence in the party has declined sharply in the last year, as none of its promises for a growing economy, better way of life, inclusive social policy and lower youth employment has been delivered.
Mikov has a complicated task to improve the public perception of the BSP and ensure a respectable showing in the upcoming General Election on 5 October. He has to restore the confidence of traditional BSP voters, especially after the humiliating defeat in the European Elections in May. A major problem is the fact that people who have supported the Party through the tough years of transition have stopped to believe in the socialist idea and feel disgusted by the actions of the former Leader Sergey Stanishev. Mikov has to delegate more power to the local party structures and to make the decision-making process “more public” as “deals behind closed doors” was one of the main accusations against Stanishev.
Mikov’s relations with the President Plevneliev and the other political parties in the run up to the elections in October will be worth following. In a statement uploaded on his website Mikov claims that the President has attempted to “interfere in political life” in order to diminish the importance of the leadership of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (The BSP was one of the main parties supporting the Oresharski government). Mikov commented that the caretaker government appointed by Plevneliev has priorities which extend beyond the short term it is going to serve. A potential source of conflict is the fact that the BSP refused to vote for a budget adjustment in the final days of the Oresharski government. On the other hand, Mikov is expected to be more open-minded than Stanishev so he is likely to try to initiate and maintain dialogue with both larger and smaller political parties.
As it remains unclear whether the newly elected leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party will adopt a new course of action to ensure the Party’s strong performance or stick to established norms, it will be necessary to keep a close eye on internal processes within the BSP, the rhetoric of Mikov, his interactions with other political figures and the election campaign which will start in September.