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Democratic Backsliding in Bulgaria

By rraycheva | March 21, 2017

pdf_icon   IME_democractic_backsliding_English

Institute for Market Economics

In this paper IME analyses the state of democracy and free enterprise in Bulgaria, investigating the roots of democratic backsliding in recent years and highlighting the main challenges that citizens in Bulgaria face in regard to democratic and market values.

Bulgaria is facing a set of serious democratic challenges in a turbulent political environment. Political instability has dominated the scene since mass protests in 2013, and has shaped the democratic debate in the country ever since. Democratic backsliding undermines market values, reduces the economic growth potential and gives rise to nationalism and economic populism.
The leading challenge to democracy in Bulgaria identified in our surveys and roundtable discussions, appears to be state capture. The latter brings together the problems in the judicial system and the widespread political corruption in the country. These processes are accompanied by a worsening of the media environment, which is increasingly dominated by dependent media and, more recently, by propaganda media. The relation between political corruption and dependent media is a part of the state capture equilibrium, and this has been taken into account in drafting the main policy recommendations.
An additional factor for these negative tendencies is the rise of nationalist parties (after the migrant crisis) and widespread economic populism. These two are working together, as the main political players that exploit the refugee crisis are those that most prominently use economic populism to gain votes. Their rise in popularity has drawn some of the mainstream parties to the same battleground of populism.
The recommendations in this paper confront the main challenges before turning around the trend of democratic backsliding, which limits prosperity and undermines democratic and market values. All of these developments are in a way interconnected, as the paper clearly shows the strong relation between the different challenges – the rise of economic populism and nationalism that is additionally fueling cronycapitalism and political corruption, with the support of a worsening media environment.
These challenges go beyond the purely political spectrum and shall be tackled by the society at large. The role of non-political actors, such as various non-governmental organizations, citizen movements, representatives of various professional groups and the business community, will also be crucial in the years to come.


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