Authoritarian Populism Index.

The Authoritarian Populism Index is developed by Timbro.

Timbro is the leading free market think tank in the Nordic countries. Our mission is to promote and disseminate ideas supporting the principles of free markets, free enterprise, individual liberty and a free society. Timbro was founded in 1978 by Sture Eskilsson and the Swedish Employers’ Association, a precursor to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.  Since 2003, Timbro is financed by the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation.


International outreach and translation supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Atlas Network.


Populism Rank: 23


Voter support for radical left in last elections (2023): +/- 0 %.
Voter support for radical right in last elections: + 1.4 %.
Populist or authoritarian parties in government (March 2024): none
Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 2/17.

01 Speakers

During the first post communist decade, Bulgaria seemed to be moving towards a two-party system led by the Socialist Party (BSP) and the center-right coalition SDS. However, stability was disrupted in 2001 when the anti-establishment National Movement Simeon II, led by former King Simeon II, emerged, winning over 42 percent of the vote. Since then, Bulgarian party politics have experienced constant reshuffling, with new parties entering parliament and old ones leaving after each election. This has led to consistently high levels of volatility, making government formation increasingly challenging.

In the 2020s, Bulgarian politics entered its most turbulent phase yet. From the spring of 2021 to the spring of 2023, no less than five parliamentary elections have been held (three in 2021, one in 2022 and one in 2023). No stable government could be formed after the first four elections, leading to an ever-increasing polarization.


Despite emerging as the largest party in the April 2021 election, GERB, a conservative party that in 2013 became the first to win two consecutive elections and whose leader Boyko Borisov has been Prime Minister for three terms (2009-13, 2014-17, 2017-21), was unable to form a government. Instead, a new election was called just two months later in which the newly formed There Is Such A People, (ITN) an anti-establishment party that combines anti-corruption messages with economic right-wing policies and some conservative viewpoints, became the largest party. However, ITN refused to cooperate with any other party, leading to a third election being be called in the same year. In elections in November, ITN lost almost two-thirds of its voter support. Instead, yet another newly formed liberal party, We Continue The Change (PP), won the election with 25 percent of the votes. PP eventually formed a government with BSP, the liberal conservative Democratic Bulgaria (DB) and, despite previous resistance, ITN. However, this coalition did not last many months. In June 2022 ITN left the government after a conflict over the relationship with North Macedonia.


Since the election in 2023, Bulgaria has had a coalition government consisting of PP and GERB, together with their respective associate parties DB and SDS (both EPP members). This fragile centre-right alliance is grounded in common opposition to the pro-Kremlin president, as well as a mutual goal of Bulgaria’s accession into the eurozone. In November 2023, GERB suffered heavy losses in the local elections, including losing the mayoral position in cities like Sofia and Varna, which further increased the strain on the government.

Boyko Borisov.

Bulgaria has seen a steady flow of nationalist and far right parties in the 2000s. The first with any success was Ataka, a far right party that was formed in 2005 by TV journalist Volen Siderov. Ataka won eight percent in the 2005 election and nine percent in 2009, while Siderov finished second in the presidential elections in 2006. At the time Ataka was given a fair share of international attention. The party still stands as a good representation of Bulgarian ultra nationalism with all successors following pretty much the same formula: uncompromising rhetoric against the establishment (most opponents are dismissed as “traitors”) and hate-speech against minorities, especially Roma, Turks and Muslims. Magdalena Tasheva, an Ataka MP, compared refugees from Syria with monkeys, and called them “savages”, “scum” and “mass murderers”.

Ataka has been a staunch opponent of Nato membership (Bulgaria became a Nato member in 2004), fiercely pro-Russian (a legacy dating back to Russian support for Bulgaria’s independent movement in the 19th century), even wanting to annul the post-World War I peace treaty (according to which Bulgaria lost territory to the former Yugoslavia). Siderov has also systematically promoted conspiracy theories. Ataka also wants to give the orthodox church a significant role in politics. Economically, the party is left-wing, arguing for nationalization of banks and laws against foreigners buying agricultural land. 


During the 2010s, the radical right split into several factions. Ataka, which had been a supporting party in parliament for GERB in rounds, saw its voter support halved in the 2014 election, while two other nationalist parties with similar ideology and policies – VMRO and NFSB – entered parliament. The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) was formed in 1991, and claims the legacy of a 19th-century nationalist organization of the same name. Just like Ataka, the party promotes hate-speech against the Roma and Turkish minorities (which they describe as ”a fight against gypsyfication”. They are also strongly critical of LGBTQ rights and gender theories. The National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) was established in 2011, as a splinter from Ataka, following a conflict between Siderov and NFSB founder and party leader Valeri Simeonov.


In the 2017 election, all three radical right parties came together in an electoral alliance that won just over nine percent. After the election, these three parties, i.e. Ataka, NFSB and VMRO, entered a coalition government with GERB. VMRO’s party leader Krasimir Karakachanov became deputy prime minister with responsibility for internal security. Ataka left the government in 2019, while the other two parties remained until 2021.

Volen Siderov.

Reload Bulgaria (PB) was a right wing populist party that entered parliament in 2014 but was voted out three years later. In the EP elections of 2014, they cooperated with VMRO, which enabled the party to also receive representation in the European Parliament between 2014-19. NFSB eventually joined forces with Will (Volya), which was formed back in 2007 under a different name. Politically, Volya is close to the other national conservative parties and entered parliament in 2017, giving confidence-and-supply to the government, but failed to re-enter in 2021. The national conservative and pro-Russian Bulgarian Rise won representation in the 2022 elections but was voted out again a year later.


Ataka received 0.5 percent in all three elections in 2021 and thus appears to be out of the political scene, having held seats in every parliament since 2005. In the 2023 election, it joined in a pro-Russian alliance with, among others, the remnants of the Communist Party, but the voter support remained around half a percent.

Nikolay Barekov, founder of Reload Bulgaria.

However, the downward trend of the radical right was broken in the early 2020s by yet another new party, Revival (V), which has ascended to become the most successful far right party in post-communist Bulgaria. V was formed in 2014 by its current chairman Kostadin Kostadinov. Kostadinov had earlier been a member of NDSV and IMRO but left the two nationalist parties since he found them too moderate. The party was founded on August 2, i.e. the day of the 1903 Ilinden rising against the Ottoman empire, an event of great symbolic value for Bulgarian nationalists. Kostadinov has written several books, including a text book for elementary school, on Bulgarian history and nationalism.


With its harsh anti-ziganism and fascist features, V hardly qualifies as a democratic party. Kostadinov himself was once arrested after allegedly having led a gang of skinheads in a violent attack on a Roma community. In 2013, after the flooding in Varna which killed ten people, he claimed no one from the Roma community volunteered to help and described them as “parasites’ and “non-human vermin”. Elena Guncheva, Kostadinovs running mate in the presidential elections in 2021, then said that Jewish candidates were “only guests’ in the country: “this is the land of Bulgarians”.


During the pandemic, the party organized demonstrations against the government’s covid measures and in January 2022 tried to storm the National Assembly. It also spread conspiracy theories regarding both the pandemic and the vaccine.

Kostadin Kostadinov, founder and chairman of Revival.

V is strongly anti-EU, anti-Nato and pro-Russian. The party has called for a referendum on withdrawing from Nato and the EU. Kostadinov has claimed that “everything is determined by Kozyak” (the street of the US embassy in Sofia) and wants to “normalize” relations with Putin’s Russia. At party events, Russian flags and T-shirts featuring Putin are often seen and the party is active in social media, spreading pro-Russian views. Kostadinov has said that the “Russophobic garbage” should be “exterminated like pests”.

Like every far-right party in Bulgaria, V is left-leaning when it comes to economic policy, advocating for nationalizations of large companies, increased pensions, and minimum wages, among other demands. They are conservative on social issues, pledging to uphold Christian values and “the traditional Bulgarian family.”

EP elections

Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 2/17


Ataka won three seats in the European Parliament in 2007, based on the results of the previous national elections. They became a founding member of the short-lived nationalist group Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty along with the French National Front. Ataka lost their seats in the first Bulgarian EP elections in 2007 but regained two seats after the 2009 elections. However, both Ataka MEPs were non-inscrits and failed to be re-elected in 2014.


For the 2014 elections, PB and VMRO formed an electoral coalition and were thus able to win two seats, both representatives joining the ECR group. VMRO:s MEP, Angel Dzhambazki, has been subject to a long list of accusations, including hate speech towards Jews, Roma and LGBT people. Dzhambazki was reelected in 2019, together with one more MEP from VMRO. They both continued in ECR.

REVIVAL summary

Economics: LEFT
Social issues: CONSERVATIVE
Democratic credibility: LOW