Bulgaria has seen six changes of government since the fall of communism in 1989, alternating between the UDF and the BSP. However, in June 2001, political developments took a new turn when the former King Simeon Saxe-Coburg II, leader of the newly-formed SNM was elected Prime Minister. Following World War II, Saxe-Coburg had been exiled by the Communist Party at a very young age in an attempt to purge opposition figures. The SNM formed a coalition government with the MRF in July 2001. The main aims of the government are to improve privatisation procedures, reduce corruption, cut taxes, increase the standard of living and continue negotiations for Bulgaria’s accession to the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
The government has been able to deliver on some of its election promises - for example, those relating to EU and NATO membership and economic reform. However, delivering improvements in living standards and reducing unemployment have proved more difficult. As a result, Mr Saxe-Coburg’s popularity has fallen and the party is now trailing behind the BSP in the opinion polls, with one recent poll revealing that 57 per cent of respondents disapproved of the government's performance.
There is also disagreement within the coalition about the pace and extent of economic reform. In 2002, five SNM MPs defected from the party. Another issue that has divided the coalition recently was the sale of the state tobacco operation, Bulgartabac. This was a sensitive topic for the MRF, which has its base in the tobacco-growing regions of Bulgaria. Nonetheless, despite such disagreements, commentators predict that the coalition will likely remain intact until the next local elections in September-October 2003. The coalition will have a sufficient parliamentary majority to pass legislation in the short-term.