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Why Was the Monarchy Not Restored in Post-Communist Bulgaria?

Written by Rossen Vassilev, this article appeared on the fourth issue of Vol. 24 of the journal East European Politics and Society in November 2010.
 
The controversy over bringing back Bulgaria’s abolished monarchy reflects in a large measure the prolonged agony the country has been undergoing ever since it launched on a course of painful post-communist reforms. Against the background of a deep economic crisis, mass poverty, the breakdown of law and order, and political chaos that have traumatized the population, the attempts to reinstate the monarchy have failed only because of its low historical legitimacy. While the ex-king’s triumph in the June 2001 election initially seemed to improve the chances for bringing back the monarchy, such a restoration has been rendered less likely now by the numerous failures and blunders of his time in office, particularly his inability to rebuild the ailing national state and economy. In spite of some notable foreign policy successes such as Bulgaria’s entry into NATO and the European Union, ex–Prime Minister Simeon did not live up to the naïvely overoptimistic expectations of Bulgarians who had hoped that he would save their country from the profound economic, social, political, institutional, and even moral crisis into which it has descended. The precipitous fall of the political fortunes of Simeon, especially as a result of the public relations disaster involving the scandalous
“restitution” of his family’s properties that turned the ex-monarch into a multimillionaire, does not bode well for the prospect of reintroducing the monarchy. In the eyes of many ordinary Bulgarians, the former king has now turned into a liability and an embarrassing disappointment.

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