The article provides an analysis of the evolution of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) from a Marxist party in the late 1980s into a European socialist party by the early 2000s. The BSP dominance of the political process in Bulgaria during the early and mid-1990s can be attributed, this article argues, to several factors: the nature of the old regime, the absence of any meaningful opposition before 1989 and its relative weakness during the transition period, the crucial role that the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP) played in the transition to democracy, and the organizational continuity that the newly renamed BSP chose to maintain. In turn, the preserved dominance of the BSP allowed it to remain relatively unreformed in terms of economic and foreign policy positions. It was only after its devastating defeat in the 1997 elections that the BSP came to advocate a truly social-democratic platform and to support a pro-EU and pro-NATO foreign policy. This ideological transformation of the BSP was supported and encouraged actively by the Party of European Socialists, which has been deeply involved in the process of strengthening the social democracy in Bulgaria since the mid-1990s. As a result of this transformation, by 2008 the BSP is recognized as a democratic, center-left party.

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