An Autocratic Christmas, An Autocratic Winter

Despite more than 160 days of protests, Boyko Borissov’s government stubbornly refuses to resign. Moreover, it has engaged in yet another assault against the rule of law. In my latest piece for the Verfassungsblog, I showcase how Borissov’s government is trying to mislead the European Commission that it has taken its concerns in Bulgaria’s report under the new Rule of Law Mechanism seriously. In essence, Bulgaria’s government has put forward an action plan consisting of various steps – many of them are irrelevant to the Commission’s concerns, even a greater number are anti-constitutional. You can read my piece titled “Borissov’s Latest Plan to Avoid True Reforms: On Bad Habits, the CVM, and the New Rule of Law Mechanism” here.

It looks like we will be spending an autocratic Christmas yet again. However, we should be reminded that Borissov managed to solidify an autocratic regime with the European Commission’s help. The European Commission legitimized Borissov’s dismantling of Bulgaria’s democracy by recognizing key assaults against the rule of law as “progress” in the country’s reports under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) supposed to monitor Bulgaria in the areas of rule of law, corruption, and organized crime. In 2019, I engaged in a detailed study of how and why this mechanism failed in Bulgaria. My research has been published in the latest edition of European Public Law, an academic journal of Kluwer Law.

It is for this reason that we should not be surprised that the European Commission did not issue any statement about the protests in Bulgaria – it did not even find the strength to condemn the violence against peaceful civilians. After all, condemning Borissov’s autocracy would mean admitting its own faults and omissions… which we cannot expect from an institution which is largely known for dual standards, especially on matters concerning the European People’s Party (EPP).

Elections in Bulgaria will most likely take place on 28 March 2021, unless Borissov’s government sabotages them. What will follow after the autocratic winter remains to be seen. Hopefully, both Borissov’s GERB and the EPP will receive what they deserve. While I do not trust social surveys doctored in Bulgaria, it is good to see that even GERB-friendly agencies show GERB’s ratings have plummeted.