- Martin Dimitrov
Martin Dimitrov (Bulgarian: Мартин Димитров, born 13 April 1977 in Sofia) is a Bulgarian politician and former Member of the European Parliament. He is the leader of the Union of Democratic Forces, part of the European People's Party–European Democrats.
Elected at 31, he is the youngest-ever leader of the former main opposition force and ruling party (UDF), which steered Bulgaria towards the orbit of the European Union during its mandate 1997–2001 but thence was swept from power by the incoming party NMSS (National Movement Simeon the Second) of the former Bulgarian King Simeon The Second. Dimitrov's modernising views and expertise in the field of economics, along with his untarnished reputation and despite his relative youth wield sufficient respect and trust from the party's members and in December 2008 he was elected with nearly 70% of the vote for its leader.
His time as opposition of the tripartite coalition from 2005 to 2009
His political and economic public policy views are neo libertarian – he has long been a proponent of a small flat tax of 10% for corporations and payroll alike. He aims for 16% National Insurance contributions from 32.5% now. The difference will be paid by creating a Silver Investment Fund which will be given vast amounts of money from the budget surplus and other economies made by more efficient management of and work force cuts in the public administration. The idea of a fund which will invest the public money is accused of being "public equity company" i.e. the state acting in the manner of private equity companies or/and co-operative investment funds. That, critics say, is as far from libertarianism as it can get. The proponents say that the crude libertarianism is nothing but a recipe for disaster, and more of a third way approach is what the government needs. Outspoken critic of the tripartite government he and his party seem to be the very few who ask concrete questions about what happens with the package of $800 million from the budget surplus voted in a rush before the end of the 2008 financial year by the tripartite coalition and spent in a way which is, mildly said, lacking transparency. “We have become forensic and financial investigators” Dimitrov said with regard of this amount “and after months of asking questions, and seeking answers how the money is spent, we are not even nearly there”.
Work with other center-right parties for 2009 Parliamentary elections
He seeks consolidation of all EPP’s parties in Bulgaria for the likely July 2009 elections for Bulgarian and European Parliament and is ready, in spite of the internal opposition, to make a compromise and work with the former UDF leader and prime minister 1997-2001 Ivan Kostov, who split the party roughly in half in 2003, founding his own structure Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB). On 13 March 2009 both parties signed an agreement for creating a formal coalition for and working together in the next parliament. The bigger party, according to the opinion polls, UDF, takes 60% of the electing positions for Bulgarian National Parliament and DSB agreed to take up the rest 40%. Some other parties are expected to join the coalition ahead of the general elections notably The New Time (Novoto Vreme) founded by then relatively young members of the NMSS (ruling the country between 2001 and 2005), who were disgruntled with their party’s policies and low public support. Some observers seem to be sceptical about Dimitrov’s success and longevity on the party’s wheel because politics in Bulgaria often means blackmailing by the mafia, corruption, cronyism, and finding creative ways of milking the taxpayer and if possible the European taxpayer too. Each of those looks far-fetched from the worldview of the young European minded politician. As he often mentions it, his hope is that enough young professionals, new faces with unmarred reputation, will decide to join UDF and help in making Bulgaria something more than just a "deep province of Europe".
Clash with inner opposition and problems with Sofia City Court
Important problem for Dimitrov’s successful leadership seems to be the ongoing opposition of about 40% of UDF’s members (now -5 May 2009 - markedly less than that) to the “marriage from hell” between the two EPP’s parties – UDF and DSB. On his online blog, the former UDF leader Plamen Youroukov, who has probably the greatest contribution to the revival of UDF, making it one of the very few properly democratic parties in Bulgaria, not dependent on the fortunes of one strong leader, so there and generally in the public domain he continues to campaign for “sanity” and cautiousness when working with Ivan Kostov. “Martin will be pushed aside by the dominant personality of Ivan Kostov” and his old hyenas who are much more experienced in the political elbowing and mud flinging. “Martin will have to take up and carry a lot of the negative reputation which Kostov generally has among the electorate. His party is nothing sociologically”. DSB had less than 1.5% public support when the truce was signed. Influential UDF members show serious disagreement with the decision of the National Council of UDF to enter this coalition. That will be an immense challenge for the new leader. In his own words “There are problems and disagreements within UDF, but we take decisions democratically. I just lead the way, but do nothing without democratic sanctioning from the party’s majority. The problem with DSB for the vast majority of UDF is only one person (meaning Ivan Kostov), who I personally do not mind if for the good of the coalition he decides to step down”.
So some see a sure subduing of the new and young leader by the old "mucuni" (meaning somewhat ugly face) of DSB and therefore his political demise after the general elections either by being pushed to step down for poor performance of the coalition or even worse - by being toppled by the former leader Youroukov or his protégés, who is still very influential in the party.
On 13 April 2009 the Sofia City Court came with a decision that the new main document with respect of running the party is illegitimate stating that “it is not very democratic that members of UDF should elect their leader via anonymous vote”. Dimitrov said that he “can not believe the amateurish wording and absurd argumentation” of the Court’s decision. “The Court makes political comments which are not its job to do” he said. Many observers said that this is possible in no other EU country but only in Bulgaria—the Court practically axes, on “ludicrous” grounds the coalition UDF-DSB which was running third in the opinion polls and could potentially become part of the future government. Others said that this is a way, using typical for them symbolism, of DPS (Turkish—Bulgarian Party which is part of the ruling coalition) to curb the aggressive rhetoric of Dimitrov (on his birthday) against them.
Seizing the opportunity, the former and still practically legitimate leader Plamen Youroukov said that the coalition with DSB must be revisited and annulled as it is illegitimate and he thinks that the Court “must have serious reasons” to refuse to write in the register the new leadership of UDF. INterestingly Youroukov was the man who organised the inparty elections, organised the transition and lodged the documents which he now says are not lawful. Many already say that Dimitrov is on his way out from the key politics of Bulgaria and that the Court gave an earlier opportunity to Plamen Youroukov to topple the new leader without waiting until after the General Elections, which was his previous plan. “Dimitrov came from nowhere very quickly and is going to the political nonexistence with almost the same speed” some commentators pointed out. Now the only hope for survival of Dimitrov and the Blue Coalition (as the UDF-DSB partnership is called) is that the Supreme Court will turn down the decision of the Sofia City Court about the illegitimacy of the new leader and the National Executive Council ( the executive body of UDF). Unprecedentedly, on 30 April 2009 Plamen Radonov, the right hand of Plamen Youroukov lodged the documents for registration of UDF as a sole political entity despite the fact that there is a new leader elected(Martin Dimitrov) and Youroukov was supposed only to keep signing every month a document ( something which due to the quirks of the Bulgarian Law has always happened during a transitional period until the new leadership of the party is officially registered in the Court of Law) stating that the new leader represents UDF. Youroukov gave the same document to Plamen Radonov to register the party and both showed no regard for the decisions of the executive body – NIS. On 4 May 2009, overwhelmingly the NIS decided to revoke the membership of Youroukov, Radonov and eight other “traitors” voting almost unanimously.
Some commentators[who?] say that many people including Youroukov seem to have underestimated the young and inexperienced in the political fights and frequent stabbings leader. Dimitrov rallied successfully the party around himself and the new “Blue Coalition” and had the sabotage causing people eliminated from the party. Of course much more shrewd political enemies Dimitrov has amongst the DPS party which, some say, is already plotting their next strike. This could be a second refusal of Sofia City Court (SCC) to register formally Dimitrov as a chairman in spite of the ruling of the Supreme Court from the end of April stating that SCC should look at the registration again but employing different judges from those who turned down the first UDF’s application. The chairman of SCC is influenced by DPS and observers do not rule out a second refusal of registration which will be a great blow for UDF just before the European Parliament elections on 5 July 2009. The second refusal was not an outright one but one in which one of the judges walked out from the commission which on 7 May 2009 was expected to finalise UDF's new registration. This practically means that the new UDF leader will not be registered by 12 May 2009 when is the deadline for registering with The Central Elections Commission for EU Parliament (CECEU). Now if UDF is to participate in the elections for EU Parliament it has to use the registration of another party or accept the "criminal" registration Plamen Youroukov has made. Using DSB's registration will not go down well with UDF's members who would see in it Mr Kostov's coming back on the top of UDF by stealth. Most probably UDF will use the registration of one or more parties already partners in the Blue Coalition, which will be the de jure vehicle for participating in the elections. One possible party might be The Bulgarian Christian Coalition and/or the Agrarian Union, which are both part of the Blue Coalition now.
As of 12 May 2009[update], after a second walk out of a judge from SCC and The Supreme Administrative Court's striking down of the UDF's registration by Plamen Youroukov, UDF is not registered and its candidates for EU Parliament are in the lists of the Blue Coalition, but UDF is not formally part of it. The new leader probably never expected such a serious opposition to his leadership and the registration of his party, which is a showcase of the plight UDF has been reduced to: the in-party fighting take enormous amount of energy, much more than addressing the important problems of Bulgaria today: corruption, inefficiency of the public institutions and a global crisis. One commentator observed: " It will be a grand achievement for the new leader if the UDF is the third political factor after the elections as he claims it will be. But, realistically, it will be a respectful outcome if Mr Dimitrov is still chairman of UDF in an year time. If he achieves the latter one, then he must be recognised as one of the most promising young politicians of Bulgaria nowadays."
Supreme Court's decision over Dimitrov's leadership
On 31 May 2009 after a refusal from the Central Electing Commission (CEC) which is a pool of all parliamentary represented parties, dominated by the ruling BSP and DPS coalition, to register the Blue Coalition for the parliamentary elections the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) came with a decision that “a political party in a EU country cannot be stopped from participating in a free elections” on the basis of twisted interpretations, threats to judges (the SAC’s chairman has said that he was contacted on the phone and reminded where his allegiance lies i.e. the Tripartite Coalition which put him there) and smear campaign in the controlled by the close to the government people press. “Finally, after 6 months of artificially produced technical obstacles, we are on the way to victory” Dimitrov said,” justice has been done, the justices of SAC saved the face of the Bulgarian jurisprudence!” Some commentators sceptically say that Mr Penchev (SAC’s chairman) just reckoned that the Tripartite’s Coalition procedural and smear tactics and political punches are the last moves and bites of a dying snake and they will continue until they are removed from power and their political last moment overtaking of key Civil Service posts are revoked. So he just positioned himself well for the future. Now the road is cleared for Dimitrov and his coalition to show how convincing their policy proposals are and immediately after the General Elections Dimitrov will have to run for UDF’s chairman again as per the new rules introduced by Youroukov who, many people say, designed them in a way as to be able to return on top of the UDF’s leadership after the elections. Now Youroukov being expelled from the party and provided the Blue Coalition reaches a decent result in the elections on 5 July 2009, Mr Dimitrov’s chairmanship is almost fully secure unless he makes serious mistakes including giving up too much to DSB representatives in the new administration which will not be accepted lightly by UDF’s apparatchiks. There are some indications that Mr Kostov is more prominent than Dimitrov in the news which might turn into a slippery slope for Mr Dimitrov ahead of the leadership contest within UDF after the General Elections.
2009 Elections and aftermath
On 5 July 2009, the ENP's member party GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) won the General Elections on a landslide with just below 40% of the vote. To form a stable government GERB will work with the Blue Coalition as the new Prime minister Boyko Borisov said. Martin Dimitrov is much easier to work with for GERB because he does not carry negative reputation from the past as Ivan Kostov does. Within UDF there are many problems to be sorted and Mr Dimitrov will have to answer the party why he decided to forgo the inner elections for parliamentary representatives (a possibly big and even fatal mistake) and in the manner of Kostov have put forward candidates which he personally prefers. Most of the largest structure of UDF, the Sofia City's one, is already in motion to challenge Dimitrov's leadership and after the 7% result of the Blue Coalition on the Parliamentary Elections (seen as not big enough a prize, taken into account Kostov's negative reputation which had to be taken up by UDF), the future of Mr Dimitrov as a party leader is unexpectedly very uncertain.
On top of everything else Boyko Borisov declared (18/07/09) that he does not want to enter into a formal coalition with the Blue Coalition and will prefer seeking support and playing between all center-right parties in the new parliament i.e. the nationalists of "Attack", the Conservative Alliance member - "Order, Law and Justice" (RZS) and of course the Blue Coalition. Many people[who?] say that Ivan Kostov is the prime reason why Borisov declined any closer relationship with the Blue Coalition. In the elections campaign the socialists were running a negative commercial saying "You choose Borisov and you will get KOstov", betting on Kostov's bad reputation with most of the electorate. Second reason for the lack of enthusiasm on GERB's part to work with Kostov is his old-fashioned way of negotiating public administration posts in exchange for parliamentary support. Borisov said that he rathers comparing the political programmes of the two parties and creating an action plan on that basis. The Blue Coalition is more interested, it seems behind the curtains, in participation in the government as a priority. A commentator observed "If it was down to Borisov and Dimitrov to negotiate and reach an agreement, this would have been a fact by now as Borisov likes to work with young experts with untarnished reputation. Kostov complicates the relationship of UDF with GERB and sadly it looks that Mr Dimitrov is learning from Kostov's outdated manners of making politics and how it should not be done in a country which needs political reformation".
Another issue which is ever more looming and is being discussed by the commentators[who?] is Mr Dimitrov’s personal style. At the beginning he came across as a young expert with good reputation and therefore fared well with the public. There are signs though that Dimitrov is lacking the charisma and communication abilities which could make him a more serious political player. On a basic level even his haircut, it is being pointed out, that it is reminiscent of the unpopular geek at school who might become good in his future profession but is no way near to ever being able to lead people, because people look not just for expertise but personality as well. His language is often archaic like if he is talking to his eldest sympathisers or patronising little children. An example we see in the line of:” DPS and BSP have made a lot of naughty things, they are bad people”. Talking with clichés is a very weak part of his way to communicate and certainly that needs to be changed if he wants to strike a better cord with the electorate, some commentators[who?] say. His supporters on another hand say that he is young and inexperienced and in a couple of years his style should be markedly better and he deserves the benefit of the doubt because his main qualities are indispensably important and these are: no negative burden from the past, professional expertise and unquestionable moral standing, which is a true rarity in Bulgarian politics.
Inparty elections November 2009
On 29 November 2009 after in-party elections Martin Dimitrov was re-elected as leader with 56% of the total vote. His most serious contender the mayor of Vitosha district in Sofia Luben Petrov came second. Petrov won the vote in Sofia with ratio 2:1 but Dimitrov crushed him in the rest of the country. Before the elections Petrov was calling for Dimitrov to step down because of "unsatisfactory performance of the Blue Coalition and not complying with the party's rules". Dimitrov is expected to seek expansion of the Blue Coalition by luring other center-right parties to it but some comentators as Evgenii Dainov predicted "Demise of UDF within an year" and ever more dwindling support for UDF amongst the Bulgarian electorate. It is now to Dimitrov to show character and strategic vision in order to get the struggling former giant back on track. What he should become and act like is nicely summed up by the words of Kevin Roberts CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi "Ideas is the currency of today. They flow from our insight (knowing our customer by personal experience) and are propelled in their direction by our foresight(strategic vision which awakes the emotion of the people you lead)"
- ^ Darik Radio 23 March 9
- ^ (BNT interview Feb 2009)
- ^ BNT, Feb 09
- ^ www.youroukov.org/SDS Se Sauzi s Nistoto
- ^ BTV, This Morning, March 9
- ^ BNT, Novini, 7 May 2009
- ^ a b http://www.dnes.bg/article.php?id=71715
- ^ Mediapool.com/SDSzabivsetopravitelstvo
- ^ http://dariknews.bg/view_article.php?article_id=442250]]
- ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALzxRMw2R5o&NR=1
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