Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

The Failure to Restore the Monarchy in Post-Communist Bulgaria

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

The Failure to Restore the Monarchy in Post-Communist Bulgaria

Article excerpt

Introduction

Despite sharp elite disagreements about the timing and nature of the constituent process, Bulgaria was the first country in post-Communist Europe to reach a constitutional settlement, setting this southeast European nation on a rocky course of political and economic reforms. Under its new constitution, adopted on 12 July 1991, Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic in which all legislative power is vested in a unicameral National Assembly, consisting of 240 deputies elected for four years by universal adult suffrage. The President of the Republic is a largely ceremonial head of state who is directly elected by the voters to a five-year term and can serve only two consecutive terms in office. The Council of Ministers, the highest organ of the executive branch, is approved by and responsible to the National Assembly. The Council is headed by a Prime Minister elected by the legislative majority. The judiciary is constitutionally independent from the executive and legislative branches of government. Its top bodies are a Supreme Court, the highest court of appeals in the country, and a Constitutional Court with powers of judicial review.

But the adoption of a new constitution was accompanied by serious political opposition and heated controversy. There was strong resistance by many members of the anti-Communist minority in the constituent Grand National Assembly (GNA), who did not want the new fundamental law to be shaped by what they called the "temporary majority" of the ex-Communist Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). They called for early dissolution of the constitution-writing Assembly popularly elected in June 1990 and the holding of a new GNA election. The monarchists within the oppositional and fervently anti-Communist Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) alliance rejected the new basic charter because it retained the republican form of government, while they preferred a return to the Turnovo Constitution of 1879, which had declared Bulgaria a constitutional kingdom. They believed that new elections could produce a constituent Assembly more favorable to the idea of reinstating the monarchy, which had been abolished in 1946.

However, the two largest SDS member parties, the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party (BSDP) and the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BZNS)-Nikola Petkov, announced the formation of a splinter faction, the SDS-Center, which opposed the attempts of the "rightist and monarchist forces" to divert the GNA from its constitutional work. (1) The new coalition was particularly critical of "the emerging monarchist right wing" in the SDS (2), declaring that "it would be a crime to demand the dissolving of parliament before it has adopted the constitution (3)." The SDS-Center leaders were convinced that the parties calling for the dissolution of the GNA before the adoption of the new constitution were directly manipulated by the Madrid-based King Simeon II of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and that their ultimate goal was the restoration of the monarchy and the enthronement of the exiled monarch. Other centrist SDS member parties formed another splinter group, the SDS-Liberals, which declared its support for the pro-republican stand of the SDS-Center. The anti-Communist opposition had in effect become split between opposing factions with conflicting views about the nature of the new constitution and whether Bulgaria should have a republican or monarchical form of government (4). The republican-versus-monarchist division added a major new dimension to the country's ideological cleavages and deep partisan animosities.

The controversial attempt by radical SDS deputies to disrupt the constituent work of the GNA-first by a parliamentary walkout and then by a last-minute hunger strike-failed, but the divisive republic-versus-monarchy issue remained open-ended for a long time. Some 81 of the 400 GNA deputies did not vote in favor of the 1991 basic law, nor was it subsequently approved in any national referendum. …

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