From Representative to Anti-Civic Populist Democracy?

Development and Forms of Civil Society in Contemporary Bulgaria

In: Southeastern Europe
Petya Kabakchieva Sofia University, Sofia, Bulgaria,

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This article analyses the emergence and development of different forms of civil society in Bulgaria from the late 1980s to the present day, focusing on ngos and the large anti-government protests in 1989–1991, 1997, and 2013–2014. It shows that civil society has been developing in ebbs and flows, its main actors having alt-civic and fake doubles: nationalist movements and fake counter-protests. Recent developments indicate a clear trend of transition from representative to direct democracy, which coincides with the populist orientation of most parties. This coincidence is dangerous because populist parties, following the romantic tradition, reinvented the figure of “the people” as traditionalistic, nationalistic, and conservative. “Civil society,” seen as “alien,” was constructed as an enemy of “the people.” The author argues that defending the pluralistic values of civil society against the thus-invented “people,” is the main challenge to democracy in Bulgaria today.

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