BSP WILL SAY GOODBYE TO SOCIALISM IN SPRING
A month after the extraordinary session of the Bulgarian Socialist Party's 44th congress, which elected a new Chairman, the socialists are preparing for their next (this time regular) high forum. At its recent plenary session the BSP scheduled the congress for the second half of May, but the exact date has not been fixed yet. Political observers do not forecast any great surprises or serious perturbations within the party. The opponents of the policy, initiated by the former BSP leader and incumbent President Georgi Purvanov, do not believe any more that the course of the party's development could be changed.However, the future congress will be important for several reasons. An appraisal of the 12 years of the transition period will be made at the party forum, and BSP's place and future in the country's social and political life will be outlined. A special commission, headed by BSP's new leader Sergei Stanishev himself, will analyse the transition period. The commission, however, includes a great number of members with various views and stands. Party strategists such as Alexander Lilov and Chavdar Kyuranov will be working shoulder by shoulder for example, which forebodes discord.The appraisal of the 100-year old party will be worked out under the motto BSP turns its back to socialism. The document should delicately censure the party's totalitarian past and its governing failures in recent years. Pundits claim that the BSP will declare it has once and for all abandoned its socialist past and will transform into a social-liberal party. The leaders' idea is to remove the oppositionally disposed cadres from the near past in that way. Although they are not well-organized, the adherents of Zhan Videnov and Krassimir Premyanov still hold positions in BSP's headquarters and make noise in the system. The negative appraisal of the transition period is aimed to further shake the positions of these groups of socialists and shift the focus of public opinion onto BSP's reformation, insiders confided. This will personally reflect on the major opponent of the incumbent party leadership - BSP's Deputy Chairman and former minister from Zhan Videnov's cabinet Roumen Ovcharov, who is also the invariable candidate for the BSP chairmanship. It becomes clear that the party members, who are discontented with BSP's present policy, will unite around him and not around Krassimir Premyanov's Open Forum federation.The campaign for electing the local structures will last from February 1 till April 30. At the upcoming conference of the Sofia organisation, to be chaired by Mr. Ovcharov, attempts for his removal are expected to be made. Pundits, however, predict failure of such attempts. At least two reasons can be pointed out - the lack of a serious internal resource for that in the local structure, and the purely economic interests that make the active BSP members in Sofia stick together. But even in case Mr. Ovcharov remains Deputy Chairman after BSP's congress, his real positions in the party would suffer. The most recent, consecutive battle which he lost was for the chairmanship of the Coalition for Bulgaria parliamentary group. The generals' lobby in the BSP would hardly create problems for the party's leaders. Georgi Purvanov has reached a tacit agreement with that faction for sharing some of the positions in the Executive Board with their cadres.No serious problems are presently expected in the local BSP structures. The credit for this definitely goes to Roumen Petkov, who made efforts over the last year and a half to close the ranks. It's almost certain that the BSP Chairman Sergei Stanishev, elected on December 15, 2001, shall receive the trust of the delegates in May, 2002 as well. It is possible that some of the old cadres in the party leadership would be replaced, or that the number of the Executive Board members be increased, including people from BSP's youth structures as an experssion of the party's reformation.The congress in May is expected with interest by BSP's coalition partners. The forum should express an opinion on the future of the left wing as a whole. Internal discussions will be held by May in the three other parties within the New Left - Political Movement Social Democrats, the United Bloc of Labour, and Petar Agov's Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, and within the BSP in the framework of its preparation for the 45th congress. The resolution for coalition policy, adopted on December 15, 2001, projected a survey of the possibilities for an organizational and political union of the leftist parties. The congress will confirm this stance, but no radical decisions are expected, sceptics predict.As a political act, however, the confirmation of readiness for unification will be a particularly important sign for the foreign partners of the BSP and the New Left - the social democrats from the Party of European Socialists and the Socialist International.