As King Simeon II of Bulgaria returns in triumph to his country, after fifty years of exile, it is reported that he is received in triumph by his countrymen. On close examination, this statement must be qualified: half of his countrymen. An opinion poll in Bulgaria has revealed that fifty per cent of Bulgarians want Simeon II to be reinstated as their King, a position which he assumed as a six-year-old boy in 1943 when his father, Boris III, died, but which he lost shortly after the war – in a referendum, which abolished the monarchy. As pro-monarchist western newspapers report that Simeon II returns on a wave of popular support, it should also be pointed out that the opponents of a return of the monarchy to Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Union of Democratic Forces, led by Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, retain the other, equally important, 50% of voting intentions expressed in the opinion poll. The 50% in favour of a return of the monarchy can be summed up, basically, by most western press sources as a desire for national pride, lost after 1989, with the wave of opportunism which swept through Eastern Europe, inspired from abroad, destroying values, symbols and role models at a stroke, replacing these with nothing, not even ideas and much less, ideals. In Bulgaria’s case, it is the disastrous performance of the economy in post-Communist years which propels the people to look for a new saviour, against the new oligarchs who speed through Sofia’s sumptuous back streets in expensive motorcades, sometimes with police motorcycle outriders, while a substantial part of the population work on the basis of where tomorrow’s meal is coming from. Feeling deceived and affronted by the ostensive corruption practised by the political class, the 50% in favour of a return of the monarch who made a fortune in Spain in business express their desires more in desperation than in hope. Simeon II does not have a political programme to save his country, but he sounds convincing. “Dear Compatriots,…after 1989, it has been very painful for me to see how all of Bulgaria’s dreams have been substituted by poverty and desperation….The political system and its morals need to be changed immediately. The critical moment for Bulgaria and for me has arrived”. The “for me” would sum up the monarchist cause in Bulgaria and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, a region without a monarchist tradition, epitomised by the claims of King Zog of Albania, a title usurped by a predecessor who had been a government minister. However, the other fifty per cent of Bulgaria’s population, who would not vote for Simeon II in a referendum, see through the smokescreen. A typical view was expressed by a citizen called Dimitar :“At first, I was interested…he is an honest man…but then I saw that he does not have a (political or economic) programme, and his team is made up of artists and old writers”. With catch-phrases such as “You will see! After we are in power, the people will see how we will end corruption and poverty in 800 days”, Simeon II seems to be more like a Midsummer Night’s Dream than a Julius Caesar who will correct the comedy of errors made in Bulgaria after the removal of the Communist system. Much ado about nothing.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.RU LISBON