date: 5/25/2005 11:57 refid: 05SOFIA931 origin: Embassy Sofia classification: CONFIDENTIAL destination: 05SOFIA808 header: This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.   C O N F I D E N T I A L  SOFIA 000931    SIPDIS      E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2015  TAGS: BU, PGOV, PREL  SUBJECT: THE "KING'S MOVEMENT": BULGARIA'S BEST HOPE?    REF: SOFIA 0808    Classified By: Ambassador James Pardew, reasons 1.5(b) and (d).    1. (C) SUMMARY.  Though current polls show it lagging behind  the Socialists in the June 25 elections, the ruling National  Movement Simeon II (NMSS) may play an important role in the  next Bulgarian government -- either as the junior partner in  a Socialist-led government or the core of a disparate  center-right coalition. Recent surveys indicate that the  former King's party is likely to be the second-largest group  in the next National Assembly, winning between 50 and 70  seats in the 240-seat Assembly.  Simeon,s intentions are  currently the most speculated upon element of the campaign  season. Some analysts believe Simeon could retain his  position as Prime Minister if the Socialist need his party to  form a government.  Many NMSS supporters hope they can stop a  Socialist government by putting together a broad, if  fractious, center-right coalition. In either case, the NMSS  would play an important role in continuing Bulgaria's  pro-U.S. foreign policy.  A successful showing by the NMSS,  therefore, is in the U.S. interest. END SUMMARY.    --------------------------------  NMSS Lagging as Campaign Begins  ---------------------------------    2. (SBU) With the 30-day campaign season officially starting  May 25, and more than 20 percent of the voters still  undecided, the outcome of the election remains unpredictable.   The latest poll, conducted earlier this month, shows the  Socialists with 23 percent and the NMSS with 16 percent.  Under Bulgaria's system of proportional representation, and  if voter turnout follows the pattern of previous  post-communist elections, this will give the Socialists (BSP)  approximately 100 seats in parliament and the NMSS about 60  seats.  The remaining 80 would be split among the Movement  for Rights and Freedom (a predominantly Turkish party,  currently in coalition with the NMSS) and several, dueling  center-right parties.  The numbers can be combined in several  ways, but the most crucial issue is whether the Socialists  will dominate the next government.    3. (C) If, as many Bulgarians expect, the Socialists win a  plurality of seats, the King's party might still be necessary  for them to form a government.  While ideologically a  liberal/ center-right party, many leading members of the NMSS  have close personal connections to the Socialists.  When the  Movement was first formed in 2001, it drew support almost  equally from the Left and the Right, and key figures such as  Finance Minister Milen Velchev and Interior Minister Georgi  Petkanov have Socialist pedigrees in either their own or  their family background. Velchev, whose father was a  Communist Party official, became close friends with current  Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev when the two lived in  London during the 1990's.    ------------------------------  The Enigmatic Simeon  ------------------------------    4. (C) Simeon himself is generally viewed as either a  pragmatist or an opportunist, depending on whom you ask.  There is little evidence of strongly-held political ideology  and his decisions -or even the issues he takes interest in-  are difficult to predict.  The Prime Minister listens to a  small number of official and unofficial advisors, but appears  to decide most issues for himself.  Even those high in the  NMSS structure indicate they have few insights into how Party  decisions are made. Few, for example, knew in advance who  would be included on the NMSS election lists. Despite its  four years in power, the NMSS remains far more a "Movement"  than a political party.  There is still little party  organization and Simeon,s (frequently absent) leadership  style has given substantial power to individual ministers.  Party discipline is rarely evident, yet Simeon commands great  personal loyalty and party leaders immediately defer to his  decisions.  Much of the political class, believe Simeon wants  badly to serve another term and have difficulty envisioning  the ex-King as an opposition leader.  For his part, Simeon  has assured the nation he is here to stay, but remains  enigmatic about his specific intentions.    5. (C) The price of the NMSS' participation in a center-left  coalition would likely be the Prime Minster's job.  Though it  would be difficult for their core members to accept, the  Socialists are desperate to avoid another four years out of  power.  There are also rumors that parts of the Socialist  Party would prefer Simeon to BSP leader Sergei Stanishev as  leader of the next government.  A lack of confidence in the  39 year-old Stanishev to either control his party or lead a  successful government regularly fuel reports that he would  not be the Socialists, first choice.  Many view Simeon --  with his hands-off management style -- as an acceptable  alternative as long as the Socialists get control of key    ministries.  Perhaps the largest unanswered question is  whether Simeon would allow the NMSS to join a Socialist  coalition if he were not to be the Prime Minister.    ---------------------------------  Going Right or Left  ---------------------------------      6. (C) A second alternative for the Simeon Movement is a  center-right government built around an NMSS core in  coalition with the 3-4 liberal/center-right parties expected  to meet the 4 percent threshold for entering Parliament.  While preferable from our perspective, it would also be an  unstable grouping, already suffering from serious personal  animosities and problematic egos.  If given the opportunity,  the NMSS would have to decide which would be easier to manage  -- ideological differences on the left or personal conflicts  on the right. Our contacts tell us the King,s Movement would  prefer to go right, but that will ultimately depend on the  number of seats captured. Simeon has reportedly instructed  his party to refrain from any public discussion of a  Socialist-NMSS coalition fearing it will scare off potential  right-wing support.  At the same time, political consultants  working on the campaign have told us Simeon does not want the  NMSS campaign to attack the Socialists.  Whether this is  reflective of Simeon,s courteous political nature, or a  desire to keep his options open is yet to be seen.  (Early  advertising indicates the Socialists do not share Simeon,s  compunction and will be launching frontal attacks on his 2001  promise of "800 days to an improved Bulgaria.")    7. (C) Comment: To date, it does not appear Iraq will be an  important election issue, despite the widespread disapproval  of Bulgaria,s military participation.  The NMSS effectively  neutralized the opposition with the decision to withdraw its  troops at the end of 2005. Absent serious casualties or other  unpleasant Iraqi news in the run-up to the election, the  issue may stay in the background. While the current  government falls short in some important areas -- primarily  rule of law and transparent business practices - it has been  a strong supporter of the U.S. internationally and a mostly  predictable economic player domestically.  An objective  review of the government,s accomplishment provide a list of  successes that many politicians would be happy to run on  --NATO membership, EU Accession Agreement, billions in  foreign investment, reduced unemployment and a stable  economy.  But despite the accomplishments, the average  Bulgarian still focuses on the nation,s low wages, poor  infrastructure, the deterioration of public health and  education systems and the seemingly endless transition.  To  the extent that the NMSS plays a role in the next government,  it will be a stabilizing one, especially if the Socialists  emerge as the strongest party after the elections.  The  larger the combined NMSS, center-right vote, the more likely  Simeon will stay in power. 

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