Reflections on Bulgarian populism
The first victory of populism in Bulgaria, argues Svetoslav Malinov, was the rejection of the conservative constitution by liberals shortly after independence in 1879. In the contemporary period, it has been the rhetoric of former tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who became Bulgarian prime minister in 2001, that set the precedent for the rightwing populism currently purveyed by Volen Siderov, leader of the Ataka party. Despite Siderov, xenophobia is not a dominant feature of Bulgarian populism. Instead, populism in Bulgaria feeds off two phenomena: “a pure hatred of political parties” and the constant emphasis in the public discourse on an alleged contrast between ordinary people and the political elite. This goes so far as to make the elite subservient to the people, an attitude for which Malinov coins the term “radical demophilia”.