A footnote in Bulgarian political history must be that the Ataka parliamentary group formed after the 2005 elections unceremoniously imploded in the final few weeks before the 2009 vote for a new Parliament.
In 2005, Volen Siderov became the head of a 21-member group of MPs after his party got nine per cent of the vote. Four years later, the death of a thousand cuts – as the group shed MPs through scandal and dissent – saw it shrink to nine, one less than the minimum requirement for a parliamentary group.
Its most recent electoral peak was in the 2007 elections when Bulgaria, after joining the EU, held a special vote to choose MEPs. With just more than 14 per cent of the vote, Ataka got three seats in the European Parliament, drawing negative attention to Bulgaria because the arrival of the ultra-nationalists made it possible for various Europeans of this ilk to form a parliamentary group.
Another peak for Siderov was when he went to a second round against Georgi Purvanov in the 2006 presidential elections, but his defeat was decisive as people across the spectrum, including those from the centre-right who had no other reason to back Purvanov held their noses and gave the former Bulgarian Socialist Party leader a second term as head of state.
In the late hours after Bulgaria’s June 7 European Parliament elections, Siderov told journalists that his party had turned in its best-ever performance, an odd conclusion given that its support was just less than 12 per cent and – allowing for the fact that in the new EP, Bulgaria has one fewer seat – Ataka’s MEPs dropped from three to two.
Much as far-right politics tends to draw to itself the ranks of the embittered, frustrated, unimaginative and simple old-fashioned bigots, Ataka’s post-2005 career has in fact been a series of losses.
It has lost on every issue dear to it. Siderov wants Bulgarian National Television to stop its daily news broadcasts in Turkish. There has been no mainstream support for this. Ataka’s mouthpiece cable channel, Skat, has been the subject of complaints and hate speech and, reports have it, Skat transmissions have been quietly dropped from the menus of some cable providers.
Ataka raged against the setting up of joint US-Bulgarian military facilities in the country, something that has become a fact and unlikely to stir the passions of anyone but the most venomously anti-American.
Theoretically, the only cause it has left for which there is support anywhere is its vehement opposition to Turkey joining the EU. This is a view shared to varying degrees elsewhere in the EU, although mainstream politicians such as Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel who also have misgivings about Turkey joining the EU offer the alternative of a limited form of partnership for Ankara with the bloc.
Then there are the departures and defections. Apart from some who departed amid scandal
, the rest have been those who quit in protest at Siderov’s "style" of leadership.
Then there are the words that Siderov wrote as an author and "journalist" that have followed him, especially the ones that were anti-Semitic or in one case, outrageously claimed that Judaism did not start out as a monotheistic religion.
Considering that he just recently was given a qualification in theology
, he might be expected to have read the rest of the Bible, and should know that the Baal thing was a temporary aberration in a religion that clearly had only one Divinity.
But to point that out, to draw on the second half of the book that Siderov was supposed to have been studying, is rather like casting pearls before swine.
Admittedly, I represent much of everything that Siderov hates. Let’s start with being Editor-in-Chief of an English-language newspaper when Ataka wants the use of foreign languages banned in Bulgaria. To say nothing of his party’s rejection of foreign ownership of property, which would pull my half of our house out from under me. We need not go into the fact that I believe it to be a vile excrescence to judge people according to race, ethnicity or commit other forms of negative discrimination on the grounds of gender, language and sexual orientation
while for Siderov, such intolerance is his stock-in-trade.
Ataka, some political commentators in Bulgaria have said, is likely to get a larger vote when Bulgaria goes to the polls in national parliamentary elections on July 5. Even then, unless any party with good chances of a significant majority and the possibility of forming a coalition is lying, no party is willing to form a coalition that includes Ataka
Another loss for them, and another gain for those of us who genuinely do love Bulgaria, an emotion quite different to the self-proclaimed "patriotism" of those whose twisted vision of this country is fuelled only by hatred of The Other.