The slow process of transition towards a market economy strongly conditioned the political and social life of Bulgaria in the 1990s, as well as its ‘normalization’ within the framework of that ‘modern democracy governed by law’, hoped for by the successor of T. Živkov, P. Mladenov, upon his appointment as President of the Republic in December 1989.
Strongly dependent on Moscow both for commercial exchanges and for energy supply, Bulgaria found it very difficult to fit into a changed international economic structure dominated by the crisis of post-Soviet Russia, by the instability of the Balkan area and by the relative ‘ remoteness’ of a Western Europe in which Bulgaria aspired to enter. The measures of privatization of state-owned companies and land, liberalization of markets and reconversion of an obsolete industrial apparatus oriented to the needs of the former USSR, undertaken since the 1990s, suffered numerous temporary arrests due to the very high social costs and rapid deterioration. the living conditions of the population. This led to a situation of serious political instability, characterized by
In June 1990 a new National Assembly with constituent powers was elected in Bulgaria the majority of the seats went to the new Bulgarian Socialist Party (PSB, former Communist Party) which, thanks essentially to its own organizational structure, obtained 47 % of the votes against 36 % of the Union of Democratic Forces (UFD). The latter comprised about fifteen dissident parties and groups, including Ecoglasnost, and enjoyed the support of the largest trade union, Podkrepa. The leader of the UFD, Z. Želev, became President of the Republic on 1 August, following the votes of the Assembly determined by the resignation of Mladenov.
The socialist government led by A. Lukanov, in office since February 1990, lacking in Parliament the absolute majority necessary to start the program of economic reforms, opposed by the UFD and harassed by the anti-government demonstrations that followed one another in the last months of 1990 due to the worsening economic conditions (shortage of food and fuel), it was replaced in December 1990 by a coalition cabinet, chaired by the independent D. Popov and comprising the Bulgarian Socialist Party (PSB), the UFD and the Agrarian Union. The steps of the new government towards the establishment of a market economy consisted on the one hand in the transformation of some state-owned enterprises into joint stock companies (managed by former members of the communist nomenclature) and on the other in the abolition of all price controls (February 1991). Both measures aroused popular opposition: the first because it jeopardized an effective change in the Bulgarian ruling class, the second because it caused a sharp rise in the prices of all products, including basic necessities.
Consequently, after the launch in July 1991 of the new Constitution (which introduced direct universal suffrage for the election of the President of the Republic), the legislative elections of October 1991 saw the affirmation of the UFD which obtained 110 seats against 106 of the PSB, while the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MDL), an expression of the Turkish-speaking minority, became the third largest political force with 24 seats. The leader of the UFD, F. Dimitrov, formed the new government in November, while in January 1992 Želev was re-elected president of the Republic.
Dimitrov continued on the path of reforms by restoring private ownership of land, initiating the restitution of funds confiscated by the state between 1947 and 1962, and continuing the privatization of state-owned companies. However, the government’s action was compromised by the social tensions caused by the costs of the economic structural adjustment policy: rampant unemployment and the energy crisis, aggravated by the closure of some reactors of the Kozlodui nuclear power plant and the drastic decrease in Russian oil, provoked throughout 1992large protests and general strikes by miners, dockers, state employees, doctors and teachers. Now opposed by the two main trade unions, Podkrepa and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, and criticized both within the party and by President Želev, Dimitrov was forced, in December 1992, to hand over the Presidency of the Council to the independent economist L. Berov, whose government received parliamentary support from the PSB and the MDL.
The new cabinet, however, soon turned out to be a not very credible alternative, first of all in the eyes of the UFD (from which a pro-Berov faction in favor of a rapprochement with the PSB had detached), which in the space of eighteen months proposed well five motions of no confidence in the government, accused of wanting to reintroduce communism in the country. Meanwhile, Bulgaria was in a phase of acute recession, with half the population below the poverty line, inflation over 70 % and a new devaluation of 30 % of the lev.
In April 1994, President Želev publicly withdrew his support for the Berov government due to its failure to implement economic reforms (the introduction, also in April, of a value added tax caused new waves of popular demonstrations), while the UFD has been calling for early elections for months, blaming the government for the dramatic increase in crime in the country. Finally, in September 1994, Berov offered his resignation, which was followed, in December, by the parliamentary elections won by the PSB which obtained 125 seats against the 69 of the UFD and 15 of the MDL. Following the clear electoral success, the socialist leader Z. Videnov constituted in January 1995, a coalition government between the socialists and two minor forces.
The new socialist cabinet, while not calling into question the reform policy initiated by its predecessors, canceled a 1992 law that prohibited former communists from accessing university professorships and extended the terms of restitution of certain land to owners, a provision that fueled a widespread discontent and provoked mass demonstrations throughout 1995. The dismissal of the leaders of national radio and television, guilty of having contested the restoration of censorship, was interpreted by public opinion as an attack on freedom of expression, while the ‘wheat scandal’ of 1996 it further undermined the credibility of the socialist government, linked to some companies that had bought large quantities of Bulgarian wheat at low prices for resale on the markets of the Near East, causing a shortage of wheat in the country. In the context of an indiscriminate increase in violence, in urban crime (in May 1996 the Minister of the Interior had to resign due to the murder of three security officers, while in October the former Socialist Prime Minister A. Lukanov was assassinated) and of the objection to the government’s inability to pursue structural adjustments to the economy, discontent with the PSB and its leader grew, leading, once again, to the demand for early elections.
The failure of the PSB resulted in the defeat of the socialist candidate in the presidential elections of October 1996, won in the second round by the UFD candidate, P. Stojanov, who had prevailed over Želev in the party primaries. For Bulgaria 1996, please check pharmacylib.com.
In December, the National Assembly accepted Videnov’s request for resignation, prompted by a series of demonstrations orchestrated by the UFD. The appointment of N. Dobrev, former Minister of the Interior of the current government, sparked a wave of violent demonstrations that culminated, on January 10, 1997, in an attempt to occupy the Parliament, which was suffocated in blood by the police forces. At the end of January, between strikes and demonstrations, President Stojanov managed to form a ‘service government’ led by the mayor of Sofia, S. Sofianski, which allowed the resumption of economic reforms, according to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund. pending new legislative elections. These were held on April 19, 1997 and saw (with 52, 6 % of the vote) the clear statement of opposition forces led by the UDF leader, I. Kostov. New head of government since May 1997, Kostov accelerated the process of transformation of the economy, among other things by adopting measures to facilitate foreign investment (September 1997) and by abolishing, in May 1998, all forms of subsidies to the agricultural sector.
On an international level, Bulgaria maintained strong ties with Russia and with the countries of Eastern Europe (in June 1992 it became part of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Group), while orienting itself more and more towards Western Europe: in 1992 he joined the Council of Europe and in 1996 he officially asked to join the European Union. Also, in February 1997, asked to join NATO, the last of the former Warsaw Pact countries to make a statement. The difficult relations with Turkey, a legacy of Živkov’s nationalist policy, experienced a progressive improvement in the early nineties, when the Bulgarian government abandoned the policy of forced integration of the Turkish-speaking minority in Bulgaria and committed itself to using and teaching the Turkish language in the regions concerned. The new phase in Bulgarian-Turkish relations was sealed by the state visit, in July 1995, of the Turkish president S. Demirel. After a few years of strong tensions, starting from the first months of 1999, relations with the State of Macedonia, recognized by Bulgaria in 1992, improved.