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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

The Influence of the Bulgarian Far Right on Foreign Policy: the Debate on the Ratification of the Istanbul Convention

Foreign Policy
Political Sociology
Dessie Zagorcheva
Columbia University
Dessie Zagorcheva
Columbia University

This paper analyzes the United Patriots (UP), a coalition of 3 right-wing parties, which like many other far-right parties and movements across Europe defies a clear left-right categorization and is more like an ideological hodge-podge. UP has done various attempts to block the ratification by the Bulgarian Parliament of the Istanbul Convention (IC) on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women. I examine the main variables that account for their power to mobilize public support for their objective – the defeat of the IC.
Some key factors that explain how much influence the UP have on policy-making are the following:
a) whether they are in power or not - their current position as part of the ruling coalition allows regular and frequent access to the media which helps spread their messages;
b) availability or lack of domestic and international allies: in this case the UP are supported by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Conservative NGOs and grass-root movements (Bulgarian and international), and the Kremlin;
c) ability to frame the debate in a way as to tap into popular frames, such as Euroscepticism, national sovereignty, protection of Orthodox Christian values, etc. In this case, the UP managed to convince some people that the IC is being imposed on Bulgaria by Brussels and the “decadent West”; that it goes against Orthodox Christian values, would lead to legalizing same-sex marriage, and “harm our children by teaching them about homosexuality”.
d) citizens’ distrust in political institutions, their desperation and anger with the status-quo, which could lead to looking for scape-goats.
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