The fascist candidate in Bulgaria’s presidential election has taken 15% of the vote – sharply up on previous elections – and taken third place.
Bulgaria’s presidential election was somewhat overshadowed by that in the US this week – the country of just seven million people is the poorest in the EU. But the electoral rise of Bulgaria’s fascists is still worrying, especially as the country’s parliamentary fascist organisations are closely linked with the armed paramilitary groups that are “hunting” refugees at the country’s borders.
Exit polls after the second round of voting today suggest that Rumen Radev, a Russia-friendly former air force commander backed by the centre-left Bulgarian Socialist Party, has won by a large margin.
Radev, who campaigned on a racist anti-migrant platform, took around 58% of the vote, against Tsetska Tsacheva of the ruling centre-right GERB party, on around 35% in the two-horse second-round race. GERB prime minister Boyko Borisov is now set to resign, triggering new parliamentary elections and renewed political turmoil.
Krasimir Karakachanov of the fascist United Patriots Coalition took third place in the first round of the vote last week, with 14.97% of the vote – not enough to make it into the second round, but a huge gain on the fascists’ previous attempts.
The coalition brings together the two nazi factions who between them hold one in eight seats in Bulgaria’s parliament – the Ataka (“Attack”) party and the Patriotic Front, made up of the Bulgarian National Movement (VMRO), and the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, a split from Ataka.
Karakachanov is leader of the VRMO, whose membership overlaps with paramilitary organisations (see pictures, right). It also has close ties with Hungary’s nazi party Jobbik.
Karakachanov’s vote is substantially up on the 11.82% that Ataka and the PF got between them in the 2014 parliamentary elections. And it is a huge increase in the 7.13% that three separate fascist candidates scored between them in the last presidential election in 2011. The newfound unity between the fascist groups is also a worrying sign.
Fascism in Bulgaria follows the classic two-pronged strategy of Hitler and Mussolini, with both parliamentary and paramilitary wings. In 2011, pogroms against Roma people who make up about 10% of Bulgaria’s population broke out across the country. Huge armed gangs stormed into Roma areas destroying homes and attacking residents indiscriminately.
The fascists were behind the wave of violence. Ataka organised “demonstrations” with the slogan “Gypsy crime a danger for the country.” Its members wore T-shirts saying, “I do not want to live in a gypsy country.”
Now the fascists are also targeting refugees and migrants fleeing the war in Syria via the Balkan state. And the paramilitary border vigilante groups are heavily armed.
Fascist leaders from across Europe have been keen to associate with the Bulgarian nazis’ border actions. Former British National Party leader Nick Griffin and ex-BNP and Britain First fundraising chief Jim Dowson have visited the fascist militia groups, as have leading figures from the virulently Islamophobic Pegida movement.
The fascists will be seeking further electoral gains in the new parliamentary elections – and their success at the ballot box will give renewed confidence to the paramilitaries on the ground.