Vesselin Mareshki, leader of the “Volya” party which has 11MPs in the Bulgarian parliament, attended a rally of Europe’s far-right in the southern French city of Nice yesterday (1 May), to devise a battle plan for next year’s European elections.
The meeting was hosted by Marine Le Pen’s National Front. Following her defeat at the 7 May 2018 presidential elections, Le Pen has for many months kept a low profile. The event marks an attempt by Le Pen to return to the national and European political stage.
Bulgaria has three nationalist political forces, gathered as “The United Patriots”. Among them Ataka, a member of the United Patriots, could be described as far-right. Boyko Borissov’s GERB party majority in parliament depends on its coalition with the United Patriots: Volen Siderov’s Ataka, the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria of Valeri Simeonov, and VMRO, a political party who claims to be the successor to the historic Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. VMRO is led by Krassimir Karakachanov. Simeonov and Karakachanov are Deputy Prime Ministers, while Siderov is leader of the United Patriot’s group in the National Assembly.
VMRO has one MEP, Angel Dzhambazki, who sits in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), together with the UK Tories and the MEPs from the ruling Polish PiS party. The French Front National, as well as the Austria Freedom Party FPÖ, the Italian Lega Nord, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, the Dutch Freedom Party, the Polish Congress of the New Right sit in the Europe of Nations and Freedom group (ENF) in the European Parliament.
The presence of Mareshki in Nice marks a further rapprochement of his maverick force with ENF, the far-right political movement, in which “Volya” obtained an observer status. No other Bulgarian political party, not even Ataka, is represented there.
.@MareshkiVeselin : "Today, the priorities of the Bulgarian presidency are dictated by Bruxelles : open borders, alignment on the American wishes, sanctions against Russia… all against our national interests !" #FêteDesNations pic.twitter.com/KsQE9bB0LV
— MENF (@menleuropa) May 1, 2018
Mareshki, a businessman, has sometimes been called the ‘Bulgarian Trump’. He owns a chain of petrol stations and pharmacies and has succeeded in selling fuel and medicines at prices well below the rest of the competition.
In Parliament, Mareshki positions himself as opposition, but in fact supports the Borissov government, especially since he has been indicted for racketeering.
Latest opinion polls show that if elections are held now, only four forces would enter parliament: GERB (24.5%), the socialists (20.5%), DPS (6.1%) and the United Patriots (5.5%). Mareshki’s “Volya” is credited only 1,1% and stands no chance to pass the 4% barrier to enter Parliament. It would be even more difficult for “Volya” to send MEPs to the European Parliament in next year’s elections, because the threshold for the European Parliament elections is even higher.
But as the “United Patriots” make an effort to refrain from extremism under their coalition deal with Borissov, Mareshki is likely to push his “Volya” party to seduce the extremist electorate, in the year ahead of the European еlections.