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PES President’s blog

From May 1863 Leipzig to May 2013 Sofia, the value of progressive democracy

History shows us that election day always has consequences. This is a fundamental principle of progressive democracy, even if the outcome is neither progressive nor democratic. In case of my own country, Bulgaria, the chaotic, massively manipulated general election on May 12 has proven to be part of the legacy of the conservative GERB party. This is and always will be a legacy of democratic abuse, of isolation and political neglect. This is also the reason why, despite evidences of illegally printed ballots and widespread corruption, the official numbers still show that two-thirds of the electorate voted against GERB. Now, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) will focus to engage in dialogue with all members of society with the ultimate goal of bringing this destructive legacy to an end.

I deeply thank our sister parties and all the activists around Europe for their invaluable help and much needed support. Even if extensive irregularities seemed to be the order of the day during the elections, the BSP managed an increase in voting of 25 percent, doubling its representation in the Parliament and reflecting the citizens’ aspirations for change. I am certain that, if the election had been truly free and fair – as demanded by EU democratic standards and the international community –, a very different result would have followed.

Fortunately, GERB influence, as pervasive as it is, is still subjected to the rules of democracy. In order to stop this conspiracy against our most fundamental rights, we need to work long and hard to rid the country of GERB’s manipulation of the institutions. Only that way we will re-establish the integrity of our system and guarantee that our elections are a matter of choice instead of a matter of chance and opportunism. The BSP will not rest until our progressive and democratic principles are both acknowledged and put into practice – not only as a sound alternative but also as a practical necessity.

This week, these same progressive principles are the main focus of the 150th Anniversary of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). On the 23rd of May, progressive activists and leaders from all over Europe will visit Leipzig to celebrate its fundamental role in sustaining and promoting democracy in Germany, as well as in inspiring and leading other democracies beyond its borders. As it happened before at our PES 20th Anniversary, it will be a time for honouring the past and shaping the future. Four months until the federal election in Germany, and merely a year until the European elections, the PES family will show that we are the only party with the vision and the commitment to lead the way.

This historic occasion will also prove the strength and togetherness of the progressive family as a whole: on the eve of the ceremony, the Progressive Alliance (a new global network of progressive forces) will hold its second conference in Leipzig. That same day, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) and the SPD will host an international reception, and PES Women will celebrate its 20 years of progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. I will be happy to join Ms. Zita Gurmai in this landmark commemoration.

The 22nd of May will be also the day on which the PES organizes its Leader’s Conference. Within the framework of the celebration, PES Prime Ministers and Party Leaders will meet in Leipzig to discuss the ongoing effects of the crisis, our solutions rooted in sustainable growth and employment, and the many challenges ahead. This strong commitment echoes that of the founders of the SPD, and upholds the legitimate demands and democratic rights of the citizens. I am convinced that progressives will demonstrate, just as they did 150 years ago, that we are on the right side of history.

The BSP may not have the long and storied past of the SPD, but it definitely shares with its sister party the same history of democratic aspirations and struggles – with its ups and downs, impasses and steps forward. Today in Bulgaria, as in many other Member States across Europe, the fight is still on. Our citizens are demanding the end of cronyism and corruption and its corrosive effect on society, and we are determined to make their voice heard. I can say with full confidence that the BSP, along with the entire PES family, will ensure that democracy does not end on election day.

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