It is necessary to reset the political model
We are facing a real deficit of reformist ideas because hunger for power became the goal in itself for the eliteAhmed Dogan
It is apparent that the current year has been a special benchmark in our political life as it marks a cycle in the development of Bulgaria and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms: 30 years since the start of the transition period and 30 years since the foundation of MRF.
First of all, however, I would like to congratulate you all on the successful performance during the local elections in 2019. It is beyond doubt that MRF has asserted and expanded its participation in local governments. You all know that this is an upgrade of our capacity for an even better performance at the next parliamentary vote. Against this backdrop there have been missteps and problem situations in some regions, but I hope that after analysing them in detail you will develop strategies and take measures towards overcoming these difficulties.
It is rather easy to utter the phrase “30 years of Transition - 30 years of MRF”. Nevertheless, when you try to wrap your mind around it, taking into account the real dimensions such as motivation and patterns of political behaviour set against action and reaction, you develop a feeling that you are dealing with dramaturgy rather than with politics. That is why, from my point of view, we do not need to make a retrospective analysis of the genetic political link between the Transition and the emergence of MRF in Bulgaria's social environment, because the arbitrary shift of the roles' perceived significance in this process will be inevitable.
Thumbing through the pages of analytical reports and personal memoirs of the actors in the Transition, I once again conclude that the retrospective displacement is both the curse and the merit of history when it is seen through the prism of “personal involvement” and from a close range. It turns out that in certain cases to write History is tantamount to - or even more important than - to make History.
The theme of the Transition is about to become a “historical reality” and formally it is a subject of research for analysts and historians. However, namely owing to the “close range” and “personal involvement”, the reality of the Transition is of a hybrid type, marked by the apparent predominance of the political over the historical. That is why the assessments of the Transition as a rule are contradictory or even mutually exclusive.
But this seemingly objective ambiguity of values, standpoints and assessments of a 30-year-long period in Bulgaria's modern history are just a natural phenomenon in a democratic society. The problem is that a new generation has emerged, which sees the realities of the Transition through a distorted mirror on the basis of wrong assessments and positions, the young see it as an unfinished process without aim or direction.
Certainly, one of the main prerequisites for this is the fact that a substantial part of the pacesetters of and those negatively affected by the Transition are represented in the political gamut of the public space. Speaking in terms of political emblems, these are the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Union of Democratic Forces and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which are far from reaching consensus on their real roles in this process.
But the fundamental question, which remains unsettled in the public space, is not about who played what role in the Transition, but rather:
What results have been achieved in those 30 years since the start of the democratic changes in Bulgaria?
It is a complicated and hard question which has no decisive answer.
If there is a conclusive positive or negative answer which lists the achievements and “damages”, as it is done in a land properties registry, it will be erroneous because it will not comply with the apparent existential realities and won't pass the test of time.
One thing is sure: as a system for registering of everything achieved and ruined, seen from our present perspective, the Transition enabled us to carry through the democratic changes but without the programmed vision of the reforms' technology, i.e. what reforms to make, to what extent and at what pace.
Instead of a clear concept, all kinds of models and normative realities - boasting over 200-year-long histories - have been imported. Whereas Bulgaria's social and economic system and its collective subject, represented by the basic institutions and the democratic political parties which emerged during the Transition, have failed to find the optimal political instrument for reconciling the imported tools with the realities existing in Bulgaria. The incompatibility of the “imported” and “internal” have distorted the vision and options for the transformation of the possible solutions into reality, giving rise to a murky political environment which later resulted in the emergence of defective social, economic and political realities.
When we are talking about the spoilt democratic rules, norms and realities in the context of our 30-year-long history, this sends at least a worrisome message to the society. However, we cannot shut our eyes to the obvious and ostensible political realities. Rigged elections have become an epidemic in Bulgaria which affects all of the political formations, reflects on the normal reproduction of democracy and calls into question its legitimacy. Objectively speaking, the society's political system is reduced to its initial form of the pre-Transition period when we voted under surveillance of foreign observers, including those of the US Senate.
Our democracy is representative: all candidates for becoming “representatives” of the people, as a rule, have to compete with the rest of the candidates and to table a clear-cut concept for catering to the interests of the citizens who elect them and who will hold them accountable as their representatives in the power structures. This vision has to be constantly “refreshed” in compliance with the society's needs. The problem is that this is not done.
The lack of vision is replaced with abstract political rhetoric on the European topics of the day, which means that the real problems of the people remain neglected. We are facing a real deficit of reformist ideas because hunger for power became the goal in itself for the elite and turned into a kind of an addictive drug. This political and social situation gives rise to fatigue, apathy and lack of motivation within the community and, as a rule, the politicians become the lightning rod for the frustrations and negative energy accumulated on the national and global levels.
As a result of this state of the society, the “safety system” of democracy is activated automatically, it seems. The remarkable new example of this automatic activation of a safety system is the Sardines movement in Italy: the four totally unknown young people have managed to call to the streets over 300,000 citizens to protest against “social division and the culture of hatred” and for “strengthening democracy” and “waking up the Italian politics”…
This situation cannot but evoke memories of the legendary “butterfly effect” or the dynamic balance between time and living systems in nature: under certain conditions a slight spontaneous air fluctuation may trigger a storm at the other end of the planet.
Democracy is like Nature, it has no intrinsic necessity to work in the mode of a self-optimising system. However, whilst Nature restores the disturbed dynamic balance with calamitous phenomena and sometimes with just one “virus” then, in a civilised society, we should not afford such radical approach. Even if such phenomena have become a political routine for our civilisation.
Within this social and political context, by all appearances it looks like the reset of the democratic model, in combination with the moral imperative, is a soft but inevitable solution for the situation. How and when it will happen depends on the maturity of the political elite and the civil society.
When we are talking about cyclicality in the activation of democracy's safety system, we do not have to focus only on the political realties in Bulgaria. We even do not have to understand it as a strictly European phenomenon. The characteristic political syndrome of cyclicality is manifest in the emergence on the political arena of an unexpected, “inexperienced”, maverick and charismatic political figure. This is what happened with President Trump in the US.
The principle of cyclicality suggests that the time needed for the change of a power system paradigm sometimes is polar and complies with the historical traditions of the power system, civil society's mentality and the degree of tension in the global environment. Europe has the broadest experience in correcting or transforming the poles of the power system, adequately measured out between the left, right and centrist conceptions. The latest example is Brexit, which put to test the very concept of united Europe.
Seen from this point of view, at the current stage the liberal idea is in a state of a historical pause and this is exactly why its priority is to stand in opposition to everything that poses a risk to democracy. Liberals have to give serious thought to how to adapt their vision of the world's sustainable political and economic order. After the rise and crisis of neo-liberalism, there is an obvious necessity to reform the very model of the liberal vision for global development. Because its basic postulates and practices are rooted in the bygone times of modernism and classical capitalism.
Another important cycle, which is waiting to occur, is the disharmony between the cycle of accumulation and the one of distribution and redistribution. This, of course, is not explained by the affinity for the “social idea” but by the increasing risk factors for precipitating a recession resulting from the growing gap between the rich and the poor.
All political parties will become a little more socially-oriented and will start talking about the social vector of society. No doubt, this is a new political portal for the European leftist parties, but it is another question how ready they are to employ the change in the paradigm of the financial stability system and the system of power.
In light of all said, currently there is neither willingness not preparedness among the political parties of Bulgaria for the pre-term parliamentary elections. Each political force hopes that the ruling majority will implement its mandate in due order and wants to maximise the use of parliamentary time for re-legitimisation, positioning and probably even for the formation of atypical coalition formats.
Their aim is to guarantee participation in the power system of the state. That is why if their hunger for power gets the upper hand over the idea of their own security as political entities, then snap parliamentary elections are not to be ruled out.
The political necessity for reset of the society's political model to a greater or lesser extent is realised, but it is relatively less debated or is postponed in time. Because the risk factors for reaching the “critical point” of chaos within the party structures is the major setback problem factor for such a radical solution. This is namely why the decisive factor for the reset in this case is the level of maturity and readiness of the civil society!
Annual address by Dr. Ahmed Dogan, Honorary Chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.