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mihail petkov

oligarchic party-group
relations in bulgaria
The Extended Parentela Policy Network Model
Oligarchic Party-Group Relations in Bulgaria
Mihail Petkov

Relations in Bulgaria
The Extended Parentela Policy Network Model
Mihail Petkov
Naples, FL, USA

ISBN 978-3-319-98898-6 ISBN 978-3-319-98899-3  (eBook)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2018951558

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Special thanks to my parents Plamen and Lachezara, my wife Irena, my

supervisors Andy Aitchison and Richard Parry, my colleagues Francesca
Batzella and Lambros Kaoullas and last but not least my first supervisor
Grant Jordan, who supported my decision to undertake this project, for
your advice, guidance and most of all patience with me and this project.

Thank you!


1 The Extended Parentela 1

Introduction 1
Definition: Policy Networks and the Parentela 4
Parentela and Oligarchy 11
Methods 18
Structure of the Book 24
References 25

2 The Parentela Through the Eyes of Bulgarian

Policy-Makers 29
Primary Venue and Venue Scope: Party’s Interference
in the Civil Service 31
Through Political Appointments 31
Through Civil Service Reforms 40
Degree of Access, Cooperation and Power Parity 47
Expertise for Access 47
Voter Support and Ideological Proximity for Access 49
Campaign Funds for Access 53
Conclusion 56
References 56

viii    Contents

3 La Palombara’s Parentela in Bulgaria: The Case

of Public Procurement Contracts (Public Tenders) 59
The Law on Public Tenders 2004 and the Parentela 60
Party Interference in Public Tenders 68
Conclusion 73
References 75

4 Type Two Parentela as an Instrument of Coercion 77

An Offer You Cannot Refuse 80
An Insider’s Move 86
Internal Party Dissent 89
External Group Dissent 90
Conclusion 92

5 The Extended Parentela as a Model of Party-Centric

Oligarchic Relations in Bulgaria 95
A Contest Between Elites 97
Party-Centric Elites and Centralization of Political Power 99
Oligarchic Dynamics 103
Causes for the Extended Parentela 113
Oligarchic Consolidation: A Hypothesis 115
Conclusion 119
References 121

6 Ukraine Under Kuchma—An Illustration of the Link

Between the Extended Parentela and Consolidated
Oligarchy 123
Basic Parentela Relations in Ukraine 127
Coercion 129
Consolidated Oligarchy During Kuchma’s Tenure 133
Consolidated Oligarchy Compared 136
Competitive Authoritarianism 137
Neo-patrimonialism 138
The Three Terms Compared 139
Consolidated Oligarchy vs. Biased Pluralism 141
Conclusion 144
References 146
Contents    ix

7 The Parentela and Oligarchy 147

References 160


Extended Bibliography 167

Index 181
List of Figures

Fig. 2.1 Do you believe that political appointments in the state

administration happen often/sometimes/never?
(Spirova 2012: 60) 34
Fig. 2.2 Structure of political appointments in Bulgaria: central
executive 36
Fig. 2.3 Structure of political appointments in Bulgaria: local executive 38

List of Tables

Table 1.1 Policy network descriptors 6

Table 1.2 Policy network classification using policy network descriptors 10
Table 1.3 Respondent pools 20
Table 2.1 Levels of PPA (Kopecky and Spirova 2011: 907) 32
Table 6.1 Pluralist vs. oligarchic state–group relations 144


The Extended Parentela

Democratic policy-making and politics are often equated to elections,
Presidents, Premiers and Parliaments. Voters and the media are usually
focused on what politicians say and do, creating the impression that
this is politics in its totality. Of course, this is not the case. Politics is
a highly informal enterprise and many if not all policies originate from
some form of informal or semiformal communication among interest
groups, civil servants, the Parliament and the party in power. The pres-
ent book, therefore, looks into one such form of informal interaction
between interest groups and political parties known in the literature as
the parentela policy network model. It is an analytical extension of a doc-
toral study, which was conducted from 2012 to 2016, and also which
was focused on verifying that model still existed today, and if that was
indeed the case, establish how the Bulgarian parentela differed from its
original version in 1960s Italy. The main argument here is that not only
does the parentela exist in Bulgaria in an advanced form, it also generates
an oligarchic dynamic. Ultimately, the final chapters will bring the anal-
ysis to the hypothesis that the diminishing inter-party competition will
transform the oligarchic parentela dynamic into a status quo.
But let us not go too far too soon.
The parentela is a netowrk relationship model where an interest group
with an insider access to the ruling party extends its reach into the civil

© The Author(s) 2019 1

M. Petkov, Oligarchic Party-Group Relations in Bulgaria,

service1 usually, but not limited to, nominating new or utilizing exist-
ing party political appointees in the Bureaucracy. In the 1960s, Joseph
La Palombara observed (in his Interest Groups in Italian Politics (1964))
a type of a party-group relationship which provided the Catholic Action
(CA) interest group privileged access to policy-making at the expense of
other interest groups competing for the same (e.g. Confindustria). The
purpose of his book was to find out how Italian interest groups partic-
ipated in the policy-making process and influenced it. The success of
CA was due to its ability to lend its large supporter base and financial
resources to the already ideologically receptive Christian Democrats
(DC). In the relationship which he later called parentela, the party
insider (CA) assumed influential policy-making access because the DC
intervened on its behalf in the civil service. Although the book also men-
tions civil service reforms, it emphasizes that political appointments were
the primary method of intervening in the civil service. Though legal,
this practice had the effect of subordinating the bureaucracy with polit-
ically dependent bureaucrats acting as conduits of the decisions taken
between the party and its insider (parente collectively). Moreover, often
La Palombara’s respondents reported that appointed civil servants were
nominated by the party insider as opposed to the party. Thus, by nom-
inating new or utilizing existing party political appointments, the CA
dominated policy-making in 1960s Italy.
Nearly thirty years later, Alan Greer presented another case of the
parentela policy network but this time in Northern Ireland (Greer
1994). In his study, he focused on the extent to which the existence
of hegemonic political parties explained the parentela formation. In
doing so he researched the relationship between the Ulster Farmers’
Union and the Unionist Party’s government of Premier Stormont for
the period from the 1920s to 1970s. Accordingly, he found that in line
with the parentela dynamic established by La Palombara, the Unionist
party appointed as ministers of agriculture nominees from the Ulster
Farmers’ Union. This symbiotic relationship rested on the exchange for
political support by UFU’s membership in exchange of Stormont pro-
tecting UFU’s interests by appointing their nominations as agricultural
ministers. Both cases of the parentela demonstrate identical dynamics: a

1 The
terms party, civil service (Bureaucracy) and Group(s) are used in the book whenever
the text seeks to emphasize on their theoretical value in the context of the relationship between
the agencies of a state, the bureaucrats and interest groups, or simply, policy networks.

hegemonic political party in cooperation with a sizable trade union in an

exchange-based relationship, where the insider nominates new or utilizes
already existing party nominations in the civil service.
The BPS project was initially set to test the proposition that hegem-
onic political parties caused the parentela and then how that relationship,
if found in Bulgaria, differed from that in Italy earlier. La Palombara’s
hypothesis was that hegemonic parties like the DC were the main cause.
That remained to be tested with the Bulgarian case. The pilot study defied
this proposition, because it discovered strong evidence of party-group
forms of cooperation in the presence of active competition between polit-
ical parties. This indicated that the parentela might exist in competitive
party systems, as opposed to predominant ones, where a single dominant
party competes amidst a number of other considerably less preferred ones
by the voters (as it was the case in Italy and Northern Ireland).
By the end of 2015, when final fieldwork of the BPS was completed,
where the Bulgarian status quo confirmed the existence of this arrange-
ment. The final results showed that not only La Palombara’s parentela
existed, but we can also observe new parentela dynamics in addition to
those discovered initially by him, labeled collectively the extended paren-
tela (Petkov 2016, 2017). However, space allowed only for the treat-
ment of the question how parentela relations differed between 2010s
Bulgaria and 1960s Italy. The other equally important question about
the implication on democracy received only cursory treatment. This
book is, therefore, dedicated to that very subject and the extent to which
the extended parentela can serve as a process that can bring about a con-
solidated oligarchic status quo in Bulgaria and in general.
In fact, the question on the relationship between the parentela and
oligarchy is not new. La Palombara’s respondents confronted him with
the possible connection between (alleged) Italian oligarchic practices
with the parentela already back in the 1960s. While he vehemently
opposed such views (1964: 314), arguing any such line of inquiry feeds
conspiracy theories, the BPS does not allow us to be as dismissive. Just
as La Palombara’s respondent brought up the issue, the interviewees in
this study, too, defended the same view that Bulgarian policy-making is
near-authoritarian, premier-centrist without a clear distinction between
business and politics: in other words, oligarchic. The book argues,
therefore, that the parentela in the Bulgarian context, i.e. the extended
parentela, is itself oligarchic and generates an oligarchic dynamic. We
can choose to see the parentela and its newly extended version simply

in terms of relations between groups and political parties, but we can

also choose to look at them from a macro-perspective, i.e. on the general
level of state-group relations. It is the extended parentela dynamics then
that serves here as the possible link to the idea of oligarchy, which La
Palombara was confronted earlier.
The book ends with the hypothesis that the unchecked extended
parentela dynamics in Bulgaria in combination with diminished interparty
competition will lead to a consolidated oligarchy status quo. Seen broadly,
however, this hypothesis states that it is possible that the parentela dynam-
ics could transform the state-group relations from pluralist to oligarchic.
It is important to highlight though that we are not saying that the system
of government will change or that the current democratic institutions in
Bulgaria will change. Rather we are saying here that if groups in a plural-
ist status quo find themselves in competition, as it is currently the case in
Bulgaria, then an unchecked extended parentela dynamics coupled with a
decline in inter-party party-competition will produce a status quo where
only those groups in very close orbit to the ruling party will have policy
access and will dominate the policy-making process. The extended paren-
tela thesis and the follow-up hypothesis theorize that an oligarchic status
quo can be informal and embedded in the democratic institutions of a state.
The present chapter, therefore, will proceed by introducing the concept
of the parentela policy network and the conceptual context it inhabits.
That is we will discuss the system of policy network classification which
is used to differentiate between the various policy network types. Then,
while keeping the debate on the methods used in the study, we will end
with a quick overview and a map of following chapters. Chapters 2, 3
and 4 are dedicated to describing the building blocks of the extended
parentela, while chapter five brings all of these elements together, where
the extended parentela is presented as whole. Chapter 5 also presents the
reason why the extended parentela is oligarchic and with that the section
essentially explains what the current oligarchic Bulgarian dynamics are and
how they function. Chapter 6, then, applies the oligarchic model to out-
side polities, which could act as suitable candidates to verify this model.

Definition: Policy Networks and the Parentela

The parentela is one of the few forms that state and interest groups rela-
tions can take. Precise definitions in the field, unfortunately, are scarce.
When looking for the policy network definition Jordan and Schubert
(1992: 11–12), and Van Waarden (1992) emphasize that we inevitably are

confronted with two tasks: to develop a generic policy network definition

that refers to network types without conceptually overlapping with any of
them, and second to define each network type in a form of network clas-
sification, so that each network type is distinct from the other (also Pappi
and Henning 1998; Rhodes and Marsh 1992; Peterson 2003).
In other words, because the term policy network implies a variety of
networks, a policy network definition requires us to tackle two chal-
lenges. First, the generic term that refers to all network types has to be
as broad and neutral as possible so that its meaning and definition do not
overlap with any of the network types that comprise it. And second, each
network type has to be defined in a way that makes it distinct from the
rest of the network types and the generic term. There are two authors in
the literature, whose combined policy network conception satisfies these
two prerequisites. Hanf defines policy networks simply as the collection
of public and private actors involved in policy-making:

the term ‘network’ merely denotes […] that policy making includes a large
number of public and private actors from different levels and functional
areas of government and society.

If we adopt Hanf’s definition, where policy networks are simply net-

works of actors involved in policy-making, we then need a way to dif-
ferentiate one network from the other (as per objective two above).
Fortunately, Hanf’s definition is broad and neutral enough to subsume
Dowding’s position that we can differentiate between policy networks
based on the differences of the relations between the actors they inter-
connect: ‘Networks are distinguished one from another by the rela-
tions between the actors’ (Dowding 1995: 152). In other words, for
Dowding, a policy network is essentially a relationship between groups
and policy-makers, which may be described, for example, as constructive
or destructive, power-balanced or power-asymmetric, or that between a
policy-maker and an outsider group (see Table 1.1 below). We can then
say that each of the qualities of these state-group relationships can act
as that network’s descriptor, in which case we could distinguish between
network types based on the combination of the network descriptors.
Policy networks, then, are essentially relationship formats between
groups and policy-makers, which can take various configurations, where
a policy network type is defined by a specific combination of a finite
number of descriptors. The network descriptors used in this study in

Table 1.1  Policy network descriptors

Descriptor Data type Metrics


Degree of access Ordinal Core insider Peripheral Outsider

Network dynamic Binary Cooperation Conflict
Power ratio Ordinal Group less Parity Group more
powerful powerful
Primary venue Categorical party Bureaucracy Parliament Media
Scope of venues Multiple party Bureaucracy Parliament Media
Group strategy continuous Frequency of contact with a policy venue
(Yishai 1992: 275)

order to define the handful of policy networks currently in existence was

governed by a number of principles:

• First and foremost, based on the Anglo-Saxon school, in Borzel’s

terms (Borzel 1998);
• Fewest practically possible descriptors;
• Descriptors also have to be applicable to all known policy networks;
• Select such descriptors so as to maintain a meso-level focus, as per
Marsh and Rhodes (1992: 1–4).

We can say that the (extended) parentela here is defined in terms of these
descriptors, which can be expressed as nominal, categorical or numerical
variables: power asymmetry (power ratio), network dynamics, degree of
access, primary venue and venue scope. It has to be stressed that these
relationships are labeled from the perspective of the group, i.e. whether
the group has access (insider status), whether it dominates the policy
venue (e.g. overpowering below) or where it is in conflict or cooperation
with venue policy-makers.
A more detailed discussion and justification for the descriptor selec-
tion and policy network definition could be found in the official report
of the study (Petkov 2017) and the original thesis (Petkov 2016). It suf-
fices to say at this time that a number of authors have attempted to clas-
sify policy networks in terms of the power relations between groups and

policy-makers as the starting point (Atkinson and Coleman 1989: 54;

Van Waarden 1992: 50; Rhodes and Marsh 1992: 184; Silke and Kriesi
(2007: 133–135). This network dimension stands for whether the group
is more or less powerful than the policy-makers it interacts with, or that
there is a balance between them. The second dimension we can plot pol-
icy networks on is network dynamics. It refers to whether there is con-
flict or cooperation between the two sides. Next is degree of access, which
indicates the degree of access the group has: core or peripheral insider, or
outsider (Van Waarden 1992; Yishai 1992; Jordan and Schubert 1992;
Grant 1977, 1978; Jordan et al. 1992; Maloney et al. 1994). The fourth
indicator is primary venue, which describes where the network starts its
formation. The parentela begins with a group establishing insider status
with a political party and then reaching out to the civil service. In the
case of other networks, such as policy community, the group first estab-
lishes insider status within the civil service and only then it may extend
it to the legislative committees. Finally, venue scope represents the policy
venues the group extends into (Van Waarden 1992: 42–50; Atkinson and
Coleman 1989: 55–59; Yishai 1992: 282; La Palombara 1964: 306–316,
322–331). The parentela, for instance, covers the party and civil service,
while the issue network may span across all major venues such as the
Media, Legislature and the Executive bodies. One should probably men-
tion that a policy venue here is any location which can serve as the arena
of the political conflict, e.g. a consultative meeting behind closed doors,
parliamentary hearing to committees, televised talk shows, public protest.
The following table summarizes all of the network descriptors
adopted in this study. Though excluded from the study, this last descrip-
tor is mentioned here for completeness. The descriptor measures the
frequency of contacts of the group with policy-makers in a given policy
venue and with that is very similar to the idea of degree of access. The
higher frequency of contacts, the deeper the access. It suffices to say at
this time that there is a push for the quantification of all network descrip-
tors used to define the policy networks of the so-called Anglo-Saxon
school, part of which the parentela is as well. However, there has been
no progress made in that direction since the call was made (Dowding
1995, 2001; Thatcher 1998), which is why a separate study is necessary
to address this issue. It is for this reason that the BPS study is qualitative.
In any case, what we will see below are the policy network descriptors,
which have been used in this study to define the various policy network

models, including the (extended) parentela. In the later paragraphs, we

will very briefly present the network models which will then be plotted in
a table using the descriptors below (Table 1.1).
It was stated above that the policy networks are defined by the type of
interaction between policy-makers and groups and the relationship for-
mat they lock themselves in. A relationship format is the combination of
the network descriptors (or indicators), which were defined in the table
above. In the following paragraphs, we will plot the parentela in the con-
text of the rest of the policy networks from the literature. The point of
the exercise is to provide a broader context for our readers that might
not be too familiar with the policy network concept.
The study formally recognizes five policy networks and highlights the
possible existence of another, the prisoner insider, which falls outside
our interest here, but is nevertheless included for completeness again.
One of the very first patterns of interactions between groups and pol-
icy networks are the iron triangles or sometimes subgovernments. These
are a network derived from the US policy-making context and repre-
sent groups with insider status within the legislative committees, whose
influence could extend to the executive administrative structures (Ripley
and Franklin 1987: 8–9; Jordan 1990: 319–320, 322, 324). Similar to
the iron triangles, the policy community is a network type discovered in
the British policy-making context in the 1970s (Richardson and Jordan
1979). Though it may also span from the executive branch into the leg-
islative, the network is usually contained in the civil service departments.
Both networks are similar as they represent a cooperative and pow-
er-balanced relationship. The cooperation is in the form of provision of
expertise to policy-makers. Policies are complex and the needed techni-
cal details cannot always be provided by the civil service alone. Technical
information provided by interest groups in the delivery of sound leg-
islation is invaluable. And it is here where cooperation lies: expertise is
exchange for privileged access to policy-making. Groups in such a posi-
tion are then are called core insiders, or if some are only occasionally con-
sulted—peripheral insiders, while those entirely excluded, outsiders.
The clientela is another similar network. It was first observed in Italy,
along with the parentela, by La Palombara (1964). The clientela, in
theory, differs from the previous two network types in that the inter-
est groups overpower the civil servants. A clientela typically represents
an insider whom the civil service has come to depend on for technical

expertise and its own internal interdepartmental conflicts (Richardson

and Jordan 1979: 55; La Palombara 1964: 262). The parentela is La
Palombara’s other network he discovered along the clientela. As we
already mentioned, this relationship format is between the group and
the party in power. By gaining insider status within the ruling party, the
group then seeks to extend it into the civil service (1964).
Finally, issue networks are the last formally recognized policy net-
works by the study. They are characterized by conflict and overpower-
ment. Politicians, PR companies, along with interest group stakeholders,
journalists and scientists are seen here divided into (usually) two camps
in a total political battle. Unlike any of the networks so far, the network
is based on conflict waged by outsiders and not on cooperation with
insiders. If groups aim to be agreeable to policy-makers and willing to
make concessions, the issue network then is the opposite relationship:
the groups are in open conflict with policy-makers Jordan (1981; 1990:
330; 2005), Grant (2004), Richardson (2000), Maloney and Richardson
(1994), Maloney and Jordan (1997), Gais et al. (1984). On the basis of
all hitherto reviewed network types and descriptors, the following table
was constructed and adopted in the study (Table 1.2).
Two points warrant immediate mention. First (in asterisk), prisoner
insider is a hypothetical policy network that follows from Wyn Grant’s
classification of insider status interest groups, which also included the
insider category prisoner (1977). It is the situation where an insider group
is overpowered or under the control of the state, e.g. these could be qua-
si-NGOs or any form of cooption of external administrative structures
(those of interest groups) in the central executive. The other point is the
reminder that the literature tends to express the network descriptors from
the perspective of the group vis-a-vis the relevant venue policy-makers.
This perspective is also maintained in table above as well. What we need
to take out from the above discussion is that policy networks represent
the relationship between (interest) groups and policy-makers from a spe-
cific policy venue. This relationship can be described with different indi-
cators, or descriptors. The combination of the values of these indicators
(descriptors) defines each policy network type. The parentela, then, is a
type of a relationship between party policy-makers and an insider group,
characterized by cooperation and with a span from the party into the civil
service. Moving forward to the core question addressed in this study, the
following section looks at the possible relationship between the parentela
and oligarchy.

Table 1.2  Policy network classification using policy network descriptors

Type of policy Descriptors

Degree of access to PV Network dynamics Power ratio Primary venue (PV) Scope of venues

Insiders Outsiders

Core Peripheral No access Conflict Cooperation Group over Parity Group Executive Ruling Legislature Media/ Executive Political Legislature Media/
powered overpowering adminis- party Public adminis- party Public
tration tration

Sub- X X X X X X
Policy X X X X X
Prisoner X ? ? X X X X
Clientela X X X X
Issue network X X X X X X X X
Parentela X X X X X X

Parentela and Oligarchy
As already mentioned, the present book is an analytical continuation of
a doctoral research project which initially dedicated to ascertaining the
continued analytical utility of the parentela and policy networks in gen-
eral. The project was successful because not only we can confirm that
network’s existence but it was also possible to identify new dynamics
that originated from the same core party-group relationship. Some of
the critical methodological strategies have been outlined in a joint-re-
port with Kaoullas (Petkov and Kaoullas 2016), while the core results
have been reported for the inaugural issue of Bulgarian Studies (Petkov
2017; also Petkov 2016). The text, again, will refer to this study as the
Bulgarian Parentela Study or BPS for short.
A few themes emerged from the BPS that were not well integrated in
the earlier report. Taken together they seemed to convey another mes-
sage beyond the confirmation of the parentela. It was only at the very
end stages of the writing up process that it became evident that the data
allows for another interpretation. It suggested that the Bulgarian paren-
tela can also operate on a macro-level of policy-making, also exhibiting
elitist and coercive traits. Results indicated that the Bulgarian parentela
was not only an arrangement to provide a legislative advantage of party
insiders, but its overall reiteration generates oligarchic dynamics on a
macro-level. As it was mentioned in the very beginning the theme on
the link between the parentela and oligarchy would have probably gone
unnoticed had it not been for the fact that La Palombara, too, had faced
the same phenomenon when discovering the model.
Let us look into more detail.
La Palombara’s parentela merely states that an interest group with
privileged access to the party in power is able to further gain insider sta-
tus in the civil service by having the party interfere in the central admin-
istration on its behalf. Examples of such interference, however, so far
seem to be primarily in the form of political patronage. This means that
the party insider is taking advantage of the ability of the ruling party to
make appointments in the civil service. Thus, by participating in this pro-
cess by offering its own nominees to be later appointed by the party, the
party insider ensures that those appointees will intercept any important
piece of legislation circulated in the civil service. We could also add—and
La Palombara does discuss it—that civil service reforms or reshuffling is
another form of party’s interference, but it is merely implied that such

actions could act in the interest of the party insider and that has not been
fully integrated into the model.
At first, the BPS confirmed the existence of La Palombara’s paren-
tela by replicating his method of conducting elite interviews among
politicians, civil servants, interest groups and other policy-makers. The
methodological details of those interviews will be discussed below. What
needs emphasis here is that the elite interviews confirmed the existence
of the La Palombara’s parentela in Bulgaria. Using in-depth interviews,
the respondents were invited to share with the researcher, to the best
extent possible, their experiences and thoughts on policy-making and
specifically the role of political parties. Again, each of the elements con-
stituting the parentela could be found in those responses, but there was
the question whether that was enough? Could we also find a parentela
relationship in action? Surely a better test for the parentela would be its
discovery in operation.
The responses of a number of interviewees were used as pointers
where to possibly look for the parentela. As this was a pioneering study
in Bulgaria on policy networks and the parentela in particular, there were
no preceding policies or legislative proposals that could have aided the
BPS in offering any case studies to anyone outside the field. In any case,
the case of the Law on Public Tenders (2004) eventually provided the
missing evidence on the parentela in action, although by doing so it pre-
sented a somewhat altered version of that network, which indicated that
the Bulgarian parentela dynamic is more complex.
Public tenders or public procurement contracts are agreements
between the state and a private company for the provision of a good or
a service to the public. All prospective contractors are invited to submit
their offers (or bids) of the terms under which they will carry out the
service. A special civil servants’ committee ultimately decides on the fea-
sibility of each offer and selects the winning bid. What the case study on
Public Tenders observes is that as committee members are appointed by
the party in power, that enables it to influence the choice on the winning
bid. Therefore, following the logic of the parentela, the party interferes
in the work of the civil service in the interest of its party insider ensuring
thereby that they win the procurement auction.
However, this discovery carried with itself a number of small differ-
ences from the original parentela. Ultimately, in combination with the
rest of the data these differences suggest that the parentela has a larger
dynamic than previously thought. First and foremost, we find the

parentela outside immediate policy-making. This differs not only from

the original version but from policy networks idea in general, which have
been developed in the context of policy-making. Instead, we find the
parentela in the gray area between formal policy-making and illegality.
Second, if earlier parentela studies of La Palombara (1964), Greer (1994)
and Yishai (1992) focused on formal interest groups, such as Trade
Associations, NGOs or professional bodies, respondents and the Public
Tenders case spoke of party insiders in terms of either single affluent indi-
viduals (colloquially oligarchs) acting solo or in concert with firms form-
ing thereby a single informal actor. This suggested the parentela insiders
from the BPS were informal insider groups. On their own these were
significant departures from the original parentela, but their significance
becomes meaningful only if seen in combination with the rest of the the-
matic data that did not receive full treatment in previous reports.
A major discovery made in the study was a second parentela dynamic,
or prejudiced regulatory inspections (PRIs). In this new dynamic a party
has mobilized its appointees in the regulatory agencies to investigate a
specific private company, firm, oligarch, or simply a business. The preju-
diced inspection in this case serves as an anonymous coercion, aimed to
sabotage the business operation of the visited establishment through the
creative discovery of legal-administrative malpractice or nonadherence to
existing regulations. For example, PRIs can take the shape of police raids
conducted under the pretext of pirated software; tax investigations done
under the pretext of evasion or rescission of licenses of operation on slim
or nonexistent evidence which cannot uphold legal scrutiny. And this is
the tricky part. The purpose of such regulatory inspection is not to win
a case in court against a targeted business but to stall its market oper-
ations long enough (through litigation, revocation of licenses, freezing
of assets, or otherwise) so that the target loses its market shares due to
market inactivity.
Furthermore, this second parentela type dynamic was discussed in
the context of political parties. A number of respondents revealed that
PRIs can be used by political parties as a form of retribution or coercion,
either in the pursuit of own goals or to the interest of their insiders. It is
easy to see how for instance PRIs can act in the interest of party insid-
ers. With the use of administrative coercion against their direct business
competitors, an informal insider can expand their market shares at the
expense of the target.

There, however, were a number of respondents who also stated that

PRIs could be executed solo, by the ruling party for political reasons.
Businesses that take part in formal interest groups that oppose govern-
mental (ruling party, that is) policies can be put under PRI pressure.
Defecting party members, too can be so coerced. A third individual use
of PRIs by political parties was to punish noncooperative businesses. A
few respondents reported on the so-called offers made by political par-
ties to participate in specific procurement auctions, where against par-
ty’s assurance that the group will win the bid, the latter would have to
give back to the party some of the monies provided for project’s comple-
tion. One variation of the offer is where the monies will reflect artificially
inflated completion costs part of the winning bid’s documentation, so
that there is a larger share for all actors involved. As the few respondents
brave enough to speak from first-hand experience shared, refusal to such
offers is met with a ferocious pressure from the regulatory authorities to
bring the firm out of business.
The discovery of type two parentela, the fact that the parentela oper-
ates outside policy-making and with the engagement of informal groups,
creates a dynamic that adds much more depth to the original parentela
model. Both parentela types—the original and its second dynamic—con-
struct a much more complex model, which covers the spectrum from
policy- to non-policy-making. Type two parentela adds considerable
realism because politics is not only about policies. The political battle is
fought outside policy-making, too. Politics is also about political subsist-
ence, whose origins might not be particularly palatable to the average
All of the above is half of what the book seeks to communicate to
the reader: Bulgaria at present harbors a variation of a policy-making
dynamic which has largely been ignored in the literature. The second
half of the message of this book is that the extended parentela model
is oligarchic, which becomes perceivable only if the model is seen from
a macro-level of analysis. Looked from this perspective, the extended
parentela can be seen as generating a party-centric oligarchic dynamic,
whose reiterations with every new parliamentary elections create elites,
pits them against each other and then eliminates them. Ultimately, the
book hypothesizes that if unchecked this dynamic will bring about the
emergence of an oligarchic status quo. But what does this all mean, and
what are elites, how are they created and why party-centric?

Let us first address the question of why the model is party-centric. We

already observed in the parentela discussion above that the model is itself
based on the party in power and its ability to interfere in the work of the
civil service. However, Bulgarian political parties are significant also in
the wider political sense as unchecked and unbalanced centers of political
power. This means that instead of a Parliamentary democracy, Bulgaria is
seen by some of the respondents as prime-ministerial democracy.
A respondent with executive civil service experience observed that the
political class (parties, sic) finally learned how to effectively overpower
business actors, most of whom are now largely made dependent through
the opportunity to make political appointments and the threat of being
victims to PRIs (or vice versa). A number of respondents with rich civil
service and political experience freely spoke of the community of the priv-
ileged or families, for whom a party change was of no consequence as
they had equal access to all political parties. Another common theme
among respondents was that sectoral groups did not effectively defend
the interests of their members because either group leadership itself or
major sectoral players defected and colluded with the party in power
in exchange for tailored protections, concessions or benefits. Another
respondent confided that he denounced his trade association member-
ship because he saw them as colluding with the political elite against the
entire sector. The underlying suggestion in both cases was that big sec-
toral players or sectoral leadership sought to form a community of the
privileged with the ruling party.
Finally, to the above we can add the case study on the National
Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC), which is discussed in later
chapters. The case reveals that party-initiated civil service reforms can
either grant or block access to civil service consultations, lending them-
selves as a tool to prevent political opposition. This is another parentela
dynamic, which adds to the centrality of Bulgarian political parties. All
things political begin and end with them.
That is why, political parties are attractive. From the perspective of
the group they are the most effective policy venue, because it is at this
level that decisions are binding. But whether this route is open to all and
any groups is another question. A number of respondents shared from
personal experience that political parties were not interested in techni-
cal information. In fact, they suffered from incessant need for campaign
funds. As practitioners report, regrettably, actual campaign costs are
many times higher than what state subsidies could compensate political

parties for. That is why groups with campaign resources are most wel-
come. But where is the surprise in that?
The importance of that is that the party enters an exchange relation-
ship with informal group. From that moment on, both actors are bound
by their mutual assistance. Against privileged access provided by the
party, the insider will provide campaign resources. The ability of the one
actor to provide the resources they promised means that it is in the inter-
est of the other one to stay in the relationship and support the other.
That is, mutual support. We can therefore, see the party and its insider
from the larger perspective—as a core of sorts. La Palombara, for exam-
ple, advances the term parente to refer both the insider and to the ruling
party (1964). This is the unit of elite in the extended parentela network.
The present book identifies the parente is the elite and it can grow.
With its coercive arm, political patronage and the ability to introduce
civil service reforms means that the parente has all instruments to exert
pressure to political and business rivals or consolidate political power,
if so necessary. Again, with PRIs, the parente can counter any political
and market rivals, because now the parente is an actor with one foot
on the market and another one in politics. With a change in legislation,
the business side of the parente can assume better market standing. For
example changes in standards affect licensing and it may take precious
time for some market participants to adapt. With sudden PRI raids in the
offices of politically active firms, the parente can send them a message
to stay away. So in short, the more affluent the business half becomes,
the more capital the political half can extract in exchange for even more
political access. But in any case, the point is that the parente can expand
politically and business-wise and that by doing so it further attracts more
and more informal participants.
But what does it all mean?
This means that taken together, the extended parentela dynamic com-
bined with Parliamentary elections establishes an oligarchic dynamic. Of
course, the elite expansion does not last forever. This whole process of
expansion and of countering other rivals or simply engaging neutral out-
siders lasts until the party from the parente loses parliamentary elections.
In this case, a new party comes to power, carrying along its own insider,
which either retaliates for having been under PRI pressure under the pre-
vious government or simply begins to poach neutral businesses.
And it is this dynamic that the book focuses on. On the one hand,
the extended parentela generates new elites, while at the same time

eliminates others. For instance, an elite my expand through type one

dynamics by assuming key civil service posts and the subsequent prom-
ulgation of favorable legislation, by winning public tender contracts or
by the privatization of state assets. Or the ruling elite can choose to be
aggressive and carve out a market space for itself by engaging some of its
past business rivals or pressure neutral outsiders with PRIs. In any case,
there are plenty of options to choose from but whichever course is taken,
it takes away from other market participants, i.e. the parentela interac-
tion is zero-sum. Dominating the distribution of public tenders or the
process of privatization of state assets means that rival companies incur
unrealized gains. Dominating the policy-making process and promoting
respective legislation, too, allows party insiders the ability to anull the
advantages accrued by previous elites.
On the other hand and at the same time the parentela can be overtly
destructive. A more direct way of engaging those, however, is type two
parentela dynamics. They are useful not only with regards to unsus-
pecting outsiders but in relation to former elites. Prejudiced regulatory
inspections, in other words, are the primary instrument of direct coer-
cion available to business elites in power against their former counter-
parts and the market advantages they had gained previously. And again,
all of the above is repeated with every party change.
It is this dynamic, which the study identifies as oligarchic and later
hypothesizes that could transform the state-group relationships of free
competition to that of consolidated oligarchy. The description of oligar-
chy in the wider literature overlaps with the dynamic of the extended
parentela. The final chapters reveal four key points of similarity. Both
share: (1) core party insider group dynamics; (2) joint party-group
control over state agencies, which are used in turn to coerce common
adversaries; (3) shared identity of community; (4) the logic of conversion
(Chalakov et al. 2008), or the practice of using political access not for
genuine policy-making but to gain some economic capital. As it stands,
each elite or parente that forms around the ruling party in Bulgaria con-
forms to these characteristics. Elites form on the grounds of the reit-
erated cooperation between the party and a privileged insider. Each
successful iteration of their cooperation generates mutual trust and iden-
tification with a shared identity, i.e. a community of the privileged.
Ultimately, the present book hypothesizes that if left unchecked, the
extended parentela in combination of a diminished interparty compe-
tition will lead to a consolidated oligarchy. That is to say, a status quo

where a single elite dominates the political landscape. If we currently

observe an oligarchic dynamic, we can expect for it to transform, or
consolidate into an oligarchic status quo. The latter does not mean a
change of government or institutions, rather a change in the relations
between Groups and the state. If current Bulgarian interest groups are
able to compete with one another, then this would no longer be the
case. In a consolidated oligarchic status quo suggested here, the dem-
ocratic institutions and form of government remain intact but access to
the policy-making process will be blocked by a single, coherent elite,
formed around the party leadership which will share the four-point
oligarchic features of the extended parentela and its dynaics, and will
have at it its disposal its instruments of coercion, which will discourage
any form of competition for access among outsiders. In other words, a
consolidated oligarchy as seen here is the extended parentela minus the
inter-elite competition.
In sum, the total message the book seeks to communicate by building
on previous parentela research is that present-day Bulgarian policy-mak-
ing harbors oligarchic dynamics, brought about by the extended paren-
tela, and that if those are not changed, the polity could transform into an
oligarchic status quo.
To effectively communicate the thesis and by an extension its hypoth-
esis, the following Chapters 2 and 3, will continue by first construct-
ing the parentela, then the extended parentela (Chapter 4) and finish
with bringing those together in a single, coherent model in Chapter 5.
Chapter 6 will act as another form of verification of the validity of the
extended parentela and its hypothesis. Right now, however, before we
continue with a more detailed map of the book, we have to address a
particularly important aspect of the study—the research methods used in
its conduct.

The Bulgarian Parentela Study was conducted from 2012 to 2016. This
period includes the processes of respondent identification, approach,
interview conduct and also transcription, analysis, drafting and produc-
tion of the final report. As already mentioned, the BPS study at its core
replicates La Palombara’s which was based on 26 anonymized elite inter-
views. At the same time, the former was also exploratory, as no preceding
research on the parentela or any other policy network existed on Bulgaria

to guide towards any policy areas that could act as cases of the paren-
tela. Therefore, the anonymous elite interviews were the starting point to
look for cases of the parentela. Ultimately, this approach yielded results.
As intended, some of the interviews provided pointers as to where to look
for the parentela, thus the case study on Public Tenders in Chapter 3.
In addition, the data was collected into and analyzed using the nVivo
Let us then, briefly turn to some of the more important aspects of
the research process. First is the comparison between the respondent
pools. As we stated earlier, the study initially intended to replicate the
elite interviews which La Palombara. The assessment of whether a com-
parable respondent pool was attained in the BPS, however, is based on
a number of considerations, because La Palombara provides close to no
description of his respondents. A careful read of his work shows that we
can divide his respondents in four big categories: political parties, civil
service, interest groups and various external observers (category MISC
below). The first category, respectively, could be subdivided into MPs,
party leaders and party advisers. The second category is further subdi-
vided into Ministers (MIN), committee members or chairmen (COM)
and directors of state business enterprises or agencies (DIR). Finally,
the interest group category could be subdivided into trade association
directors (TA director), members of trade associations (TA member), or
single businessmen (B). With regards to the last subcategory, it is intro-
duced in the Bulgarian case and reflects independent entrepreneurs with
direct links to policy-making. The last, Miscellaneous category on the
other hand is only reflected in La Palombara’s study, and it includes a
journalist (J), a writer (W) and an unknown person (U). Such respond-
ent categories were deliberately omitted as it was felt they did were not
insiders enough. The very first column in the table below summarizes
the respondents from La Palombara’s study in 1964. The question marks
indicate that it is not possible to determine whether the civil servants he
interviewed fall in any of the three subcategories (Table 1.3).
The difficulty in the comparison lies in the policy-making positionality
of the respondents, by which term we refer to the policy-making posi-
tions a respondent held at the interview or prior. Whether the respond-
ents were active or retired policy-makers at the time of the interviews
is impossible to tell in La Palombara’s study. At the same time, as the
Bulgarian pool demonstrates, policy-makers usually have multiple back-
grounds. One can be an active MP but a former Minister and trade

Table 1.3  Respondent pools

Respoment background Conservative estimate Multipositionally

La Palombara in BPS in 2013 BPS in 2013


party (MPs) 3 2 11
party (Leader of PP) 3 4 5
party (ADV) 0 0 6
party total 6 6 22
MIN ? 1 4
COM ? 0 8
DIR ? 1 6
Administration total 7 2 18
Groups (TA director) 5 5 9
Groups (TA member) 1 0 0
Groups (B) 0 5 6
Groups total 6 10 15
Total core 19 18 55
Misc (J and W) 3 0 0
Misc (U) 3 0 0
Total misc 6 0 0
Total respondents 25 18 55

association leader, for example. Moreover, should we also take into

account one’s longevity in policy-making? Surely, interviewing someone
who is recently retired from politics but with a 30-year experience car-
ries more weight than someone who is an active politician at the time of
the interview but has just made it in. These were the major considera-
tions when comparing the two respondent pools, which were necessary
not only for the sake of replicabitliy but of results validity as well. Again,
for results to be valid, we are interested in respondents with closest pos-
sible access to policy-making and with the richest possible policy-mak-
ing experience. Therefore, the best way to demonstrate the validity of
the results and the similarity of the respondents pool is to convert both
respondents pools to a common numerical scale.
The study devised, therefore, a points-based system of a respond-
ent’s embeddedness in the policy-making process. For each policy-mak-
ing position the respondent will be given one point. The higher the
points, the greater the embeddedness, hence, validity. This system comes
in three types: conservative, multipositional and temporal. In the first

variant, the counting is limited to the highest policy-making position the

respondent holds at the time of the interview. This is a very simplistic
counting system and is not reflective of the complexity of a respond-
ent’s positionality. This comparative mechanism, however, can only be
adopted in the present study, as again, La Palombara does not provide
any details on the background of his respondents.
The multipositional approach is a counting system where all policy-
making positions of a given respondent are included. A respondent,
for instance, might at present be an independent entrepreneur with
residual contacts with policy-makers because he himself has been an MP
once. Needless to say, this counting system provides considerable depth
and allows for the more nuanced pool profiling. This also enables us to
observe and potentially measure pool bias and pool saturation. The for-
mer refers to some respondent categories better represented in one pool
than the other, while the latter refers to the actual multipositionality
points count between two subsets. We might have 10 ministers in each
respondent pools A and B, but it might be the case that the ministers in
pool B have richer policy-making experience in terms of previous posi-
tions held in their professional lifetime.
In any case, multipositionality brings us to temporal positionality. It
stands for respondent’s longevity in policy-making and the period when
that took place. Temporal positionality here is measured in terms of par-
liamentary sessions, i.e. the 21st Parliament of 2000–2004. This, say, is
equivalent of saying ‘He was a Director of a Trade Association during
David Cameron’s government’. This counting system was chosen also
because this is how people measure political time, using someone’s gov-
ernment as a reference point. We adopt the same principle but instead of
someone’s government, we use the ordinal number of the Parliament’s
session and the time-period that Parliament was convened. This is illus-
trated in the very detailed table of the Bulgarian respondents in the
Appendix. So, again, with temporal positionality, we measure periods of
time, while also making a specific reference in time. This adds another
comparative dimension between respondent pools, which could also
reflect biases in terms of uneven respondent spread in the historical time
line of Parliaments. But it is also further reflective of a respondent’s relia-
bility. Again, a retiree might hold no active policy-making position at the
interview, but have 30-years experience of policy-making. This is another
measure some quantitative potential which was not further developed in
the study, because of small scale of the pools and lack of information on
La Palombara’s respondents.

So, having clarified the core principles behind the comparison, is there
anything we can say about the actual pool compared? Conservatively
speaking, the respondent pools are comparable, although the Bulgarian
pool—one might argue—has a better focused respondent base. Looking
back at the respondent-comparative Table 1.3 above, we can see that the
studies involved the same number of respondents with a background in
political parties. At the same time, it seems that civil servants in the BPS
are underrepresented compared to in La Palombara’s, with two from
BPS against seven, respectively. On the other hand, one might argue
that La Palombara’s pool lacks representation of businessmen with
close ties to the government (B), which is still an important aspect. So,
although, there would normally be parity in the representation of inter-
est groups between the studies (5 + 1(TA director + TA member) for
La P. vs. 5 (TA Directors) for BPS) the introduction of business own-
ers would suggest that the Bulgarian pool features a more accurate rep-
resentation of the interest group sector by including solo business players
with insider access to policy-making. Furthermore, the two pools differ
significantly in the miscellaneous category, which refers to observers of
policy-making, such as journalists or writers. The BPS did not consider
those to be valid respondent categories at the time, and so opted for the
business category. So, the present author would argue that, in terms of
conservative positionality, the BPS respondent pool is comparable to
La Palombara’s but better focused on respondents with policy-making
The other important aspect of the study was the selection, approach
and contact of the Bulgarian elite respondents. The major difficulty was
that many respondents, including those who agreed to give an interview
perceived the researcher as a threat: domestic or foreign. The researcher,
for example, was seen with suspicion because of his association with the
West, which attitude did not come only from those respondents with
socialist/communist background. Some of them distrusted the West sim-
ply because there are no friends in business or politics, and so this study
and the researchers were an instrument of subversion.
The solution was twofold. First, because the researcher was seen with
distrust, an emphasis was made to attract those individuals who are at the
periphery of policy-making at the time of the study. The study consid-
ered the following respondent types when making selections (Adler and
Adler 2001: 523): frustrated (dissatisfied/ax-grinding), outsiders (those
in the periphery of the policy-making process, while still having a vantage

point), old-timers (those who are retired and cannot fear repercussions),
outs (not involved any more but still have some information), neouveau
statused (those who brag about their new position), rookies (those who
are too naïve), subordinates and needy (attention seekers). Most respond-
ents in the Bulgarian study were recruited from the outs, outsiders and
old-timers. Other respondents also came from the frustrated and the
needy (also discussed below). In addition, and specific to this research,
a new category could be added. These are the desperate respondents,
who do not care of any repercussions, because they feel they have lost
The above selection approach was combined with a novel interview
approach, namely, the involvement of a new research participant in the
interview: the intermediary. Their help was not only in the discovery
of relevant respondents, but also in their personal introduction to the
researcher, vouching for researcher’s credibility and ultimately partici-
pation in the interview. As the subject matter was very sensitive, it was
through the intervention of said intermediaries at the actual interviews
that relaxed the respondents enough to share with the researcher infor-
mation that they would not otherwise have. The details of the difficulties
in conducting elite interviews in the study are discussed at length in a
joint-paper with Lambros Kaoullas (Petkov and Kaoullas 2016). It suf-
fices to say, that the low respondent count is largely due to the rampant
distrust in the Bulgarian political system which by an extension translated
on the present research. As one respondent intimated, this distrust may
be justified as he witnessed the exposure of another social scientist as an
agent of a foreign intelligence service. In the interview, one should also
mention, the respondents appear in the book with pseudonyms in order
to maintain their anonymity.
Finally, the research project also made use of case studies. Two case
studies out of three from the original BPS study Petkov (2016) will be
included here. The important bit to say about them is that they fol-
lowed the principle of process tracing (Tansey 2007; Falleti and Lynch
2009; Falleti 2006; Checkel 2006). This means that the accumulated
data and its interpretation was geared towards the development of causal
sequences or processes that link theorized phenomena. Furthermore, in
addition to interviews, the case studies also made us of state reports, leg-
islative texts, juxtaposed memoirs, news articles and evidence submitted
to Parliamentary consultations. The case on Public Tenders in Chapter 3
is one such example, as the parentela was perceived as a process.

The process tracing analytical approach was also employed in the analy-
sis of the interview data pertaining to parentela, which has led us to the
revision of the second parentela type as a party-centric model of an oli-
garchic dynamic. Now, without further ado, we will turn to the last sec-
tion of this chapter, which maps out the remaining chapters.

Structure of the Book

The present book is an analytical refinement of a doctoral study con-
ducted recently, referred here as the Bulgarian Parentela Study (Petkov
2016, 2017). The previous report did not only document that the model
existed in Bulgaria but it also showed new variations in its dynamics
which we have labeled type two parentela, in order to distinguish them
from La Palombara’s original model description (type one) (Petkov
2017). What has prompted the present publication is that the earlier
report could not fully articulate the view that the extended parentela (i.e.
types one and two combined) can also be treated as macro-level model
of oligarchic dynamics, that have the potential to consolidate into an
oligarchic status quo. And this, in turn, is the purpose of the book. It
reimagines the parentela, or more specifically, the extended parentela as a
model of party-centric oligarchic relations.
But Why, one might ask, is this at all relevant to anyone? What is the
significance of the parentela and why should we all care? The short answer
to these questions is that because we need to know who actually governs.
The objective of the policy network literature was initially to expose
the realities of democratic policy-making, by pointing out that formal
democratic institutions do not explain the actual policy-making process.
The group policy-maker interaction is complex and largely informal.
Richardson and Jordan (1979) clearly demonstrated that British poli-
cy-making is based on an informal set of rules such as, among others:
depoliticization of issues, compromises, consensus-seeking and keep-
ing a low profile. As one such policy network type, we should therefore
care about the extended parentela as it introduces much greater realism
in present-day Bulgarian policy-making, which should be of immediate
concern not only for Bulgarian citizens, but for the wider academic com-
munity, because the model could be applicable elsewhere. As Chapter 6
will demonstrate, the tenure of President Kuchma of Ukraine gives cre-
dence to the proposed relationship between the extended parentela and
the arrival of a new, oligarchic, status quo. This is not a formal change

of government, one should hasten to say. Rather this is a change of the

state-group relationship, where policy-making and non-policy-making
will be sanctioned by an elite comprising political parties, insider busi-
ness groups and obliging civil servants. The model, in other words, has
the potential to be applicable to states outside Bulgaria and demonstrates
that nondemocratic dynamics can just as well be embedded within for-
mally democratic institutions. That in turn is important to citizens, pol-
iticians and academics alike as the extended parentela has the potential
to demonstrate the mechanism of a state’s detour from democratic poli-
cy-making even if its institutions formally remain democratic.
The following chapters, therefore, will gradually construct the oligar-
chic model, as follows:
Chapter 2 will demonstrate the elements of the original parentela in
the Bulgarian context as seen from the perspective of the 26 elite respond-
ents from the study. However, it was also mentioned that finding the ele-
ments of the parentela is not the same as finding the parentela as a whole
and in motion, so to speak. Chapter 3, therefore, is again dedicated to La
Palombara’s parentela in Bulgaria, but this time we can observe the model
in its totality by looking into the process of the distribution of Public
Tender contracts. Chapter 4, then, moves forward to the presentation of
the newly discovered prejudiced regulatory inspections as the second paren-
tela dynamic (or type two parentela). The details of this new dynamic
and its causes are discussed therein. Chapter 5, next, brings together
the two parentela dynamics (that of La Palombara’s parentela and preju-
diced inspections) into the concept of the extended parentela. By bringing
both dynamics together the chapter constructs the extended parentela as
a model of party-centric oligarchic relations and hypothesizes that if left
unchecked and in combination with parliamentary elections, the extended
parentela will consolidate into an oligarchic status quo. Before conclud-
ing with Chapter 7, Chapter 6 verifies the validity of the hypothesis and
the extended parentela model by further looking into the case of Ukraine
under the tenure of President Kuchma, which bears features both of the
model and the hypothesized consolidated oligarchic status quo.

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The Parentela Through the Eyes

of Bulgarian Policy-Makers

The previous chapter introduced the subject of policy networks and

the parentela as the network type under scrutiny in this volume. The­
concept stands for the situation where a group with a privileged standing
within the ruling party is able to extend her influence in the civil ser-
vice by having the party interfere in the work of state agencies on her
behalf. The chapter also advanced two thesis points. First, that the type
of parentela dynamics found in Bulgaria greatly enriched the original
model, thereby advancing the term extended parentela as a label uni-
fying the initial dynamic discovered by La Palombara (1964) with the
new parentela dynamic found in Bulgaria as part of the recent Bulgarian
Parentela Study. The second thesis point, therefore, was that the total
dynamics of the extended parentela are oligarchic in nature. From this,
the introduction also offered the hypothesis that if left unchecked and in
combination of diminished interparty competition, the extended paren-
tela dynamic in Bulgaria will consolidate into an oligarchic status quo.
The book will approach the first thesis point in Chapters 2, 3, and 4.
Chapters 2 and 3 will reconstruct the parentela model in the Bulgarian
political context, using data from elite interviews with Bulgarian policy-
makers and by presenting the case on Public Tenders, respectively.
Chapter 4 will present new evidence, which demonstrates the existence
of a second parentela dynamic (or type two parentela). Chapters 5 and 6
will re-imagine the extended parentela as an oligarchic model of state-
group relations, and assess its external validity by presenting the case of
President Leonid Kuchma’s tenure. Therefore, this chapter will present

© The Author(s) 2019 29

M. Petkov, Oligarchic Party-Group Relations in Bulgaria,

evidence of the existence of La Palombara’s type one parentela dynam-

ics in Bulgaria. The data below is from the 26 elite interviews that were
conducted in an attempt to replicate La Palombara’s earlier study. The
argument here is that type one parentela exists because we can identify
each of its descriptors when overlapping the elite interviewees’ responses.
We defined earlier five network descriptors which taken together can
describe each of the known (Anglo-Saxon) policy network types: degree
of access, power ratio, type of interaction, primary venue and venue
scope. Therefore, we can say that the parentela if the 26 elite interviews
described a party-group relation where the interest group has insider sta-
tus (degree of access) within the ruling party (primary venue) and uses a
mechanism to translate its demands into the civil service (venue scope),
and is in a cooperative, power-balanced relationship (type of interaction
and power ratio, respectively). We will first discuss the venue scope descrip-
tor, which is demonstrated by the practice of political appointments,
because those appointed in the civil service act as the conduit of the deci-
sions taken by the party elite. The descriptor primary venue is also evident
in the case of the National Council of Tripartite Consultations (NCTC)
which shows that through civil service reforms the ruling party has the
potential to enforce the interests of its insider, which means that political
parties have the potential to act as the pivot in a parentela relationship.
This point is further implied in Chapters 4 and 5, which indirectly dis-
cuss the primacy of the party over the civil service in the context of Public
Tenders and their ability to exploit the regulatory agencies of the state.
However, one difficulty is that it is hard to talk about a primary venue
without at the same time talking about the venue scope. The mere
act of translating decisions from one venue to another means that this
dynamic bridges the two venues, hence, is demonstrative of venue scope.
Yet, the same translation is also indicative of party’s superiority over
the civil service, making the same data indicative of a primary venue.
Likewise, the act of civil service interference through civil service reforms
can also be seen both as evidence of venue scope and primary venue. As
connecting the two venues in a larger dynamic. This difficulty is also true
for the rest of the descriptors and the descriptor-based approach in gen-
eral. It raises the question whether the classification system needs some
degree of refinement. Qualitative data is multidimensional as it may per-
tain to more than one category. For example, the data pertaining to the
descriptor degree of access is also attributable to the rest of the descrip-
tors: cooperation and power parity. Thus, when discussing how groups

gain insider status, we are also saying (though implicitly) that there is a
power parity and cooperation.
Alternatively, one may argue that it is not that the qualitative data is
multidimensional, but that the descriptors are mutually connected (even
if nominally discrete), because the political reality is such that certain
descriptor value combinations are more likely than others. For example,
is it conceivable for a group with an insider status (i.e. privileged access)
to be in a conflictual relationship with the policy-makers, or an outsider
to be in a balanced power relation with policy-makers? Can an insider
actually overpower policy-makers or can policy-makers overpower an
insider group in a cooperative manner? Is it possible for a group to coop-
erate with policy-makers and still be an outsider? These methodological/
theoretical complications need not concern us here, nor do they negate
the results. In any case, the elements of the parentela are present, but
not in such an orderly way that one would have ideally hoped. What we
need, instead, is to focus on is the interview data which demonstrates the
elements of the parentela.
Without further ado, we will begin by discussing the descriptors of
primary venue and venue scope in the following section, which will
be followed by a discussion on how groups gain insider status within
Bulgarian political parties. As already noted, the latter discussion is also
an implicit discussion of power parity and cooperation between the two
as well.

Primary Venue and Venue Scope: Party’s Interference

in the Civil Service

Through Political Appointments

There are previous studies that have attempted to document the extent
of party political appointments (PPA) in the civil service. Most recent
at the time of the BPS were the studies of Kopecky and Spirova (2011)
and Spirova (2012) on the prevalence of PPA in Bulgaria and on their
causes, respectively. Kopecky and Spirova (2011) argue that the agen-
cies of the Bulgarian civil service are subject to wide-scale appointments.
Patronage extends to other administrative structures which ought to be
filled strictly on merit and professionalism, such as hospital directors or
principals. Spirova (2012) furthermore argues that PPAs are used both as
a form of control and reward.

Evidence from the BPS confirms their findings and offers a number of
explanations for these values in Bulgaria. First, ruling parties use politi-
cal appointments as a form of control because they distrust any external,
autonomous experts, be them from autonomous civil service or sec-
toral interest groups. Such independent participants are seen as a threat,
because their technocratic decisions fail to acknowledge party interests. A
second form of administrative control spurred by distrust is when parties
remove civil servants from office at the turn of a party change because
appointees of the previously incumbent party are expected to sabotage
the new government. Third, also in agreement with Spirova (2012), par-
ties need political appointments in order to help maintain intraorganiza-
tional cohesion by using patronage as a form of reward. Finally, it also
needs highlighting that the above practices are facilitated by the legal
framework which enables PPA at central and local administrative level
discussed below.
In a comparative study on political appointments in Eastern Europe
for the period 2006–2008, Kopecky and Spirova (2011) develop a coef-
ficient (index) of patronage. At the center of their study lie Bulgaria,
Czech Republic and Hungary. Their data shows medium rate of PPA in
the three states (2011: 906–911, Kopecky and Spirova 2011: 907).
The index values are grouped in three levels of PPA as follows
(Table 2.1):

Table 2.1  Levels of
State Coefficient of patronage
PPA (Kopecky and
Spirova 2011: 907) UK 0.09
Netherlands 0.11
Denmark 0.16
Iceland 0.23
Norway 0.28
Portugal 0.29
Ireland 0.32
Czech Republic 0.34
Spain 0.4
Bulgaria 0.42
Hungary 0.43
Germany- 0.43
Italy 0.47
Austria 0.49
Greece 0.62
Mean 0.34

0.65 appointments occur in most institutions at all levels;

0.4 appointments occur in most institutions at top levels;
0.1 appointments are very limited and if any, at top levels.

An index of 0.42 is a measurement of a medium level of PPA (Kopecky

and Spirova 2011: 906) and according to the authors, this value places
Bulgaria in the middle of a European-wide rank list of states with politi-
cal appointments, the coefficient of 0.42 is a mean that hides significant
internal imbalances. There is still a wide spread of political appointments
both horizontally among top directorial levels of most institutions and
state agencies, and, vertically, down to local and middle level in each
ministry, reaching to positions far removed from party politics, such as
school principals, hospitals, museums, etc. (Kopecky and Spirova 2011:
908–909). In a 2012 follow up article, Spirova, Meir and Kopecky
review political appointments in the Bulgarian civil service for the period
between 2000 and 2005, conducted by the private polling agency
MBMD (2012). The data from MBMD also indicated a high level of
political appointments as of 2005.
In fact, both studies combined from 2000 to 2005 (MBMD in
Spirova 2012) and from 2006 to 2008 (Kopecky and Spirova 2011)
indicate an overall upward trend of PPA in Bulgaria. The MBMD study
conducted in late 2005 to early 2006 asked 922 civil servants twice the
question (in 2000 and in 2005): ‘Do you believe that political appoint-
ments in the state administration happen often/sometimes/never?’ The
results indicated an upward trend of political patronage. Those who
believed no political appointments existed in 2000 (40%), reduced in
half by 2005 (less than 20%). Those in 2000, who believed that there
were often political appointments, rose approximately 3 times by 2005.
Overall, if we add the MBMD results to the results from Kopecky and
Spirova (2011) we could observe an upward trend of political patronage
in the Bulgarian civil service from 2000 up to 2008 (Fig. 2.1).
The above data is enough to claim that the ruling party and civil ser-
vice venues are connected by the practice of party appointments, which
facilitates the parentela formation. Surprisingly, however, a stronger link
between this observation and the parentela inadvertently comes from
Spirova (2012). Political appointments are so prevalent, that in her
attempt to summarize her results, Spirova inadvertently paints the image
of the parentela (Spirova 2012: 64–65):

Fig. 2.1  Do you believe that political appointments in the state administration

happen often/sometimes/never? (Spirova 2012: 60)

As a result, a lot of the positions in the agencies that regulate the econ-
omy [including] agriculture, transport, and infrastructure were staffed
with party appointees who could ensure that the important decisions were
also taken with the economic interests of the political parties, or of private
companies friendly to them, in mind.

The description above identifies political appointments as the result

of preexisting agreements between the party in power and its insider
groups. Simultaneously, one can also read the above excerpt as evidence
of the primacy of the party venue over the civil service.
Interview responses from the present study corroborated the findings
of Kopecky and Spirova (2011) and Spirova (2012). Interview responses
indicated an overwhelming breadth of PPA rendering the question
superfluous. Stated with confidence, nearly every one respondent who
was asked to address the topic of appointments complained on the depth
of appointments down to local level. Some extreme examples included
the ejection of school janitors at the turn of elections. Again he prevalent
agreement among interviewees on the wide spread of the phenomenon
rendered the continued pursuit of this theme unnecessary.

Other evidence of the extent of political patronage is easily observ-

able in the current legislative framework. The laws on Administration
1998 (LA) and Local Self-Government and Local Administration 1991
(LLSGLA) greatly facilitate political appointments. The early clues as to
the importance of these pieces of legislation came from Kopecky, Mair
and Spirova (2012: 56) who identify a handful of authors discussing the
legislation that governs the conduct of the civil service and the historical
origins of PPA (Shoylekova 2004; Dimitrova 2002; Bozhidarova et al.
2002). However, there is very little in terms of discussion on how exactly
the Laws facilitate appointments, which is of importance for the present
study on the parentela, and which we will address below.
The Law on the Administration (1998) reveals the legal connection
between the party and civil service venue, as it clearly enables the rul-
ing party to make political appointments. The following Fig. 2.2 charts
the vectors of appointment in the Bulgarian civil service. The shape
where an arrow starts marks the appointing body and where the arrow
ends mark the politically appointed position. The main appointing bod-
ies are the prime minister and individual ministers, denoted with blue
triangles. The main and most relevant in our case appointed bodies are
the agency directors or commission chairmen, which are denoted with
blue rhomboids. Other appointed positions less relevant to our case
are political cabinets and oblast governors, which are denoted with blue
squares. In addition, there are trapezoid shapes whose purpose is to give
more details on the specific articles from the Law on the Administration
1998 that govern the appointment in question. The respective articles
are denoted in brackets “( )”. The same reference system is employed
throughout all elements in the figure, where relevant articles from the
LA 1998 that codify the relationship are noted in brackets. Finally, every
one element has a unique reference number, noted between two short
dashes, e.g. “-12-”. Overall, a relationship of appointment is expressed as
the collection of all shapes that lay in the path of a connector that starts
with a triangle and ends on rhomboid or a square (Fig. 2.2).
The LA offers direct and indirect procedures available to the central
party leadership (the prime minister and party functionaries equal in
rank) to make PPA. The direct ability to make a PPA is embodied in the
right of the leader of the party in power (the Prime Minister) to and
terminate employment of directorial (top-level decision-making) posi-
tions in the agencies that regulate the business and public activities in
the state, and deputy ministers. The LA is quite clear that the Prime
Minister has the right to offer and terminate employment to directors in

Fig. 2.2  Structure of political appointments in Bulgaria: central executive

the state agencies (LA 1998 47(6), -1, 19, 27, 28-) and state commissions
50(5) (-24, 26, 28-). The former are agencies created by the Ministerial
Council (the Government) (LA 1998 47(1), -28-) in order to support
the policy-making activities of the Government. The latter is a structure
created to manage issues related to permits emanating from and related
to legislation (LA 50(1) -26-).
The LA 1998 also specifies that the Prime Minister can offer and
revoke deputy ministers positions (LA 1998 23(6), -1, 19, 20, 21-).
These rights are further facilitated by the provision in the LA (1998

19a(2)) which states that whoever makes the appointment, be that the
party leader (Prime Minister), the Minister or the Government (the
Council of Ministers), has the right to an immediate retraction of such
contract (-19-). In other words, not only is the central political leader-
ship of the party in power able to make appointments in the central exec-
utive agencies, but these are further eased by the ability to remove from
office without the obligation to give notice to the respective civil servant.
The powers of the party leader to appoint do not stop there. There
are indirect ways in which they can influence political appointments in
the administration. These powers relate to the employment of directors
of executive agencies. These are created by the Council of Ministers (LA
1998 54(1) -18-) in order to help carry out the duties of the Ministry.
Here, employment and its termination are vested in the Minister with
Prime Minister’s coordination (LA 54(5) -17, 18-). The only positions
under the direct control of a minister are the executive agencies estab-
lished locally to support the operation of their ministry, directorates (-16-),
and the staff of each ministry (40(1) -14, 15-). The law states that it is
the Minister who has the sole right to offer and terminate employment in
their Ministry (LA 1998 42(5) -14-).
However, given the fact that the Minister owes their position to the
party leader (-2, 3-), it is highly likely that informal coordination occurs
for specific appointments of interest to the Premier. This means that even
those positions that do not directly fall under the powers of appoint-
ment of the prime minister could be informally subject to their influence
because ministers owe their positions directly to them.
For sake of completeness, we should discuss head secretaries of the
central and local administration and political cabinets. The former posi-
tions stand for top level civil servants in the state administration whose
duties are primarily to ensure the internal departmental cohesion and
legality of all taken actions. These positions too are political appoint-
ments made by the relevant Minister (-10, 11-). As it was established
above, this should not obscure the fact that due to internal party loyalty,
a Minister’s right to appoint does not preclude the political leadership of
the party in power from influencing the nomination.
Political cabinets are committees of advisers in the office (or kabinet
in Bulgarian) of each of the organs of central and local executive power:
e.g. Minister (-13-), Prime Minister (-32-), Regional Governor (-6,
7, 8-), Mayor (next section). They do not have immediate duties and
responsibilities with regards to the functioning of the administration,

but advise their patron on political and administrative matters. It is pos-

sible, in theory that a parentela could occur at these levels, although it
was only Petkov who discussed political cabinets as examples of political
appointments under external nominations.
Powers of appointments vested in town mayors are analogous to those
of a prime minister. They manifest themselves in mayor’s or rather the
local ruling party’s ability to appoint their deputies and civil servants
(obshtina) as permitted by the Law on LLSGLA 1991. Article 39 of
LLSGLA grants a mayor the power to appoint deputies. Article 43 refers
to the administration of local councils, where ‘[t]he mayor of the obshtina
appoints the secretary of the obshtina for an unlimited period of time’
(43(1)). The duties of the latter are to internally organize the work of the
administration of the city council. Article 44(1)3 specifies that the mayor
appoints and removes deputy mayors, the chairmen of the administrative
units on an obshtina budget, directors and servants in the obshtina admin-
istration. It has to be stressed that on a local level, the party a mayor
represents is able to make political appointments throughout of the city
council administration. Figure 2.3 summarizes the discussion.

Fig. 2.3  Structure of political appointments in Bulgaria: local executive


There are a number of authors who see the practice of political

appointments as a heritage from political culture of previous authoritarian
political systems. Bozhidarova et al. (2002) link PPA with the heritage of
Ottoman political culture and Soviet influence, both of which rested on
personal allegiance to a centralized executive. The authors stress that the
present practice of political appointments is reminiscent of the Bulgarian
civil service during its totalitarian socialist period (Bozhidarova et al.
2002: 3–5). Accordingly, one of the main characteristics of the Bulgarian
socialist civil service was the extra layer of civil servants, i.e. the politi-
cal nomenklatura, which were politically appointed and were tasked to
oversee the work of expert civil servants, observing thereby party policies
implementation (Bozhidarova et al. 2002: 5–6). The same argument is
also made elsewhere by Kopecky and Spirova (2011: 898–901), Raychev
and Stoychev (2008), and Chalakov et al. (2008).
Data from the present study tends to add some credence to such his-
torical indebtedness to previous authoritarian forms of government.
Kuzmanov was probably the strongest supporter of the argument that
the predisposition to corruptive behavior is residual from the times of
the Ottoman Empire, where informal monetary compensations were
the norm when dealing with Sultan’s civil service. Similarly, Georgiev
argued that ‘to give in order to receive’, or do ut des, was the core of
Bulgaria’s policy-making informal mode of interaction with the central
administration. Golemanov was vehement that the informal administra-
tive dynamics employed today are direct reapplication of the repressive
style of socialist Bulgaria pre-1989. However, while many respondents
had tidbit historical references to socialism, overall with the exception
of Golemanov, no respondent made an explicit link between political
appointments and any other preceding Bulgarian form of government.
The analogy did not suffice for an explanation, it seems.
Responses instead suggested that it was the total system-wide polit-
ical distrust which necessitated the use of political appointments. The
ruling party distrusts experts from interest groups, because their loyalty
lays elsewhere and their solutions to policy problems do not necessarily
reflect the goals of political parties. Reciprocally, interest groups distrust
political parties for their cadres’ lack of expertise to arrive at industry-
efficient solutions. This mutual distrust manifests itself in the appoint-
ment of civil service department and agency directors. Party members
may promote experts from the party ranks that may combine both rec-
ognition of sectoral groups and party’s trust. However, it is doubtful
whether this alleviates distrust because, as Petkov explains, regardless

of the technocratic predispositions the appointee may have at the start,

his loyalty will always shift towards the party political patrons soon after
assuming the appointment. Ultimately, the distrust towards all other
non-insider and non-party actors forces ruling parties to maintain a firm
hold over civil service nominations.
As a result of the same distrust, newly incumbent parties do not hes-
itate to sweep out their predecessor’s appointees. Respondents from
the study were unanimous that no party in power can afford to retain
appointees from rival parties. The threat is that civil servants of rival
political parties, acting on the commands of their former, patrons would
actively seek to sabotage the new government. As a result, every new
election is accompanied by “sweeps” of mass replacement of “old” civil
servants with “new” ones.
Indeed even where servant nominations originate outside the ruling
party, the actual appointment is still sanctioned by the party in power.
These are cases of agreements between party and insider groups, or when
the party needs to appease party factions and (lesser) coalition partners
(Kuzmanov). Party factions in particular may feel un-represented in the
executive branch and long-term functionaries may also grow resent-
ful if they do not see their contribution to the party rewarded with a
prestigious post. This is a corroboration of the same argument Kopecky
and Spirova (2011) and Spirova (2012) made above. In congruence
with their findings, evidence suggests that party leadership attempts to
appease intraparty factions by endorsing their nominations in order to
maintain inner party cohesion. In other cases, appointees nominated
from the sectoral associations may be endorsed by the ruling party in
order to create an air of impartiality. But as one respondent argued, even
if non-partisan technocrats are employed at first, they will eventually sub-
due to party pressures in the long term. Further in the context of pri-
mary venue and venue scope, let us now turn to civil service reforms as
another form of party interference in the work of the civil service.

Through Civil Service Reforms

In the founding study on the parentela, La Palombara cites party’s ability
to interfere in the work of the civil service as a key element in the paren-
tela formation. One such form of interference were political appoint-
ments, which we discussed above and also which served as an illustration
of the primary venue and venue scope descriptors. The basic parentela

dynamic is such that decisions made between the party and its insider
group are enforced onto the civil service. This practice is simultaneously
demonstrative that the party is the primary policy venue and that the
venue scope encompasses the party and the civil service. Furthermore,
the previous section also demonstrated that this enforcement is facili-
tated by political appointments. The present section, on the other hand,
will demonstrate that civil service reforms could also be used to the same
In addition to political patronage we can say that civil service reforms
can act as another form of party control over the civil service. This is best
observed in the case of the National Council for Tripartite Consultations
(NCTC), which Zlatarov brought up. The NCTC is Bulgaria’s main
consultative body where business, workers and the state (civil service)
meet and discuss matters of primary interest to the entire economy, e.g.
minimum wage, standards, contracts, etc. Respondent Lyubenov argued
there are consultations at all levels of the civil service, the treasury,
Bulgarian National Bank, but most important of those are at the NCTC.
Hristov also singled out the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation
(NCTC) as the main and most important consultative body. Other
respondents such as Zlatarov, Konstantinov, also highlighted the prime
importance of NCTC that has for business. Respondent Zlatarov noted
50 consultative bodies where his peak1 organization (Bulgarian Chamber
of Commerce and Industry (BCCI)) was in frequent bureaucratic
While noting the importance of NCTC, many respondents saw the
consultative body as a contested ground between Big Enterprises (BE)
and Medium/Small Enterprises (SME). The BE/SME distinction
was introduced by Respondent Nikolov, where Big Business comprises
dominant market actors in the economic niche they occupy, including
individual firms, corporations or individual business owners. SMEs con-
sisted of small shop owners, producers, merchants, also including what
Respondent Zlatarov termed ‘micro’ firms of just a few people. Reasons
to suspect that BCCI was in a secret conflict with a party insider group
came from two cases from the life of the NCTC. They were shared by
a number of respondents who suggested that core party insiders delib-
erately attempted to disrupt civil service consultations in order to

1 A trade association that represents an entire sector(s) of the economy.


prevent effective opposition from party outsider groups. In the first case,
Zlatarov cited the attempted amendments in the Labour Codex from
2011 as evidence of BCCI being targeted for exclusion from the tripar-
tite consultations because it was the only organization, part of NCTC,
that did not meet the new participation criteria. Zlatarov’s analysis led
him to suspect that their rivals, the Confederation of Industrialists and
Employers in Bulgaria (CIEB) were behind it and that BCCI not meet-
ing the legal participatory requirements for participation at NCTC was
simply the necessary pretext for their removal from consultations. As
Zlatarov explains, according to the amendments in the Labour Codex at
the time, any interest groups that received subsidies from the state were
forbidden representation as independent actors at NCTC consultations.
However, the internal legal analysis of BCCI concluded that it did not
receive subsidies from the state, but had been paid for services that had
been outsourced to them. According to Respondent Zlatarov, ultimately,
that was a move by CIEB to eliminate their rival interest groups from
competing for influence in the NCTC policy venue, i.e. BCCI.
There are a number of sources that support Zlatarov identifying CIEB
as the party insider group that sought to oust BCCI from civil service
consultations. A public statement from BCCI from 16 December 2011
also identifies CIEB as the group that stands to gain from the legislative
amendments ( 2011a):

The statement from the (interested in the BCCI’s removal) organization

CIEB is an absolute insinuation, namely, that at some point in the past
[…] the European Commission or any other such body had stated that
BCCI was the inappropriate [consultative] social partner.

The MPs Pavel Shopov ( 2011d) and Todor Velikov (
2011d) clearly voiced the same concern. From the parliamentary tribune,
the latter states ( 2011d):

You (to MPs from ruling party) are making this in service to CIEB,
because these people (BCCI), deprived from their representation, will have
to find it in CIEB. But who does CIEB represent at the moment in our
country? – Large capital! […] We will deprive small and medium business
from representation and we will redirect them to the larger capital which
is of a doubtful origin. Why are we doing all this? In whose service? In

service of someone who at the moment wants to take over the entire
employment market, to stand next to the government and say: I am the
legitimate one, I want all [public tenders] to be given to me and I will dic-
tate the status quo in this state!

Although not spelling CIEB out, the MPs Rumen Petkov (
2011b) and Martin Dimitrov ( 2011c) also confirm the parlia-
mentary opposition’s stance that BCCI is the intended group for exclu-
sion. The gravity of BCCI’s reaction and the numerous MP statements
indicate that CIEB most likely were in some sort of a tacit agreement
with the ruling party, although no such direct evidence could be found
in the course of the BPS.
Two points emerge from Zlatarov’s thesis: one, that the Bulgarian
bureaucracy provides poor consultative fora, and two, that this is due
to the influences from party insider groups. In the case of the NCTC,
not only is it a forum that provides unsatisfactory consultations to begin
with, but those were manipulated by the rending of BCCI as the ineligi-
ble to participate. This was an act, which Zlatarov saw was masterminded
by CIEB.
There is a host of respondents and documents in clear support of
Zlatarov’s first point. Among those most vocal was Nikolov who argued
the civil service is not capable to carry out the necessary legislative con-
sultations, otherwise known as: assessment of the legislative effects on
business. His observation was also corroborated by the state report on
the development of the state administration 2014–2020, We are Working
for the People: Strategy for the Development of State Administration
(Council of Ministers Accepted 2014; Bulgarian Council of Ministers of
Bulgaria 2014). The document clearly specifies that one of the current
deficiencies of the state administration and government is the turbu-
lent production of secondary legislation that lacks any assessment of its
effects on businesses (Council of Ministers 2014: 10). The report con-
cludes that the Bulgarian civil service does not carry out the necessary
level of intensive consultations to determine whether any proposed leg-
islative amendments are acceptable to those potentially affected (Council
of Ministers 2014: 11–12). It attributes the deficient consultations
in general, to civil servants’ general disinterest in taking up the issues
voiced by interest groups and much less, if at all, to the lack of material
resources (Council of Ministers 2014: 12). Again, this means that SMEs

are ineffectively consulted primarily because the administration has lim-

ited professional capacity to facilitate such consultations. The civil service
administration admits in its own evaluation (Council of Ministers 2014:

[t]he directors and civil servants […] do not recognise this duty as primary
and do not input the necessary effort to understand better the approach
and logic of the effects of the [respective] legislation.

In other words, the deficient consultative access SME experiences is pri-

marily attributable to an inherent civil service disinterest in doing so. The
quotation suggests even if groups accessed and dominated the venue,
the latter would prove itself an ineffective vehicle to ensure the desired
final legislative shape. This may not be due to group’s lack of expertise,
as it would be the case with the policy community for example (Jordan
and Richardson 1979), but first and foremost, due to an inherent insti-
tutional inability to facilitate group consultations. However, against the
background of party political patronage, such an inability already implies
that effective and binding decisions are taken at the level of political par-
ties. Moreover, if the civil service is subject to party subordination, then
it is not surprising that it is disinterested to consult.
This leads us to the Zlatarov’s second point, namely, that party insid-
ers disrupt executive consultations. This view is supported by a host of
respondents, although they agreed with it in principle, as opposed to with
specific reference to the NCTC. They argued that it is commonplace for
the more affluent businesses to split away from their sectoral organization
and seek direct representation to the party in power. Respondent Nikolov
was quite specific that individual Big Business actors sought the access
to ruling political parties. In exchange for benefits to individual MPs or
the party parliamentary groups, they received favorable legislation. That
is why one could observe legislation that directly harms the interests of
small and medium size businesses. But the thrust of the argument, how-
ever, was that consultations outside the ruling party are meaningless. He
argued that once decision is in direct party-group negotiations its parallel
deliberations in Parliament serve no purpose. Moreover, the position of
the peak association is undermined, when such large splinter corporations
express independent, and often opposing, positions in private to the party
in power (e.g. the respective Trade Association).

The view that single big business owners (groups) would seek to cir-
cumvent their respective representative body and directly negotiate with
the ruling party was also reflected by Kirilov. They argued that sectoral
bodies that represent the interests of small and medium size businesses,
such as Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) are not an effective
medium of representation for Big Business. Single affluent businesses
find it more effective to engage directly with ruling political parties. This
observation is also made by Konstantinov as well. In an overlap with the
Council of Ministers Report (2014) he argued that civil service does not
inquire into the effects of the legislative drafts to the economy and the
reason for that is that the legislative decisions endorsed by the civil ser-
vice are those taken in direct consultations between the ruling party and
its insider. He argued that the civil service consults, but those consulta-
tions either sabotaged or nonexistent. Similar to Nikolov above, he also
implied that there are more influential party-group relationships which
are sustained on the mutual exchange of policy-making access against
campaign resources (discussed later).
Two other respondents were more direct in their identification of the
civil service as the much weaker venue than the ruling party. Hristov
shared essentially the same observation with Nikolov and Kirilov that
the party route is more effective than the civil service one, as long as the
group is able to negotiate its provision of campaign resources for desired
policy concessions. Likewise, Zlatarov also agreed that the party route is
more effective. Speaking from personal experience and on a different mat-
ter, he explained how the large corporation they personally represented
sought to amend the details of a piece of legislation that directly affected
it. He was very particular that the state administration did not have the
capacity to assist them. That is why, the first thing he did was to directly
seek immediate personal endorsement from a member of the ruling party
who facilitated the contact with the responsible Minister in question, who
ultimately resolved the matters. All of the respondent positions so far
seemed to support the idea that CIEB—the group representing the inter-
ests of Bulgaria’s Big Business could indeed have approached the ruling
party. However, the study did not find direct link, plausible as it is.
But even if it were true in principle that party insiders can overrule
civil service insiders by having the ruling party impose criteria for partic-
ipation in the NCTC consultations, it may not be true in the case of the
NCTC, which in a turn of events might serve us to make another argu-
ment. Zlatarov also cited the amendments in the Law of Public Property

of Former State Workers (term for civil servants, sic) 20132 as another
example of the attempt to exclude BCCI from NCTC consultations. He
explained that according to those amendments, the chairmanship of all
groups seeking representations at tripartite consultations (labor, business
and the state) had to declare their income to assume such posts. Access
to the consultations was conditional on chairpersons of the boards from
all represented groups disclosing all sources of their income. Zlatarov
claimed firstly that this is against the spirit of the law, which was origi-
nally intended for state agencies only and not interest groups. Second,
he also added that interest group board members became unnecessarily
vulnerable to intimidation and extortion as they had to reveal publicly
personal financial data.
The crucial point here is that contrary to Zlatarov’s suggestion that it
was again CIEB, this amendment affected equally all group participants
at NCTC consultations, including CIEB. In fact Zlatarov’s second argu-
ment that the later amendments rendered group consultative participants
as vulnerable was clearly manifested on the website of their adversary, the
CIEB, where all employer associations at NCTC signed a declaration
of discontinuation of participation in the tripartite NCTC consultations
(CIEB 2013). The declaration highlights the anti-constitutional provi-
sion of the amendment and clearly states that the requirement of income
disclosure puts groups’ directorial boards at personal risk (CIEB 2013,
emphasis added):

II.1. The members of the executive and directorial organs deem that […
requiring] data of their assets be published online, creates conditions for
pressure (on them and their families), not only political but criminal as

The quotation makes the surprising revelation that all sectoral NCTC
participants see this push for redefinition of the consultative access crite-
ria as a mechanism to shape NCTC consultations in a way to dampen or
remove any sectoral policy opposition.
In the context of the parentela, this turn of events renders the ques-
tion whether CIEB really tried to oust BCCI as irrelevant. The point
we are interested in here is whether the party could act as a primary

2 Law for Publicity of Assets of Individuals Assuming High State Public and other Duties

in the Public and Private Sector.


parentela venue. The answer is yes regardless of the CIEB–BCCI rivalry.

The common denominator between the two episodes in the life of the
NCTC consultations is that the party is the source of power that can dis-
rupt the civil service consultative process and we can confidently state
that it has the potential to lend its powers of administrative disruption
through reforms to its party insider. In any case, the main point here is
that eligibility rules or civil service reforms in general are the second way
in which the party can interfere with the civil service, next to political
appointments. With regards to the parentela, this clearly renders the party
as a primary venue and indicative of parentela relations because it is an
attractive venue for the parentela formation. Let us now turn to the rest
of the policy network descriptors whose qualitative contents further align
respondents’ description of the party-group relations with the parentela.

Degree of Access, Cooperation and Power Parity

Expertise for Access
In this section, we will review the rest of the parentela descriptors. The
discussion centers around how groups could gain insider status within
political parties. The discussion on the other parentela descriptors like
cooperation and power parity is implicit, however. As already noted,
qualitative data is multidimensional and could be ascribed to more than
one category. At the same time, the reason why we will explicitly focus
on the degree of access descriptor is simply because gaining insider status
appears to be the most important topic among the respondents.
The policy network literature is unanimous that it is policy exper-
tise that facilitates the attainment of an insider status. This is evident in
the policy networks we reviewed before, such as the iron triangles, pol-
icy community and clientela. So, is this the case with the parentela? The
answer is that expertise is valued less. La Palombara (1964) does not
mention technical policy-related knowledge as an asset to insiders. Greer
(1994), too, leaves this question open. Instead, both authors seem to
converge that voter support and campaign resources are the most impor-
tant resources when it comes to seeking insider status within the ruling
party. They also note ideological compatibility between the party and
her prospective insider as something like an intervening variable. Things
work better if both sides think alike, but they work best when the group

provides electoral support. The BPS did not find any indication that ide-
ology or technical expertise played any role.
The account of Petrov indicates precisely that other groups and not
those with expertise are valued the most when approaching the party
policy venue. He recalled occasions where he was invited to informal
meetings organized by political party C to discuss the state of the busi-
ness environment in Bulgaria, and to formal consultations organized by
the party A. In both cases, it appeared that respondent’s policy-proposals
were given ample consideration. However, in agreement with Maloney
et al. (1994) that access does not mean influence, Petrov’s proposals did
not generally materialize into legislation. Few of them were adopted and
those portions of the concurrent legislation, which stood as respondent’s
earlier lobbying victories, were rolled back. In doing so, Petrov argued
that other solo actors in fact had made more effective representation into
the party and convinced it to return the previously unfavorable, status
quo. The shared position among respondents was that expertise is irrele-
vant to political parties, or to the extent it is, it is still insufficient to pro-
vide a group with core insider status to the party venue.
A strong indication for expertise being irrelevant to political parties
is also the fact that consultations held by political parties with interest
groups are sporadic and ad hoc. Respondents Hristov (party C) and
Mitrev (party A) at a given stage in their response addressed the struc-
tures designed by their own respective party used to facilitate consul-
tations with groups. However, respondent Lyubenov noted from his
personal involvement in party-sponsored consultations that the level of
technical engagement at such fora is extremely low to allow groups to
be persuasive. Consultations with political parties do not appear to be
geared toward establishing the technically correct policy decision. One
has to speak in a different language to politicians, who are more inter-
ested in the general, macro points, a policy covers (Lyubenov). As
Lyubenov also explains, political elites neither grasp the details of the
policy options, nor, as Videnov argues, do party political elites trust
technocrats in the civil service (in Petev 1998). Lyubenov also made
the explicit point that in the course of his advisory sessions with political
leaders of party C, the latter were unable to comprehend the details and
technicalities of a given policy where civil servants would. As a result, he
felt that most appropriate forum for his suggestions would be the civil
service consultations.

In a typical example of a party insider rendering administrative con-

sultations nil, in Gospodinov’s view, the party and its insider resisted the
amendments to the Law on Public Tenders that his TA promoted. It also
transpired that the insiders in questions were also members of the TA he
himself presided over. Similarly, Konstantinov was deliberately vague as
to single out the splinter firms that had also benefited economically from
a closer relationship with the ruling political parties. Konstantinov still
pointed out that those insiders are firms with abnormal profits at times
of an average economic downturn. Overall, these cases clearly discredit
the view that expertise is the currency of access, let alone influence of
political parties. Moreover, these episodes are also attributable to the
long string of respondents alarming us that administrative consultations
are often void because the party in power approaches them with a com-
mitment to its insider.
Finally, a more explicit and frank recognition came from Donchev,
who argued that party-group cooperation is driven by common interests
that do not rest on improving policies but onto maintain their collective
long-term access to political power. Donchev complained from his rela-
tionship with the ruling party at the time. He strongly emphasized that
meaningful technical consultations are largely limited to the civil service
and that political parties are trying to subvert them by trying to impose
the views of servile interest groups.
While this was said with reference to the consultative process facili-
tated by the National Council on Tripartite Cooperation, this is stated
here to advance another point. According to him political parties col-
lude with a number of affluent participant and act against the interests of
the wider civil society represented by interest- and advocacy groups, and
Trade Associations. In what he argued to be an oligarchic policy-making
model in Bulgaria, expertise did not feature in the party-group relation-
ship. It was reserved for the civil service and those groups who catered
to any insider status within political parties had to provide party-relevant
resources, such as campaign funds.

Voter Support and Ideological Proximity for Access

Evidence from the Bulgarian case also suggests that ideology plays no
significant part in the calculations of ruling parties whether to part-
ner with prospective groups. Although ideological proximity or its
more watered down variants, such as support to the party line, may

theoretically act as catalysts to a shift to core insider status, precisely

ideology seems irrelevant. There is virtually no data, both as direct
statements in support of that proposition, nor indirect, i.e. implicit in
respondents’ positions, that ideology factors in the calculations of ruling
political parties whether to engage in a cooperative relationship with a
given group.
No respondents addressed the link between party access and ideolog-
ical compatibility when discussing party-group relations. No evidence
was found if whether groups shared the ideological goals is a matter
of consideration to the party in power. Instead, a number of respond-
ents emphasized on the absence of any ideological considerations in the
policies of certain political parties and in appointing individuals of con-
trasting ideological background in their own government and civil ser-
vice (Georgiev, Nikolov, Cenov and Bachvarov). This suggested that
in their interactions with groups, too, ideology is irrelevant. Interviews
gave ample space to respondents to discuss the party-group relationship,
where should ideological proximity have been a factor that would have
been aired.
Respondent Nikolov on several occasions argued that it is the
exchange of electoral resources that counts the most (also Golemanov,
Gospodinov, Kuzmanov, Bachvarov, Mitrev and Valentinov). In that con-
text, neither Nikolov nor others saw ideology to be of any significance.
Although the passage below has a second interpretation, the main and
more evident one is that cooperation is on the grounds of the exchange
of campaign resources, i.e. campaign funds. Key names of individuals are
deliberately letter coded (// denote respondent’s action while speak-
ing). It also needs clarifying that the quotation below refers to the circles,
which in Bulgarian policy-making context stand for companies, oligarchs
and firms that may act in concert informally to protect their interests in
a close cooperation with the ruling party. But let us turn to Nikolov’s

S: And, that circle around [old party leader L], it was the so called Z,
R: Yes, /pause/

3 Quotation nomenclature: [ ]—author’s inserts; / /—author’s description of respond-

ent’s action; ( )—clarification by author; R—respondent, S—reSearcher; I—intermediary;

A, B, C … —concealed names of policy-making actors.

I: /inaudible/ with them now?

R: Well, they went elsewhere, I want to tell you, that they from [that cir-
cle], only one is left, that one –
S: V?
R: V is left. But V bends over to absolutely everyone, I want to tell you. V
is in very good relationship with [the leader of party C].
S: Huh?
R: How else! /confidently/.
S: But that he worked for [L] in the past – did not that get in the way of
V’s cooperation with [the leader of party C]?
R: Why should that be a problem at all? He is just now working for [C]!?
I: [party Leader of C] obviously does not mind, either! /laughing/
R: But why would [having cooperated with a different political party in
the past] be of any consequence, when a bagful of money is emptied in
front of [C]? And that is several times? /rhetorically/.

In the exchange above the assumption of the researcher when approach-

ing the topic was that each political party would prefer to cooperate with
ideologically similar groups or individuals. The excerpt however exempli-
fies that former party allegiance is irrelevant in the calculations whether
to establish a relationship with a new group. In the quotation, the busi-
nessman V found no difficulty in cooperating with two different ruling
parties. While in this case, the two parties in question were ideologically
similar, it is hard to say that ideological proximity has played any role,
because the fluidity of such party–group relations makes it implausible
that ideology would provide such a strong bond.
Respondent Nikolov cited another case where the oligarch, Mr. W,
had contributed a significant sum to the political campaign of party A
in exchange of adopting his nominee as Prime Minister H. It was an
interesting fact that before their appointment as a prime minister, H had
established their political career working for the ideologically opposite
party L. At the same interview with Nikolov, the intermediary, an active
functionary for party A, gave another example of a high-ranking individ-
ual within party A, who also assumed a high post in spite of a contrasting
ideological past. The implicit suggestion made by the intermediary was
that those party functionaries with a political past with the exact oppo-
site parties on the ideological spectrum were the result of cooperation
between party A and oligarchic party donors, who gain access with any
political party in power. Intermediary’s other implicit suggestion was that
party appointees resting on ideological astroturf were also representatives

of the oligarchic circle that funded A’s rivals in the past, then A itself.
Nikolov agreed to both.
The case of this particular appointment of H by party A emerged
again, at the interview with Respondent Penchev who in the past was
a member of the same party with H. He generously explained his life
story and involvement in the policy-making process in Bulgaria, as an
active member of party B’s executive bureau. At the end of the interview
he showed the researcher a handwritten list of names of nominees for
premier sent to party A. He confided he was personally involved in the
selection process and recounted their personal telephone calls with the
closest aides to leader of party A. Finally, he claimed that he personally
advocated the appointment of H as a prime minister, but did not elabo-
rate on any possible involvement of oligarch W.
At the time of that interview, the link between W and H had not been
established. However, it is possible to connect Penchev, H and W as they
share the same ideological inclinations and also because they are united
in their association with former party leader L, whose party stands on the
exact opposite ideological spectrum to A. Cenov and respective interme-
diary (below) argued that H owed the start of his political career to L
when L had been in power. Likewise, W owed his initial affluence to L’s
tenure, as well. Penchev in fact boasted personally to the researcher of
his close friendship to the leader of party L, dating from before H’s ten-
ure as a prime minister, as well. However, most importantly, the above
indicates that party A’s engagement with W and endorsement of H
were devoid of any ideological considerations because A conceded to an
appointment of an individual from an opposite ideological background
under the influence of the oligarch W.
In the same vein, respondents Aleksandrov and Georgiev also iden-
tified the same ideological departure of party A from its true ideolog-
ical riverbed. Both respondents extensively and avidly condemned the
cooperation between party A and an oligarch X, resulting in the latter’s
monopolistic position on the market. In doing so both respondents
independently criticized party A’s cooperation with actors who solely
focused on own self-interests. Party leaders of minor coalition partners
of A (Valentinov and Mitrev) voiced similar concern regarding that A’s
cooperation with economic actors is devoid of any consideration of any
ideological compatibility, even if we bring the term down to its lowest
common denominator, to mean ‘common good’. Not only was the party
devoid of ideological consideration as a guidance determining which

groups to cooperate with but it was also devoid of any moral compass
such as the common good which would help determine partner suitability
of aspiring insider groups.

Campaign Funds for Access

The sections so far demonstrated that neither expertise, nor group’s
ideological proximity have an effect on a group’s core insider status to
ruling political parties. Data from the Bulgarian case indicates that it
is possible for groups to establish core insider status within the ruling
party with the provision of campaign funds. That was first exemplified
by Petrov, who was fed empty promises at party A’s consultations, only
to maintain his support until after elections when respondent’s proposals
were watered down by political expediency and according to him in the
interest of competing groups. At both seemingly consultative meetings
he participated in with party A and C, the consultations lacked much
substance. Respondents Petrov and Konstantinov also implied that afflu-
ent actors had gained much better access to the respective political party,
although both were also reluctant to speak with names.
Respondents are unanimous that the high costs of electoral campaigns
put political parties at great dependency on campaign funds, which has
become the main currency of core insider access to political parties.
Although in order to combat the overdependence of political parties
on campaign funds each political party is given a state subsidy for the
electoral campaigns, respondents who campaigned either for mayoral
or MP positions in the past report that actual cost of elections is sev-
eral times higher than what is declared for reimbursement. A number
of respondents from political and business background argued that the
cost of political campaigns forces political parties to seek out any reason-
ably affluent business actors who can contribute (Golemanov, Bachvarov,
Petkov and Kuzmanov). Many used the terms oligarchs, grupirovki or
circle s to identify the private actors that parties cooperated with in order
to receive the rest of the necessary funds for carrying out the campaigns.
In the words of Georgiev: ‘do ut des’ or give in order to receive.
Groups tend to use campaign funds as the currency of core insider
status. However, as already mentioned earlier, and while they may seek
favorable appointments in exchange, it seems the prime good they
seek in return is privileged access to public tenders. In the words of

Gospodinov, at the one end of the bargain we have groups who possess
campaign funds to cover the actual costs of the campaigns:

In Bulgaria there is an absolute merger between the party and business,

between party and money, absolutely, because parties cannot function
without money, and money is obtained through business and this process
is not regulated. There are laws, that specify how much it could be spent
[on elections] […] Yes, but I know what the real costs are, say, for TV
commercials and the sums parties declare are insulting (under-reported,
sic) and ridiculous. And they declare such sums because it is on the basis
of such sums that they account to the State Auditor (agency, sic) and this
is how much the law permits them. But the money they spend is 2, 3, 4
times higher. […] I have an immediate experience in this respect because I
have taken part in many campaigns.

Also speaking from personal experience in politics and political cam-

paigns, Respondent Petkov explains the same:

[…] We have a mutual interconnectedness between services of the state

of the past, the present, and the grupirovki, which are those [actors] who
make it possible for a political party to come to power. This happens in
two ways. First, through the financing of a political party. It is known that
elections cost a lot, [or rather] increasingly cost more. Of course, I do not
have statistics with me, but a political party which wants to leap over the
4% barrier, if it does not have 10 million (leva), should not even attempt
going to elections. And this is not a question of buying voters; it is a ques-
tion of [expenses on] one serious and structured organisational work. […]
It is very naïve to believe that the members of a given party collect enough
money for electoral campaigns. This could not happen because Bulgarian
citizens are too poor. […] the grupirovki have [that resource] as well as
the interconnected structures with them [intelligence community], […]
so grupirovki are of importance and they are of importance for the party
infrastructural organisation, financing and resourcing, so that the party can
approach elections adequately.

In the same vein, Respondent Golemanov states:

So, say you are some party; you have a state subsidy of 2.5 million leva for
presidential campaigns. But you cannot do anything with those 2 million
leva! Because one interview or debate on national TV costs you 200 to 300
thousand leva! Well, the minute there is between 1.5 to 2 thousand leva!

That’s scary! You, without you having this economic circle behind your
back, the one we are talking about right now, [you cannot make it because]
it actually costs you 6 million leva. After that you declare them to the State
Auditor. [As for the firm sponsoring you] half of that money is accounted
as New Year’s calendars for 1.2 million leva, while in reality these are plac-
ards with your muzzle on them! But it is not you who pays for that!

In other words, the actual costs above that political parties declare to the
authorities are covered by the party donors directly. No campaign funds,
in excess to what the party receives as subsidies, is actually received by
the party. To substantiate his point, Golemanov provided an example
with their own mayoral political campaign:

When I decided to become a mayor […] I went from one firm to another,
[and] to those [people] with whom I was on good terms. […] They would
say, “Listen, 3 thousand leva, we can give to you!” […] and I bought plac-
ards with that, but they did not give the money straight to me! I do not
take any money!

By making this analogy, Golemanov argued that political parties need

not necessarily possess the campaign funds. Those could be spent on
their behalf by their sponsors. The question of actual expenses on polit-
ical campaigns is intriguing but requires an independent study on its
own. Identifying such a discrepancy would require much deeper access
to party functionaries and accounting documentation that is not in the
public purview.
Still, some of the more prominent NGOs, such as Transparency
International, who monitor elections, seem to confirm respondents’ con-
cerns. In a recent report, the Hristova-Valtcheva and Toneva-Metodieva
(2014: 16–17) argue that there are mechanisms in place to reimburse
parties passing a 1% threshold at parliamentary elections, however,
Bulgarian parties still do not fully disclose the sources of their funding.
With an index scale from 1, lowest, to 10, highest degree of party donor
financing, Bulgaria remains at about 4 (2013 Parliamentary Elections),
which still means high, and very much likely, deliberate concealment
of financing sources. This is clearly indicative of the fact that Bulgarian
political parties could be expending more than what they declare to the
authorities. Both the report and the results from this subsection, there-
fore, complement each other.

The main points to take out from this chapter are that the 26 elite inter-
views on the part-group relations confirm the outlines of the parentela.
The interviews revealed that groups can gain insider status to political
parties if they are able to provide the much needed campaign funds. This
is similar to the other two parentela cases in Northern Ireland (Greer
1994) and Italy (La Palombara 1964), where party insider status was
granted because the groups offered political parties the votes of their
rank and file. The Bulgarian case reveals the importance of a third kind
of resource that allows the group to gain core party insider status: cam-
paign funds.
Furthermore, the study so far shows that Bulgarian parties can act
as primary parentela venues, because they can control the civil service
through appointments and administrative reforms, although the latter is
an instrument that warrants further research. In any case, political parties
enter cooperative relationship with those groups that can provide cam-
paign funds. The discussion on party access, however, should also be read
as relevant to the other two parentela descriptors: cooperation and power
parity. The description of the interaction between parties and prospective
party insider can clearly be read as evidence of a balanced and cooperative
relationship between the two. Neither tension nor attempts at overpow-
ering can be detected in the respondents on the relations between the
party and prospective insiders. Finally, as it was already indicated, a better
way to demonstrate the original parentela is by presenting a case of it in
action, which will be done in the next chapter. The last thing we need to
do before going any further is to remember that both parentela dynam-
ics (or types) will be combined together in a single model of oligarchic
dynamics in Chapter 5.

BCCI (Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry). (2011a, December 16).
BCCI Press Release. Retrieved from
BCCI (Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry). (2011b, December 15).
Parliamentary Debates Transcripts, #236. Retrieved from http://www.bcci.

BCCI (Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry). (2011c, December 15).

Parliamentary Debates Transcripts, #237. Retrieved from http://www.bcci.
BCCI (Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry). (2011d, December 15).
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Bozhidarova, V., Kolcheva, V. & Velinova, R. (2002). Politico-Administrative
Relations in Bulgaria at Central Government Level. UN Panel. link:
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et al. (2008). The Networks of Transition—What Actually Happened in Bulgaria
After 1989? Sofia: East-West [Чaлъкoв, Ив., Бyнджyлoв, A., Xpиcтoв, И.,
Дeянoвa, Л., Hикoлoвa, H., Дeянoв, Д., Mитeв, T., Cлaвeнкoв, Б., Cимeoнoв,
O., Чипeв, П., Cтoйнeв, B., Фeлиcи, Cт. (2008). Mpeжитe нa пpexoдa – Кaквo
ce cлyчи вcъщнocт в Бългapия cлeд 1989. Coфия: Изтoк-Зaпaд].
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February 4). Declaration from the Representatives Organizations on
a State Level for Their Discontinuation of Participation in NCTC
(National Council for Tripartite Cooperation) [ДEКЛAPAЦИЯ OT
ИM B HCTC]. KRIB. Retrieved from
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[Mиниcтepcки Cъвeт пpиe Cтpaтeгия зa Paзвитиe нa Aдминиcтpaциятa].
(2014, March 5). BGNES. Retrieved from
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Interests, Influence, Politics. Sofia: Transparency International.

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Patronage in Post-Communist Europe. West European Politics, 34(5),
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University Press.
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Transition in Bulgaria and a Bit Thereafter. Sofia: Trud [Paйчeв, A., &
Cтoйчeв, К. (2008). Кaквo ce cлyчи? Paзкaз зa пpexoдa в Бългapия и мaлкo
cлeд нeгo 1989–2004. Coфия: Tpyд].
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Bulgaria. In P. Kopecky, P. Mair, & M. Spirova (Eds.), Party Patronage and
Party Government in European Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

La Palombara’s Parentela in Bulgaria: The

Case of Public Procurement Contracts
(Public Tenders)

As noted in the Chapter 2, more convincing method to demonstrate

the parentela would be if we could observe it in operation as a com-
plete system. Following the research plan to identify cases of the
parentela in the course of fieldwork, the study successfully identified a
policy area where one could observe the parentela: the award of public
procurement contracts in the construction sector. The case is based on
the observation made by the respondents and in a report commissioned
by the Bulgarian construction sector (VUARR 2014) that as of 2014–
2015 some construction firms appear to dominate the public tender auc-
tions. In more detail, the case argues that this parentela formation is the
result of the combination of two intersecting independent variables: con-
struction firms trying to survive in a market in decline and at the same
time political parties trying to find campaign funding. On a more gen-
eral level, the argument is that the parentela in the Bulgarian case is the
result of a common desire by political and private actors to monetize,
i.e. convert, political access into capital. For political parties, conversion
is providing access to an insider group against campaign funds. For the
party insider, conversion means to improve its market competitiveness by
exploiting its good relations with the ruling party. In the specific case
which we will discuss here, improved competitiveness means dominat-
ing over the distribution of public construction project procurement
bids. As we will see later, another form of conversion is the exploitation
of the regulatory agencies, or type two parentela, where one’s market

© The Author(s) 2019 59

M. Petkov, Oligarchic Party-Group Relations in Bulgaria,

competition is cleared using prejudiced regulatory inspections, facilitated

by party political patronage in the civil service.
The chapter is structured as follows: In the first section, we will intro-
duce the subject of public tenders, the Law on Public Tenders (2004)
and how its provisions enable the formation of type one parentela
dynamics. The second section will focus on the evidence of party inter-
ference in the process of public tenders, which essentially is network’s
manifestation. Only one aspect of the parentela relationship will deliber-
ately be left for the next chapter: the relationship between the insider and
the party. Again, because qualitative data is such that it can be attributed
to two categories simultaneously, we will discuss the evidence that polit-
ical parties influence the allocation of public tenders in the interest of
their insiders in the next chapter.

The Law on Public Tenders 2004 and the Parentela

The Law on Public Tenders (LPT) was first introduced in 2004. It reg-
ulates the provision of goods and services to the public by private firms.
In many cases, these are large construction projects, such as highways,
dams, bridges, etc., the completion of which is carried out in the shape
of a contract, known as public tender or procurement contract between
the state (i.e. employer or essentially the civil service) and a private firm
(contractor). According to LPT 2004, the civil service (the employer)1
has to organize an auction where prospective contractors would compete
against each other (bid) which of them would make the most agreea-
ble offer to the employer. Before an auction is convened, however, the
employer specifies a list of criteria for eligibility of participation and the
criteria according to which offers will be considered. For example, some
of the criteria that the offers might have to meet are appropriate price
range for project’s execution, years of experience in providing the ser-
vice, project’s duration and everything else that the employer deems
The present case on construction tenders began with the observa-
tion that most if not all respondents used public tenders to exemplify
political malpractice between ruling parties and private companies,
particularly in the construction sector. In fact, was also articulated in a

1 According to article 7 from LPT, an employer of public tenders is essentially the civil

service, such as ministries, agencies, local level administration.


report commissioned by the sectoral peak association of the Chamber

of Bulgarian Constructors (KSB) and later carried out by the Higher
School for Agri-Business and Regional Development (VUARR). The
VUARR report is representative of the construction sector in Bulgaria,
with about 350 surveys featuring open and close-ended questions
(VUARR 2014: 5–11). The study was carried out in the form of a sur-
vey among the construction firms in the Bulgarian construction sec-
tor in 2014. Based on the personal experiences of the respondents, the
VUARR (2014: 76–104) report argues that the prime (if not the only)
source of manipulation of the public tenders lies with public bodies that
skew the criteria for participation so to narrow the competitors down to
the intended ones.
The sectoral study reveals that construction company owners com-
plained mostly from the fact that advertised public tenders require such
characteristics from the prospective contractors that can only befit only
those with connections with political parties. Accordingly, a dominant
observation of construction firm owners was that firms with direct party
access tend to dominate the market for construction tenders (VUARR
2014). The second (37.5%) most important difficulty that Bulgarian
construction firms faced was corruption and disloyal competition, i.e.
the firms that won public tenders thanks to party political interference in
their favor (2014: 16–17, original emphasis):

The fact that the larger category investors are not private […] places the
larger sector before the larger problem of corruption, the dictation of for-
eign and/or those firms having political protection and investors, as well as
disloyal competition. This is the position of more than one third of those
participated in the questionnaire. Part of the construct[ion firms] and
experts describe classical cases of eventual competition elimination with
“specific” criteria, which decrease the possible competitors to a few. […]

The report in other words states that a dominant position among con-
struction firm owners is that political parties interfere in favor of party
insider groups to the effect that the latter become disproportionate con-
struction tender winners. This is labeled above as corruption and ‘those
firms having political protection’ (VUARR 2014: 16). Toward the end,
the quotation above also indicates that the most often used mechanism
for tacit preselection (of party insider groups) is the careful wording of
the eligibility criteria for procurement auction participation.

The VUARR report is not alone in highlighting that contractors can

win public tenders by making the eligibility criteria fit the desired firm.
This point is also discussed in the second version of the Motives support-
ing the October 2014 amendments to the Law of Public Tenders 2004
(reference number 302-01-14). Such “Motives” are compulsory legal
text that discusses, comments and explains in plain form the reasoning
behind any new or amended legislation. Interestingly, there were two
such versions of the Motives behind LPT October 2014 amendments:
first one issued on 26.07.2013, and a second version as of 28.08.2013.
Of interest here is the latter one. It stated that the proposed amend-
ments intended to address the two difficulties associated with the con-
duct of public tender auctions, which had been outlined in a much
earlier decision of the Bulgarian Commission for the Protection of
Competition (CPC) 570/20.05.2010: public and private forms of public
auction manipulation.
The CPC Decision 570/20.05.2010 classifies public tender
manipulation in two categories: public (employer) and private (con-
tractor) (CPC570/20.05.2010: paragraph 9). Out of the two, the
present discussion is interested in the former because according
to the CPC employer-related forms of public tender manipulation
could serve as a mechanism to pre-select party insiders. Paragraph 10
(CPC570/20.05.2010) states that the free competition of offers sub-
mitted by prospective contractors can be inhibited by actions, inactions
and legal acts that are within the legal purview of the employer, which
in the LPT case is the civil service or more specifically the Public Tender
Committees (PTCs) (discussed below). Furthermore, Paragraph 11
(CPC570/20.05.2010) directly describes how employers can predeter-
mine or ensure the grant of tenders to desired firms (or to party insiders
as this chapter argues) (emphasis added):

The public form of tender competition circumscription could be realised

by the employers themselves through the introduction of discriminatory
conditions and requirements on the participants at the start of public
tender assignation procedure, which narrows the circle of potential con-
tractors, creates unjustified access barriers to candidates or favouritises
in advance a specific market participant. The violation of the principle of
free and loyal competition is possible when some applicants are unlawfully
decreed permission to enter the auction and their offers considered when
in fact they should have been disqualified.

In other words, the criteria of eligibility to participate in a tender can

be worded and devised in a way so as to render any non-desirable com-
petitors ineligible to compete at the auction. As it will be demonstrated
below, respondents from the BPS and VUARR studies report a ubiquity
of this practice in the 2010s.
The importance of this CPC decision and its Motivation is that they
further justified looking into public tenders as an area that harbors the
dynamics of La Palombara’s parentela. The definition of the public form
of auction manipulation clearly overlaps with the logic of the paren-
tela, where the ruling party intervenes in the work of the civil service in
order to benefit its party insider group. True, in the context of public
tenders we are not dealing with formal interest groups or policy-making,
but none of this violates the parentela dynamic. We are still dealing with
a party insider who is capable to indirectly influence the decisions of the
civil service by having the party interfere on its behalf using political
appointments, as we shall later in this chapter.
Some theoretical examples of public forms of auction (bid) manipula-
tion could be found in another, adjoining, paper produced by the CPC,
which is to be read in conjunction with decision 570/20.05.2010.2
Titled List of Circumstances whose Presence Allows for Suspicions of
Auction Manipulations (CPC 2010) this addendum to decision
570/20.05.2010 is a reference summary and a checklist of suspicious
circumstances at procurement auctions which might indicate public or
private forms of bid manipulation. It was mentioned that a public form
of manipulation is when there are tacit agreements between the employer
and the winning bidder. A private form of auction manipulation, then, is
when competing wannabe contractors form a cartel and agree in advance
on which of them will submit the winning offer. Unfortunately, that doc-
ument does not explicitly specify which of the listed circumstances relate
to which categories, although there are scenarios in the list that would
clearly ascribe to public forms of bid manipulation.
The first situation that arises suspicion of possible arrangements
between the contractor and employer is when, ‘1. […] an offer is sub-
mitted by a candidate who is publicly known to be unable to execute



the file CPC Check list Bid-rigging final.doc, md5 2c3399221024edccd69017ceca198577,
which lists the scenarios that are indicative of public tender malpractice.

the tender […]’. We believe this to be true as unbeknownst of this point

both respondents Rumenov and Dobromirov mentioned in their expe-
rience in construction tenders cases where firms with no such experi-
ence won lucrative tenders for road constructions. Another indicator for
employer-based manipulation relates to cases where candidates do not
include the necessary technical specification for project’s execution, but
boldly participate:

3. One or a few of the enterprises who have submitted offers, have not
required from the employer the technical specifications on the object of
the tender or their offers lack such data that would normally follows to be
included […]

At first sight, this scenario seems more befitting a case where private par-
ticipants have agreed in advance on who would submit the winning bid
(i.e. formed a cartel) and so, all save for the agreed participant submit
technically flawed offers. However, this could also be read as a form pub-
lic form of bid manipulation, if a firm lacking such technical specifica-
tions, or offering inferior ones is selected as the main contractor. This is
analogous situation to the earlier point above.
However, point 30 of the checklist directly speaks of the public auc-
tion manipulation type, when certain firms become the predominant
contractor in a given area or the provision of certain goods/services
despite evidence of potent competition:

30. Said participants regularly win the procedures for the assignation of a
specific type and volume of public tenders, or procedures opened by spe-
cific employers, or in specific geographical regions often win the same par-
ticipants from the market, although there is evidence of real and potential

In other words, suspicions of party-intervention in the allocation of pub-

lic tenders arise whenever—despite evident competition—a certain con-
tractor dominates the tenders in a given region, or when they dominate
the provision of a certain good/service under near-identical specifica-
tions; or, finally, when a certain contractor dominates the public tenders
coming from a certain employer.
Ultimately, the results of the VUARR study are a clear testament of
the unimpeded practice of public tender manipulation as specified in

paragraph 11 of the CPC decision CPC570/20.05.2010 above and the

points from the Motives. The responses are too voluminous for extended
discussion but the few quotations here are enough to illustrate the con-
siderable breadth of party interference in public tenders:

Sometimes it happens so that the conditions are so specific to one firm that the
only thing missing in the [selection] criteria is its name. (VUARR 2014: 104)

The construction sector is hostage to politicians. (VUARR 2014: 77)

Real market competition is pushed aside by the fight for maximal proxim-
ity to party political tenders. (VUARR 2014: 104)

The created proximity between politics and the construction sector limits
free competition. (VUARR 2014: 104)

There is an accelerated liquidation of small construction firms through LPT

and more specifically the introduced criterion of “economically most suitable
offer [i.e.] technical offer”. The options are: remaining of a small number of
big firms that dictate on the market. Which ones would they be depends not
on their technological and technical or cadre capabilities, but on whether their
owner is in close relations with the ruling political party. (VUARR 2014: 101)

Again, these are excerpts from the interviews conducted with the
VUARR respondents. Their importance lies not only in serving as evi-
dence of parentela relations but that the scope of the practice might be
under-reported, because the authors of the report might have engaged in
some form of self-censorship. The suspicion arises when one reviews the
included interview excerpts at the end, which almost all complain from
party-sponsored manipulation of public tenders.
In any case and in unison with the VUARR (2014) respondents,
those from BPS were overwhelming in their identification of political
parties as the source of public tenders malformation. There is no devi-
ation from the VUARR view that political parties attempt to preselect
party insiders at public tenders in order to reciprocate for latter’s ear-
lier campaign contributions. A considerable number of BPS respondents
argued ruling parties are in the position to control the decisions of the
Public Tender Committees (PTCs) whose task is to convene and carry
out the procurement bids. We will discuss PTCs below. The difference
was in the nuances of the argument. Two active policy-makers at the

time of interview, respondent Hadzhiev and Gospodinov, explained that

insiders expect public tenders or appointments in the state administration
in return for their campaign resources provided to the ruling party. The
idea that public tenders are exchanged for public tenders access is at the
heart of Gospodinov’s position:

R: So, we start from [the inability of parties to meet the actual campaign
costs] and we finish with the sources. Sources [of financing] are clear:
the business [for parties], the big Public Tenders [for business]. We
[on behalf of industrial sector] are trying to win Public Tenders. At
present this is the only source of income for business. When there were
big foreign investors in the recent past, there was no such high level
of pressure, but now, things are serious. So, parties, coming to power,
there is nothing for free. Once you have taken the money, you have to
give it back. And this is done through state power (government, sic).

Respondent Bachvarov directly admitted that party political donors

approach parties with the intention to exchange that for public tenders
and appointments:

R: So, the business groups in Bulgaria take part in the entire chain of
conduct of politics in this state. From one angle, business participates
as early as possible in the formation of the branches of power, which
is at the electoral campaign, through sponsorship of various political
powers, and in another way – in the formation of the future govern-
ment. Very often specific ministerial and high positioned civil servants
are appointed under the influence of business structures. And third,
they (business, sic) participate in the process of real politics, which is
primarily through the distribution of public tenders, where every busi-
ness structure attempts to tear as big a share (contract, sic) as they can
for themselves.

As the respondent elaborated further, business groups see campaigns

as a form of investment. If the party becomes incumbent, then the
group should expect public tender in return. Respondent Gospodinov,
spoke in the same vein with particular reference to the entire construc-
tion sector:

R: Our aim is to try and decrease subjectivism (i.e. administrative pre-

selection of intended tender winner, sic) to minimum. We tried in

various ways. One was through the direct introduction of the German
legislation [… or] with very simple things, such as everything to be
uploaded online on the day of opening of the offers. However, we were
met with stark resistance, because there is a manipulation between the
process of announcing the criteria and the process of the opening of
the offers. So, the process of opening of the technical criteria [for the
job] lasts until the offers are opened. There is a gap of 2 to 3 weeks
between these two processes, when manipulation could be done, such
as cross-checking the prices in the offers.
S: You mentioned some resistance…
R: The resistance comes from the administration which does not want to
make the procedures public–
S: Why?
R: /laughs/because for the reasons I have just told you. So that the ability
to manipulate the end result remains. This is done through transparent
envelopes and all other ways, nearly criminal. I am telling you like this
but there are colleagues claim for such cases.
S: It is curious for me, how is it that the administration is doing that on
own initiative or under influence from elsewhere
R: Well, here things are intertwined. The administration says that the
European rules allow it, which is a manipulation and a lie. Here is the
connectedness between the administration and the people who rule
at the moment and the entire politics is towards directing [the out-
come of] public tenders. Overall, the general solution to this problem
is transparency, internet transparency and every step of the process
be announced publicly. There is no single impediment for that to be
achieved. […] but it is not happening […] they are voted in the com-
mittees but do not enter into effect.

The lack of progress in the Public Tender legislation at the time of

the field-work was explained with the subordination of the civil servants
to the political party in power, which refuses to commit to more trans-
parency in the process. Gospodinov’s response also implies that such
resistance could be indicative of protecting the interests of party insiders.
After all, it takes two to tango when it comes to the public form of pub-
lic tender manipulation.
Respondents Donchev, Kirilov, Bachvarov, Gospodinov, Zlatarov,
Rumenov, Dobromirov, Varbanov and Petrov spoke with particular ref-
erence to public tenders in relation to insider groups securing insider
access as a result of an exchange with ruling political parties. The more
important statement is from Donchev who argued that the law is

deliberately imprecise so as to allow party insiders and the party itself

to be able to tilt the outcome of public tenders in their favor. This is
also another confirmation of the argument that the core weakness of
the October 2014 amendments is the continued facilitation of party
interference. Speaking as a director of a peak construction association
prior 01.10.2014, Gospodinov stated that LPT’s imperfections allowed
for party-appointed experts to take part in PTCs decisions. He was
not invited to elaborate because the significance of this statement was
not immediately evident to the researcher at the time of the interview.
However, documentary evidence later on further supported his claim on
the significance of PTCs and how they fitted the overall mechanics of
public tender manipulation.
The purpose of this section has been to exemplify the point that pub-
lic tender manipulation could serve as a case of La Palombara’s parentela,
and more generally, that public tenders are a contested ground whose
dynamics follows the logic of the parentela. The provided examples
above are simply a variation of the parentela theme where an informal
party insider group, which does not represent the interests of a social or
economic sector, benefits from that party’s interference in the work of
the civil service, and as a result of which is awarded state procurement
contracts. These statements, however, although coming from an author-
itative source, still leave a missing link in the chain. Essentially, what is
the mechanism, steps or process that unites the party, civil service and
the party-privileged public tender winner? So far we read the statements
that party insiders win public tenders. If that is so, how? The only hint
we were given above was that molding the criteria for auction partici-
pation to match the profile of the desired participant ensures that the
winning firm will be the intended firm. The actual answer is in the party
political control of the so-called PTC. These are the administrative bod-
ies that convene and decide on public tender auctions. As Gospodinov
hinted the control of the PTCs through political appointments enables
the ruling party to predetermine the outcome of a PTC’s ruling. This is
discussed in the next section.

Party Interference in Public Tenders

The study found that political parties could preselect party insider firms at
public tender auctions by shaping the membership of the administrative
body that decides on the winning tenders: the Public Tender Committees.

These committees are specified in art 34(1) from the LPT (writing with
reference to the October 2014 amendments) and they are established by
the state employer, i.e. the civil service. The members of the PTCs have to
administer the auction of public tenders: from the formal announcement
of the prospective auction to the final selection of the winning bid, and the
maintenance of necessary legal or administrative communication with third
bodies, such as trade associations, EU institutions, and ministries.
The controversy around the PTCs is about who will sit as their mem-
ber, because its members define the criteria for participation and assess-
ment of the offers made by prospective constructors. As we shall see the
parentela forms when the PTCs are predominantly staffed with party
political appointees. While the October 2014 amendments provide for
nonpolitical experts to sit at such committees, the legal provisions are in
fact permissive of the continued political appointments. The crux of the
matter is that although PTCs are allowed to recruit their expert members
from respective trade associations, there is no obligation on the admin-
istrative unit director who will act as the employer to do so. They have
the discretion to decide whether they have the experts to appoint in the
PTC in-house and whether they need to attract someone from outside
their administrative unit. In light of the extent of party patronage in
Bulgaria, one could imagine that high-ranking servants will always find
the experts they need from among their subordinates. This brings us
to the next point. There is no criteria according to which a director can
decide whether the in-house servants can act as PTC expert members.
Obviously, in the absence of any specific criteria defining who can qualify
as an expert, any one subordinate servant can be an expert in the eyes of
an agency chief. Thus, following the long chain of appointments starting
from the ministers downwards, the party controls who sits at the PTCs.
In turn, staffing a PTC with political appointees allows insider preselec-
tion through a careful definition of the participation criteria to fit the
profile of the party insider participant, i.e. public form of tender manip-
ulation described above. All of this ultimately corroborates the VUARR
2014 report which posited that a major impediment to the public tender
auctions execution is the party interference in favor of certain firms. The
present section explains how this is done.
A recent report by Bulgaria’s intelligence agency DANS, pre-
sented by Mr. Kalin Krastev concerning oblast3 Shumen states that the

3 Oblast is the largest regional unit, which consists of smaller units called obshtina (sg; -ni, pl.).

careful selection of the members of the PTC facilitates the tacit con-
tractor preselection. In his summary to the public (Shumenska Zarya
(40/12420)/27.02.2015: 2) he confirms that the main mechanism of
preselecting an intended contractor is through the malformation of the
participation eligibility criteria and the criteria for assessing offers’ fea-
sibility. However, he also notes that this is in turn is only the result of
political parties influencing the work of the PTC. In his words (emphasis

Interconnectedness exists between the employer, contractor and sub-con-

tractors where in many cases; the servants on a governmental post exert
influence on the selection of specific constructor or consortium. […]
A defining factor is that the committees are convened by servants
of the respective administration which are directly subordinate to and
find themselves in hierarchical dependence on persons holding gov-
ernmental posts.

The DANS report then corroborates the industry-wide observation

made in the VUARR and among the parentela study respondents that
political parties interfere in the market for construction work in the
interest of party insiders. The intelligence report confirms that this is
possible since those who preside over PTC decision are subservient to
the (local or central) political party. Once appointed as PTC members,
the party subordinates produce such procurement contract prerequisites
and specifications that can only be matched by the intended contrac-
tor. But how, then, is it possible for political parties to shape the PTC
In his written statement on the LPT 302-01-14 amendments, Docent
Doctor Gancho Popov (reference 167/27.09.2013) argues that ulti-
mately the party is still in the position to predetermine the outcome of
PTC decisions. Popov’s critique is that facilitated by a chain of politi-
cal appointments, the absence of obligation on employers to use experts
from the list of external experts (nominated by trade associations) in the
PTC allows the administration to continue to use civil servants, who
are political appointees, to prepare public tender procedures and who
in turn will design the offer feasibility and contractor eligibility criteria
in a way that will fit the profile of the party insider firm (section 8.3)
(Popov 2013: 1–3). Another factor that enables the use of politically
appointed civil servants is that LPT does not specify the criteria that

determines who is qualified as an expert to sit at the PTC. Therefore,

state-appointed experts become an extension of the party in power.
This is entirely consistent with former minister Petkov’s position earlier
that any individual, regardless of how much they advertise themselves
as non-political experts is never free from the party that has appointed
them. Popov argues therefore that politically appointed civil servants will
always seek ways to recruit experts from the subordinate rank and file of
the state administration, when public tenders have to be organized. This
is facilitated by the absence of any provisions in the LPT, which enforce
objective criteria for any expert appointments. As it stands, experts spon-
sored by the civil service are left to the discretion of civil service directors
to determine their expert status (2013: 2).
Popov rests his critique on the interplay of articles 8(7) and 20(1)
of the LPT October 2014 amendments, although for completeness,
one also has to add the importance of articles 34, 19(2)8, 20(1) from
LPT and 19(1–4) from Law on Administration. Article 19(1) from LPT
clearly states that the director of the agency that regulates public tenders
is a political appointee: ‘the Agency on Public Tenders (APT) is directed
and represented by an executive director, who is appointed by the
Minister of the Economy, Energy and Tourism.’ This demonstrates the
party-civil service link. The party-tender link is evident in article 19(2)8
which states that it is the politically appointed executive director who has
to maintain a general list of external experts which are to be employed
when preparing for a public tender, i.e. in a PTC:

[T]he Executive Director of the agency creates, maintains and updates a

list of external experts for participation in the preparation and conduct of
procedures for granting of public tenders.

In addition, article 20(1)1 regulates where experts could be recruited

from: the trade association of relevant expertise to the tender, the civil
service and any individuals who consider themselves as experts in the
respective field of the tender auction:

The list according to art. 19(2)8 includes persons who have professional
competence, connected with the […] public tender, and: 1. are nom-
inated by professional associations and organizations from the respec-
tive sector or from bodies according to art. 19(2-4) from the Law on

the Administration, with a notice of their professional competence, or 2.

Individually have submitted such a claim […]

In other words, the APT director is a party appointee, who in turn can
make political appointments of experts. Those experts are then used to
formulate the specifications public tender offers have to meet in order to
be allowed to compete and be considered at the auction. Article 8(7) of
LPT states that prospective employers have to include experts in the exe-
cution and assessment of public tenders, where if they do not have any
such experts at their departmental disposal, they can call external ones:

In preparing for the procedure of granting a public tender, employers

are obliged to provide for the preparation of technical specifications, the
methods of assessment of offers in the documentation for tender participa-
tion […] at least one expert who has professional competence connected
with the tender object. When the employer does not have at their disposal
[civil] servants, who can meet the professional competence requirements,
then he provides external experts from the list specified in [19(2)8].

The crux of the matter is essentially here. According to Popov, the law
implies that it is up to prospective employers to determine whether they
have or not the intradepartmental experts under their subordination to
carry out the public tender (2013: 1–3). Because, as we already demon-
strated in previous chapters, the entire Bulgarian civil service rests on
political appointments. Therefore, any departmental chief is under par-
ty’s control and in turn will act in the interest of the party, especially
when it comes to selecting the members to sit at the PTCs. In Popov’s
parlance, these in-house experts are the appointed experts (2013: 1–3):

If the employers have an interest not to observe the suggestions in art.

8(7), [they can appoint] a convenient for them expert, [who] will establish
criteria which will only be met by the desired public tender candidate. […]
We are left [to depend on] those who will nominate the experts to forego
their own personal interests and to demonstrate righteousness in carrying
out their mission.

In other words, political appointments in the civil service facilitate the

covert selection of the party insiders at public tenders. In the absence
of any formally stipulated criteria for assessing one’s level of exper-
tise, there is nothing to prevent a prospective employer to appoint his

subordinates as “experts” in the preparation and execution of pub-

lic tenders. Ultimately, because of being dependent on those who have
appointed them, those tasked to oversee and select the winning tender
will develop such criteria for tender participation and bid assessment,
which will narrow the outcome more or less to the only one participant
(firm), as desired by the party bosses.
The only clarification one could make to the above is to add that this
dynamic materializes in the PTC which is the actual body of experts and
servants that presides over tender auctions and selects the winning ten-
ders. Article 34(1) states that ‘The employer appoints a committee in
order to conduct the public tender.’ Articles 34(2–3) also specify that
the membership of the PTC has to be at least 50% populated by experts
and if those are not available, those should be recruited as per article
19(2)8. And it is exactly here where Popov’s dynamics above takes place.
Employers convening a PTC determine whether they have the necessary
experts among their staff to carry out the public tender, without having
any obligation to include external experts. In other words, a party’s abil-
ity to interfere in the work of PTCs allows it to preselect desired groups
as main contractors. This means that articles 20(1), 19(2)8 from LPT
(October 2014) and articles 19(1–4) from the Law on Administration
allow the party in power to control the membership of the PTCs by first
appointing the head of the central or local executive structure and then
by specifically allowing the same political appointees to make their own
appointments to staff the PTCs.

The dynamic revealed in the above paragraphs is essentially a case of La
Palombara’s parentela. Granted that these dynamics are a bit further
from actual policy-making, the logic under which they unfold, however,
strictly follows the parentela. We have observed how a ruling party can
exploit political appointments to legally influence the decisions taken by
the PTC, which eventually is a civil service structure. We have observed
so far that the Law on the Administration and Law on Local Self-
Government and Local Administration enable the central or local ruling
party to dominate the respective administration with party cadres. The
same logic of party patronage is evident in the Law on Public Tenders,
which enables the ruling party (centrally or locally) to stack PTC

membership with loyalists, who in turn will mold the auction require-
ments so to fit the desired party insider firm.
The last piece of the puzzle, one might argue, is the link between
political parties and the suspected state contractors. After all, the paren-
tela also features the dynamic where the group expresses an interest
which the party then delivers through interfering in the civil service.
In this case, the question is whether there is any evidence to indicate
that party interference in public tenders is the product of a preexisting
agreement with an insider? This link will be presented in the following
chapter. As already mentioned, this particular qualitative data is multidi-
mensional and although it is attributable to the present chapter, we will
discuss it in the much more pertinent case of type two parentela in the
following chapter. There we will focus on the party insider relationship
and the coercive parentela dynamic that the BPS discovered.
Probably here is the space to briefly comment on type one paren-
tela from the perspective of the oligarchic model, which we will discuss
in Chapter 5 in more details. At this point, we can say that the paren-
tela could be seen as a mechanism of enrichment of the party and its
insider. Against campaign contributions or any such resources pro-
vided by the insider, the party will interfere in the civil service in their
economic interest. In this case such interference comes in the form of
public tenders, although there is nothing stopping us from general-
izing further to areas that could have immediate effect on an insider’s
standing. The fact that we have strongly corroborated the existence of
party interference in the civil service provides us with the confidence to
expect likewise interference to the interests of the party insider on all
levels of the Bureaucracy. For example, the mobilization of party civil
service appointees, say on minor amendments business standards could
have tremendous effects on the market dynamics, which might render
the party insider as one of the few companies eligible to do any business.
Seen from this light we can see both the party and its insider as a form
of an elite unit, which is facilitated by the parentela dynamics to expand
economically and politically, at least for the duration of the government.
In the next chapter, we will see another behavior of the very same elite
unit, or rather, parente, where instead of simply trying to occupy the
civil service with its own nominations, an insider can have their mar-
ket competition put under the pressure of intense inspection from the
Bulgarian regulatory agencies.

CPC (Commission for Protection of Competition). (2010). List of Circumstances,
Whose Presence Arouses Suspicion for Auction Manipulations [Cпиcък
нa oбcтoятeлcтвa, нaличиeтo нa кoитo oбycлaвя cъмнeниe зa тpъжни
мaнипyлaции] (CPC Decision Nr 570 of 20.05.2010). Retrieved from
final.doc. MD5 checksum: 407ddeb0a8e244a585c89a005d5cf736.
Greer, A. (1994). Policy Networks and State-Farmer Relations in Northern
Ireland, 1921–72. Political Studies., 42(3), 396–412.
La Palombara, J. (1964). Interest Groups in Italian Politics. Princeton: Princeton
University Press.
Popov, G. (2013). Written Policy Statement on Proposed Amendments on the
Law on Amendment and Addition of the Law on Public Tenders 302-01-
14/29.08.2013. Reference number: 167/27.09.2013. MD5 Checksum:
Shumenska Zarya. (2015). Issue 40 (global issue) (12420) of 27.02.2015. Copy
in possession of author.
VUARR (Higher School of Agrobusiness and Regional Development), VUARR-
IRI (Institute for Regional Research at VUARR), & BCC (Bulgarian
Construction Chamber). (2014). Status and Problems of the Construction
Organizations in Bulgaria and the Role of the Chamber of Bulgarian
Constructors in the Solving Those Problems. Sofia: VUARR-IRI. Retrieved
from [Bиcшe Училищe пo Aгpoбизнec
и Paзвитиe нa Peгиoнитe (BУAPP), Инcтитyт зa Peгиoнaлни Изcлeдвaния
(BУAPP-ИPИ), Кaмapa нa Cтpoитeлитe в Бългapия (КCБ). (2014).
Cъcтoяниe и Пpoблeми нa Cтpoитeлнитe Opгaнизaции в Бългapия и Poлятa
нa Кaмapaтa нa Cтpoитeлитe в Бългapия пpи Peшaвaнe нa тeзи Пpoблeми,
Coфия: BУAPP-ИPИ].

Type Two Parentela as an Instrument

of Coercion

In Chapters 2 and 3 we focused on demonstrating the existence of the—

shall we say—classical parentela, as defined by La Palombara. This is
namely, the cooperation between a ruling party and its favorite, insider
group, where the former interferes in the work of the civil service in
order to deliver benefits to the latter. Chapter 2 was compiled on the
basis of the 26 elite interviews. When applied one to the other, the total-
ity of these respondent experiences in either observing or participating
in the party-insider group relations, we could distinguish the elements of
the parentela.
However, one particular weakness, one might point out, is that there
was no tangible evidence of the parentela as a network in action. Thus,
Chapter 3 addressed this complaint by looking at the dynamics in the
distribution of public tenders in the Bulgarian construction sector. The
analysis was valid in 2015 while the initial doctorate report was drafted,
and continues to being valid until the discussed herein legislative arti-
cles are amended. The chapter argued that there is evidence of large-
scale construction tenders given out to party insider groups, which in
turn comprise nebulous concertations of firms, (alleged) oligarchs or any
companies who act together to protect their collective interest, which is
to gain privileged access to policy-making and public tenders. Not dis-
closing specific company names or those of the individuals involved in
parentela relations meant that the chapter did not address the final

© The Author(s) 2019 77

M. Petkov, Oligarchic Party-Group Relations in Bulgaria,

element of a complete parentela: the evidence of party insider group

cooperation. Such form of cooperation, particularly in public tenders will
be presented here, because this particular data is multidimensional, and
in light of the following discussion, it serves a better purpose here.
The present chapter, in turn, will focus precisely on the details of the
new party-group dynamic labeled type two parentela dynamic or simply
type two parentela. It stands for the practice of prejudiced regulatory inspec-
tions (PRIs) where the regulatory agencies approach a targeted business
for an inspection with the concealed intent to find enough evidence of
malpractice which will warrant the rescission of previously granted licenses
of operations, the freeze of bank accounts or the discontinuation of any
business activity altogether. In other words PRIs are used as an instrument
of coercion where the objective is to incapacitate a targeted business with
punitive administrative and legal measures so that it loses some or all of
its market shares. This is what is identified here as the coercive arm of the
parentela, because both the party and its insider use it to affect their rivals.
The party insider uses these as an instrument to gain advantage over their
market competition, while the party uses PRIs against its internal or exter-
nal opposition. A third use of these PRIs has also been reported, namely,
as an implement of racket by the party and/or its insider. In this case,
PRIs are used as a method of extortion against neutral outsiders, who
refuse to take part in the public form of manipulation of public tenders. As
one respondent will elaborate: you are either with us or against us.
This is the second dynamic that comprises the extended parentela,
which will be discussed in the next chapter. The important points
here are that PRIs follow the general parentela logic, as it is facilitated
by the politically appointed civil servants. With that, PRIs constitute
another case of party’s interference in the civil service. The difference
is that instead of influencing the policy-making process or the award
of public tenders, the political appointees are used to mobilize the civil
service regulators to act against parente’s rivals: political and economic.
We will present the second parentela dynamic in the context of the
following uses: as a form of extortion, party insider’s attempt to clear
market space for themselves and as an instrument of political coercion.
In the course of interviews, the study came across a number of
respondents who at first sight seemed to describe parentela relations,
when invited to discuss and comment on the relations between political
parties, interest groups and the civil service. Upon closer examination,
however, it turned out that they identified a new and more conflictual

parentela dynamic namely, type two parentela. They referred to the fact
that ruling political parties and their insider groups not only sought to
exploit their access to the civil service for collective benefit, e.g. pub-
lic tenders, but also to coerce their rivals. Such rivals in this case would
be any firms, companies or individual businessmen who act as business
competition to the party insider group. Other rivals could be the sec-
toral trade associations who oppose certain governmental legislation.
Internal dissenters, too, could be seen as rivals and be engaged in type 2
The new dynamic is similar to La Palombara’s parentela (1964). A
political party in cooperation with a favored group, i.e. the parente,
exploits its access to the civil service through party political appointments.
However, instead of accruing benefits to themselves by amending legis-
lation or bending the rules for the award of procurement contracts, the
parente engages in administrative coercion. Such coercion in this case is
best described as prejudiced regulatory inspections. Usually, the regulatory
agencies of the state are tasked with oversight of all business activity in the
state and so conduct inspections in order to ensure that the latter complies
with state regulation. For example, such inspections could be to ensure
compliance with the tax code, health and safety standards or environmental
legislation, or that the business has all required licenses of operation, etc.
In an environment of civil service subordination to the ruling party,
then, such powers of inspections could be used as an instrument to
exert undue pressure on select businesses. As such inspections require
that companies limit their business activities either because their bank
accounts are frozen or their licenses are temporarily revoked, any such
inspection has the potential to incapacitate them and bring them closer
to bankruptcy. A party insider, therefore, could use regulatory agen-
cies as a way to impede their direct market competitors by exploiting its
access to politically controlled state regulator.
A political party, in turn, could use such inspections against the busi-
nesses that comprise the trade associations that oppose their policies; or
target the businesses of inner party dissenters. More strategically and
with particular reference to our oligarchic model, prejudiced inspections
are a convenient mechanism to affect the business structure of rival par-
ty–group elites, i.e. other rival parente: either those who are no longer
in power, or those who aspire to be. But this is a point which we will
develop in the next chapter. The next question we will deal with in the
following sections refers to the forms of application of PRIs.

An Offer You Cannot Refuse

The second parentela dynamic was first detected in the answers of two
of the earlier respondents in the study: Golemanov and Kuzmanov.
Remarkably their mutually independent thinking was identical in dis-
tinguishing not only type one parentela, but its new extension. Both
of them also accepted that parliamentary elections acted as an external
shock to the existing party-groups relationships, although this theme
will be discussed in the next chapter. Most importantly they argued that
party insiders could gain better market standing in two ways. The first
one is by dominating public tender decisions, which was reviewed in
Chapter 3, and the second: through prejudiced regulatory inspections.
Respondent Golemanov argued that Bulgarian elections are an
opportunity for the formation of a new close party-group relation-
ship. He explained that ruling parties are the natural center of gravity
for many individual business players who are eager to take advantage of
their possible privileged intra-party standing. Vice versa, political par-
ties are equally open for such possibilities, as long as there is a mutual
benefit. The deal between the two rests on the exchange of favors where
the party provides some form of business advantage to the prospective
insider in exchange for usually campaign contributions from the latter.
Accordingly, it may also be part of the party insider deal that the insider
nominates their own trusted protégées for party political appointment
as key civil servants or vice-ministers. Such appointments will guarantee
that the interests of the insider are met. In his view, at the heart of poli-
tics lies the battle for appointments in the civil service.
In a similar vein, Kuzmanov sees Bulgarian politics as the bat-
tleground of political versus economic networks. Accordingly, if
the economic elites were once able to exert undue influence in the
period immediately after the regime change in 1989, particularly the
Multigroup Corporation, now the tides have turned. The ruling polit-
ical elite today is able to overpower any business actors by mobilizing
the politically controlled civil service. In agreement with Golemanov,
Kuzmanov also sees the massive administrative sweeps with every party
change as the most important action of any political party that ensures
that the resources and capacities of the central executive structure are
under its control. The prospect of gaining a party’s favor, then again
motivates certain businessmen to join or cooperate with political parties
with the hope that the latter will support their business somehow. So far
these dynamics overlap with La Palombara’s parentela, or type one.

However, both respondents also converged on an additional, conflict-

ual dynamic between the parente and an outsider group. For example,
Golemanov argued that for any ruling party with orbiting insiders, i.e. a
circle, to remain in power, it is imperative to coerce former or concurrent

But to establish this circle of [privileged] firms, you need to remove the
competition and to create monopoly. /You mean to eliminate the other
circles--S/Precisely! Well, not exactly, but to parry them. To parry them!
Hence, battle for political power. You use state power for personal interests
[…] [the] battle is for that appointment [...] /enacting theatrically/ “If
Mr. X gets appointed, I will be fine, and my firm will be fine! If not, there
is a chance they will “draw the knife on me””.

The respondent’s use of ‘remove the competition’ implies some form

of pressure on said third actors, i.e. the market competition. With the
phrase “to draw the knife on me” the respondent indicates that the men-
tality of those groups vying for party insiderness is such that losers face
political and business extinction. In other words a ruling parente is using
its positioning to extinguish any form of political, economic rivalry, and
particularly that from other parente.
Kuzmanov, in the same vein depicts confrontation with rival groups
as another course of action that might be taken by the parente. In this
excerpt he begins by outlining the classical parentela:

Politicians want to have enough financial mass so that when they retire,
they can transform into business actors. […] That is why every party has
its own circle of firms which works with it. If the party is in power - they
work together. If the party is not, the latter begins orbiting around the
new party in power.

However, he then continues in the unexpected direction where the PRIs

are the result of entrepreneurs refusing the offer to cooperate with the
ruling party. We are left with the impression that the term is a code word
for racket on part of the ruling party, or in our case, by the parente:

Now, there are other cases where someone says “I am not going to pay
them any more” and of course they pay for it. In the time frame of a
few years they can destroy his business using legal means. […] And that
is why electrons start gravitating around that political subject […] What

we observe today is the destruction of business. Say you have a lucrative

business. They make you an offer, but you tell them “Sod off!” /enact-
ing theatrically/. “OK!” /replies to self/ But after that some strange legal
things begin happening to you until one day your business enters a phase
in which it can no longer expand. You then, willing or not, either sell it or
go bankrupt.

S: Who makes the offer?

R: You can never go back and identify the chain of individuals and say:
“Here, that one made the offer and he is connected to that one”.
Everyone knows that those men are connected /emphasises/, but this
is impossible to prove. If after all by accident someone decides to prove
said relationships, [they will] get fired.

In a way Kuzmanov paraphrases Golemanov’s argument earlier that as

soon as a new party comes to power its insider begins to look for ways to
expand its market shares. The offer, then is merely the peaceful form of
intimidating the competition. Later interviews also corroborated the idea
that those who refuse it will have to brace for PRIs.
On other occasions, the offer is a form of intimidation or racket in
the guise of an invitation to take part in the manipulation of public ten-
ders. Accordingly, if the target outsider is granted a public tender, they
will have to redirect some of the public monies paid for the project back
to the party (Rumenov, Dobromirov). Kuzmanov emphasizes in addition
that the offer comes from the party in power:

S: Is the origin of the offer political? […]

R: Entirely political. I am telling you again: We have had periods as with
the government of Berov, or that of Videnov, if you will, when the eco-
nomic actors pursued their interest /unintelligible/ [but] they were
interested only to take for themselves. They were disinterested in the
politicians. However, there is another scenario […] where the poli-
ticians exert powerful pressure on business one way or another – the
whole is motivated politically. And I am saying again, how could you
explain [seeing] a struggling businessmen rush to enter politics?
S: To protect their business?
R: And to expand it […] therefore it follows that the political network
dominates over the economic one.

In other words, according to Kuzmanov, while in the past business

groups may have been in a more favorable power position vis-a-vis ruling

parties, this is no longer the case. Political parties and their insiders today
are in the position to eliminate businesses through the use of prejudiced
regulatory inspections. One cannot help but notice that if Golemanov
only implies that the ruling party and its insiders can harm their joint
opponents, Kuzmanov is explicit and states that this is through both
prejudiced litigation and inspections.
The importance of Kuzmanov and Golemanov, again, is that their
mutually independent thinking reflects the logic of the parentela and,
unbeknownst to each other, both of them identified the second paren-
tela dynamic, which we coded here as type two parentela. However, the
common theme among both respondents and the rest who also mus-
tered the brevity to speak on these matters in the following paragraphs
suggests that the offer is a form of racket, intimidation or coercion
where the targeted business is made an unfavourable or a high-risk offer,
which will limit its market shares or potentially transfer the ownership to
a party insider group. Meanwhile, those who refuse it will be subjected
to PRIs.
We ended the previous chapter on the malformation of public tender
procedures with the promise that the present one will provide the miss-
ing piece of the puzzle: the element of cooperation between the ruling
party and its insider in the context of public tenders. We will address this
deliberate omission here, as the data below is also an example of the offer
as discussed by Golemanov and Kuzmanov. Two respondents observed
that while businesses might be looking for ways to cooperate with politi-
cal parties on public tenders, the reverse is also true: that political parties
or factions thereof proactively seek out businesses for the same purpose.
Again, refusal to accept this offer is met with retribution:
According to Dimitrov, it is commonplace for political parties to seek
out businesses that could be suitable partners in the bending of public
tenders. However, as prospering firms appeared as more suitable candi-
dates, he stated with relief that working at a loss for the past 5–6 years
actually spared him from being approached with any such offers that he
could not afford to neither accept (transfer ownership) nor refuse (or
face PRIs).
Rumenov, however, was not that lucky. Operating at a net profit of
millions of leva, he was approached by an envoy of the ruling political
parties at the time who directly offered him the opportunity to win a fuel
sector tender (which was pending public announcement) against giving
back some of the monies dedicated to tender’s execution. That would
have been party’s fee for doing him this generous favor. As a result of his

refusal, he underwent a barrage of inspections. Given its importance, the

account of Rumenov is quoted at length:

R: […] So, a representative of a given party central visited my firm and

introduced himself and said “We have reviewed your firm as a suitable
economic subject over which we can put an umbrella and calculating
the economic interests, there are benefits for the respective party as
well.” That is it. Those were parties B and A. And now, what happens
when you decline, /rhetorically/, as I did. My question was “This party
configuration at present, how long is it going to rule: until New Year,
until May, the whole mandate?” [the reply was] “However long we can
last, as far as we can make it.” And I said, “Fine, but my firm is 20 years
old and so far I have not had such attacks to participate in the circum-
vention of the law, crudely put, contraband and such things. I have not
had such problems and I do not intend to.” […]
S: It is interesting for me when that representative came, what did he have
in mind by saying “an umbrella”?
R: This means the securing of exclusive access to public tenders. In
Bulgaria there is no stock exchange market for public tenders. It is fic-
titious. You just go shopping there. You go in and say, the Ministry
of Internal Affairs (police, sic) is seeking to purchase fuel for [some]
prisons or whatever, and they tell you for instance that “The respective
contract is 5 million leva [and] if following the market prices, you will
win 100 thousand leva. However, we will increase the price for delivery
with 20% and you will give 40% of the total profits back to us, and if
you agree, you will take the tender”. This is what was meant: 20% for
the players, 20% for the party coffers. This is only half of the story. The
participation – whatever it is – in the Public Tenders /self-interrupts/
even now with my partner, my son, /inaudible/ there is a new tender
coming up tomorrow on the stock exchange market for public tenders.
It is about the delivery of fuel to army airplanes for 6 million leva [but]
with the stern warning [against me]: “Careful what you are doing.
Make sure you are not seen here because heads will fall”.

In short, with the change of government at some point in the past, the
respondent was approached by a representative of the new ruling polit-
ical parties with the offer to become a core insider and be privileged in
the competition for public tenders in the fuel sector. In this offer, what
they have to do in return is give back to the ruling party a fraction of
the budget they will receive to carry out the tender. The respondent will
specify artificially heightened costs for project’s completion and then the

difference between thus dedicated budget and the actual costs will be
given back to the party.
Here is the deliberately omitted evidence from the previous chapter.
It is not in construction but that is no matter. There is nothing to sug-
gest that such practices will be limited to fuel tenders and not spill into
other tender areas. Again, the emphasis here is that the party initiates the
negotiations and that a refusal to cooperate leads to coercion, i.e. type two
dynamic. As a result of refusing to cooperate, Rumenov was barred from
taking part in fuel-related public tenders with the direct threat that “heads
will fall”. On that point, he continues:

R: They have organised against me, as soon as I declined, those [men]

organised all of that against me. I was now a bit late for the inter-
view because of the commission at the State Reserve is investigating
me for a second day now. […] Now on Monday, the state transport
inspectorate (STI) will come because I have 15 trucks and the STI
decided to check the itineraries […] and whatever you can think of,
despite the fact I have never been caught in an offense, neither me nor
my drivers, that relate to the Laws on State Automobile Inspection,
the Movement on the Roads or on the Transportation of Dangerous
Cargoes, but all possible instances (agencies) were sent, to show me
that “Since you are not one of us, you are against us.” […] Ever since
then, all possible state regulatory agencies – all! /emphasises/ – such
as the agency on the environmental protection, on labour protection,
fire brigade, customs, labour inspectorate, auto-transport inspectorate,
[agency on] emergencies and natural disasters, everything that you
– the State Reserve! /exclaims/ – think of. Total inspections, all day
long! With the sole aim to justify the issuance of an Act of Misconduct
– whatever it is: overt, covert or whatever. This is the situation in
Bulgaria at the moment. […] [According to] the Law on Excise and
State Storage, with three such Acts of Misconduct one is in danger of
being suggested for the rescission of hitherto granted license of oper-
ation. So, the excise department of Sofia Customs is holding me con-
stantly with two such Acts (of Misconduct) which I fight successfully
in court, but in their place new ones grow like mushrooms for all sort
of absurd reasons entirely devoid from fiscal considerations, that is,
not because I evade taxes.

In short, the respondent above explains that the number of agencies that
were sent to inspect his businesses is in an avid response to him refusing

to cooperate with the ruling party at the time to malform public tenders
to joint benefit. The message is simple: either with us or against us.
Dobromirov also confirms the practice of parties proactively offer-
ing select groups an insider type of exchange. Just as with Rumenov, he
also expressed the common position of his construction peers that it was
those “intelligent men” who made visits and offers on behalf of politi-
cal parties. According to Dobromirov, political parties and their insiders
usually study a firm (outsider) for overall profitability before an offer is
made. This is exactly how Rumenov was approached by the party envoy
“we have studied your firm”. If it is declined, the targeted group can
only expect vociferous inspections from all regulatory agencies, particu-
larly tax and police.
Similar to the offer made by the party in power, Varbanov reported
being made an offer by a party insider group also working in the field of
construction. In his case, the offer acted as a condition to participate at a
construction tender of a section from a highway. If Varbanov wanted to
win the tender, he would then have had to sign off half of his firm away
to the insiders. While he did not report any repercussions on his business
as a result of that, he strongly agreed with the argument in principle that
state agencies are used by political parties and their insiders to destabilize
the outsider businesses with a view of absorbing them.
The purpose of the accounts above was primarily to introduce the
term prejudiced regulatory inspections, as a newly discovered adjunct
dynamic to the parentela policy network. The argument is not that the
BPS found a new policy network, but that it found a new dynamic the
parentela. In the following paragraphs, we will look at other purposes
of the application of type 2 parentela dynamics: a move by a party
insider, or party’s attempt to quell dissent from interest groups or inner

An Insider’s Move
A number of respondents claimed to be victims of their well-connected
competition to oust them from the market through severe regula-
tory inspections. The director of a trade association, Petrov and their
co-director (denoted R2) deserve special attention. Congruent with
Donchev, they argued that all amendments in business permits eligi-
bility criteria can be used by party insiders as a mechanism to beat the
competition. According to this view a party insider gains advantage over

the competition by using their access to the party and civil service to
influence a change of licenses and standards, so that only the insider
group meets the new standards, hoping the competition that finds it
harder to adapt and ideally exit the market (also a position advanced by
However, more importantly, in addition to being sectoral repre-
sentatives, they were also owners of timber companies. They explained
that with the change of government, unusual regulatory activity began
in their sector around 2005 until the point their firms were put under
continuous and stringent tax inspections. Very much like Rumenov,
Petrov and his colleague noted that despite their best attempts to coop-
erate with the regulator, the latter remained adamant and determined
to procede with litigation. Eight years prior to the interview, the court
cases are still ongoing with no verdict and with crucial documentation
on the case, the respondents argue, deliberately hidden from them. At
the time of interview, they were looking into suing the Bulgarian state in
Strasbourg. They argued that the absence of firm evidence of wrongdo-
ing against them indicated that the inspections were ill-intended to oust
them from the timber market.
Mihailov also argued that his only competitor, oligarch Q, was behind
some of the regulatory investigations against his business. Unfortunately,
that particular respondent insisted on the recording be stopped, save for
eight minutes. Accordingly, the mechanism used in Q’s attempts to beat
him was to use his access to the regulatory agencies in order to rescind
Mihailov’s license of operation. (On that note, Kirilov also commented
that this is one tool from the instrumentation on how to eliminate
undesirable business actors.) However, after the change of government,
Q in turn became the subject of regulatory pressure, with arrests and
police raids, as a result of a personal quarrel with the new government
(Mihailov; discussed below). Independently from Mihailov and each
other, Kirilov and Kuzmanov shared the view that said police activity
related to Q was devoid of any legal wrongdoing of his, but was polit-
ically motivated as a form of personal retribution by the ruling party or
the new insiders. Note that Rumenov argued that police raids and arrests
are the first line of pressure against a business that has lost favor with the
ruling party. The accounts of Mihailov again demonstrate that the civil
service is exploited to perform prejudiced inspection in order to elim-
inate party insider’s market competitors or party’s political opponents
(discussed below).

Respondent Hadzhiev, too, agreed that the use of regulatory agencies

against certain businesses was in fact a sign of conflict between the party
insider and outsider businesses. He argued instead that it was not police
raids but tax inspections was the main weapon. Along the same lines,
respondent Stoyanov argued that the undue regulatory investigations
that they were involved in at the time of the interview did not necessarily
originate from the party. He disbelieved his own importance stressing his
very strong suspicion that his competitors use their access to the regula-
tory agencies provided by a faction within the ruling party to instigate
tax investigations against him.
In conclusion, possibly Nikolov provided the best summary of the
type two parentela dynamics and the variety of mechanisms used to pres-
sure outsiders (timestamps are provided to accentuate on the four-sec-
ond silence of the respondent at 5703):

5651 R /repeats to himself researcher’s question/“Otherwise how could

they destroy you?” They don’t give you any tenders, they close your
markets, they send you control organs (regulatory agencies, sic) –
5703 /Respondent becomes silent; 4 sec pause/
5707 R You stop him from everywhere
5714 S How can they take your markets away from you?
5717 R […] when they send a Financial Revision team to you and, let’s
say, when they claim that you owe them 10 million Euros or Leva,
whatever it is. This kills. This is deadly. [Because, g]ood luck trying to
prove in court in the next four years that you actually do not owe that
money, and you will prove it indeed but you would be done for. In
practice you lose your market share because you cannot sell, as [dur-
ing litigation period] your bank accounts would be frozen, [and] there
would be a thorough description of your storages, machines and so
on, and this is how you go bankrupt.
5752 S Is it possible to survive in the market without having to cooperate
with the parties?
5803 R Possibly there are some people who win their bread honestly and
succeed to support small and middle size enterprises. […] but in prin-
ciple, they are so few that in a city like [the one we are currently in]
these are no more than 20–30 firms.
5827 S Some of the previous respondents used the term “racket” on part
of the state. I do not understand this. What would they have in mind

with “racket on part of the state”, and that is why I asked that (previ-
ous) question?
5844 R /repeats, annoyed?/“racket on part of the state” /unintelligible/
Someone comes in here and registers that – say they came from the
fire brigade – and they tell you: “The fuel tank is improperly fitted,
your liquid gas tank is too close to the road, etc.” But the fact that
they had earlier given you the license and permission to sell fuel is of
no relevance at all, because in the end they order you to stop all sales.
You then are forced to relocate down the road but the costs to do that
would be prohibitive. If you try to figure out the weak spot of a busi-
ness in this way, you will always find something.

Nikolov clearly demonstrated hesitation whether and how far to disclose,

evident at the 5703 timestamp. Nevertheless, he took a decision to share
his knowledge although he couched it in as neutral phraseology as pos-
sible, i.e. expressing it in terms of a model and dynamics. The statement
of Nikolov describes the type two parentela dynamics in its totality and
is what is taken here to represent its core dynamic. It is the deliberate
use of inspections from the regulatory agencies to either drive a business
competitor out of business or pressure them into parente’s submission.
The next two sections will discuss type two parentela in the context of
party’s suppression of external and internal political dissent.

Internal Party Dissent

Respondent Golemanov spoke further from personal experience on the
subject of the use of type 2 parentela as a retribution against internal
party dissent. He intimated that during their tenure as a town’s mayor, he
sought to speak his own mind on numerous occasions at local city coun-
cil meetings, in total disregard to party B’s hard line. While also having a
business and a few years spent in intraparty friction the respondent was
subjected to ruthless tax investigations. Speaking in agreement on the use
of the state administration as a tool of repression against internal party
dissent, Kirilov gave a more recent example with a different political party:

R: It is like the seduced and the abandoned and those abandoned from
[party S] are doing tricks one against the other. That is, until yesterday
you had been in the group of the anointed ones [of those who] had been
crushing businesses, and taking it away from others, and that you had

intimidated their children is of no concern to you because you are on

the side of the victor! And you do not notice this, you only smile. But in
one moment, however, they make the lists [of parliamentary candidates]
and you are kicked out. And then you say, “OK fine, but what we have
been doing to the others until yesterday will be done unto me tomorrow,
because I am no longer close to the Premier. I have now become equal to
the rest. I am no longer part of the strong, of the good and righteous”.

It should be noted that the statement sounds exaggerated somewhat

with the claim that business is “taken it away from others”. Nevertheless,
the important point here is that it bears the mark of intraparty repercus-
sions under the guise of regulatory inspections geared toward eliminat-
ing the businesses of party dissenters.

External Group Dissent

Another form type two dynamics resulting from the need to punish
politically opposing trade associations by targeting their business mem-
bers with prejudiced inspections. We already mentioned the case of
respondent Mihailov. Similarly, respondent Hristov hinted that not
always do professional representative bodies voice the grievances of their
members at the civil service forums. Rather begrudgingly he admitted
that some groups refrain from voicing their problems for fear of reper-
cussions. Respondent Donchev was adamant that there is a reverse pres-
sure from the ruling party back on formal interest groups, particularly
CIEB (emphasis added):

S: In the context of the state administration and interest groups, does the
state administration provide a more effective access to the policy-mak-
ing process than the direct contacts with the ruling party?
R: […] the representation of business in its standard forms is to some
degree well structured, [yet] it is empty from any contents. That is, a
huge part of the business organizations are also captured and they
are not independent in what they say […] because they are con-
nected to the ruling parties in one way or another and with rul-
ing politicians, or even if they are not directly connected they are
highly considerate [of ruling party’s position]. In the moment in
which they are considerate not with the interests of their members but
with what the power (government, sic) wants, they are not authentic
representatives of business’ interests. [As a result], to a great extent the

classical tripartite dialogue suffers because business managed to create /

self-interrupting/ I mean I am personally dealing with this project for
7–8 years, there was a lot of authentic and strong representation [but]
later after a line of a series of attacks that business organization was
practically diffused and broken.
S: What were the attacks?
R: All sorts, against the director, attacks on the members /Media attacks?
–S/ Media, tax investigations, the whole arsenal. From the means of
pressure /pause, self-interruption/[from] the beginning of Transition
[the intention] was exactly that, to have fake participants from the civil
society, fake NGOs, fake representatives of Labour, syndicates, fake
business representatives, fake media. Everyone who took part in the
debate had to seem independent, but in fact they had be controlled
from one and the same centre.

According to Donchev in other words, interest groups have two options:

to brace for a parentela type two conflict or appease the government
on legislation that they disagree on. At the same time, the emphasized
thread in the quotation above indicates that another strategy of the rul-
ing party is to reciprocally appease dissenting interest group’s leader-
ship by offering them privileged deals. This is not stated directly but it
is a probable implication given the practice of making offers one cannot
As if to deliberately support the position of Donchev, Rumenov stated
independently at the start of his interview that he deliberately refused
membership in the Gas and Petroleum Association because he felt it did
not protect his interests, but those of the colluded interest groups and
party leaderships. He was particularly disgruntled:

R: My business, this is the gas and petroleum association, these are

selected /self-interrupting/ not all of us are members in these things,
traders and players in this business. Well, there, the party in power
and the legislative structures select who to be a member in this inter-
est group (responded did use the term interest groups, sic). Discussing
the legislative changes with the group and other normative and
sub-normative (primary and secondary legislation, sic) a hidden inter-
est is pursued of a lobbying group. Everything in Bulgaria is subju-
gated to that. […] So, in the trade associations, only those directors
are elected who are convenient to the respective parties in power. And
from there on, they play together. No-one explained, for instance,

where businesses would find money for the increase of the minimum
salary […]

The position of Rumenov again reveals the two options interest groups’
leadership face when dealing with the party in power. First, either col-
lude with the party leadership and allow to be seduced (as per Kirilov),
or, second, try to oppose the policies you disagree to and be put under
tremendous amount of prejudiced regulatory pressure, as per Donchev.
Respondent Nikolov, too, advanced the same discontentment from the
work of Trade Associations, arguing that they collided with political par-
ties into a “select society” where the role of such groups was to facilitate
party’s to stay in power. Of course, the present study is only able to reg-
ister these relationships as opposed to assess their scope. However, what
transpires is that party’s ability to appoint in the civil service is used as a
tool of repression against groups, both inside and outside party struc-
tures. Moreover, this is true for all political parties. No respondent made
an explicit identification nor claim that this peculiar use of regulatory
inspections belonged to a specific political party.

The present chapter discussed the second and newly discovered strand
of the parentela policy network, namely, type two parentela dynamic. As
with La Palombara’s parentela, at the core of this dynamic lies the coop-
eration between the ruling party and a privileged party insider group.
The difference here is that instead of eliciting administrative favors
related to policy-making or public tenders, the party insider requests
prejudiced regulatory action against their market competitors. The rul-
ing party at the same time also takes advantage of its administrative con-
trol by exacting the same type of action against its political opponents
or actors who refuse to cooperate on arrangements of mutual monetary
But the importance of this chapter is that it provided the last piece
of the extended parentela model. Both parentela types comprise the
extended parentela which looked from a distance, raises the question of
its effects on the democratic status of the Bulgarian state. Previous chap-
ters accentuated that, facilitated by political appointments, any paren-
tela relations helped the party and its insider exploit the civil service.
For example, we observed in Chapter 3 how the parentela arrangements

facilitated the malformation of public tenders to the benefit of party

insiders. Similar type one exploits are completely feasible anywhere in the
civil service where executive and directorial positions are filled in through
political appointments. But the most important point here is that the
present chapter implicitly states that seen from a macropolitical level, the
parentela arrangements facilitate the formation of oligarchic elites. If the
parente in type one merely seeks to accumulate political and economic
power, rather passively, the parente engaged in type two dynamics is
expansive and retributive. This elite kernel, therefore, seeks to eliminate
market competition and subdue political dissent (external or internal). In
other words, type one and two dynamics are not mutually exclusive but
are performed simultaneously. While concentrating power, an elite can
also engage in persecuting its political opponents. Thus, we can already
say that the two parentela types could be seen as the elements of a single
dynamic, i.e. the extended parentela, which both creates oligarchic elites
and eliminates them. Why “oligarchic” and what is the extended paren-
tela dynamic in more detail will be discussed in the Chapter 5.

The Extended Parentela as a Model

of Party-Centric Oligarchic Relations
in Bulgaria

At the start of the present volume we introduced the parentela as a policy

network model developed for the first time by Joseph La Palombara
(1964). He studied the relationship between the Christian Democratic
(DC) political party in Italy and the interest groups that competed for
privileged access to its leadership Confindustria and Catholic Action in
particular. The parentela was developed with reference to the close work-
ing relationship of the DC with Catholic Action, which reflected the
interests of the devout electorate. In its core, the relationship is simply
about a political party that interferes in the work of the civil service on
behalf of its party insider group. In the Italian case, greatly facilitated by
a politically controlled civil service, the parentela relationship allowed
Catholic Action to control the cinematographic content released publicly
in the 1960s Italy (La Palombara 1964).
The absence of recent research into the parentela, as well as the
other policy network models, raises the question of the analytical util-
ity of those terms, and whether those were in fact Western policy-mak-
ing arrangements specific for the period 1950s to 2000s. The only other
research that has confirmed the existence of parentela relations is that of
Ian Greer (1994) who analyzed the relationship between the Unionist
party (UP) and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) in Northern Ireland
for the period from 1920s to 1970s. He, too, found that the relationship
between the UP and the UFU conformed to the parentela. The govern-
ment of Stormont consistently elected as Ministers of agriculture nom-
inees from the rank and file of the UFU, who in turn oversaw latter’s

© The Author(s) 2019 95

M. Petkov, Oligarchic Party-Group Relations in Bulgaria,

interests. Again, however, the absence of much research into policy

networks of the qualitative approach, save for Compston (2009) most
recently, suggests some withdrawal from the field which could be attrib-
uted to either distrust of the qualitative method or in the conceptual
The initial question that motivated the present study was to address
this uncertainty: whether the parentela still exists today, and whether it
still has any utility for us? More specific to the Bulgarian context, the
study addressed the question whether the parentela relations could
explain the party-group relationship described in Bulgarian publicist nar-
ratives as circles, where party functionaries were recorded forming close
friendly circles with private businessmen, christened by the media with
various names, such as Olimp, Monterrey, Admiral, etc., usually after the
restaurants where they met. The theory of the parentela itself too pos-
ited the question whether the parentela is formed by hegemonic political
parties. Bulgaria, then, was chosen precisely because it lacked any hegem-
onic parties but still exhibited features of the parentela. The results of
the Bulgarian Parentela Study that followed confirmed the parentela
dynamic, registered earlier by La Palombara and Greer, revealing thereby
another one dynaic labeled here type two parentela. We already reviewed
both dynamics at length in the previous two chapters.
However, the one topic that did not receive proper treatment in the
earlier report (Petkov 2016; 2017) was that of the relationship between
the parentela and oligarchy. The founding study by La Palombara was
confronted with the question whether in fact the parentela was symp-
tomatic or an actual case of oligarchy. The Bulgarian study, too, was
confronted with this question and although it engaged with this thread,
did not do enough to fully develop it. Moreover, two other points
added further weight to the decision to revisit this theme and analyze
the data once again from the oligarchic perspective. One is the data
from the respondents themselves: its richness allows for the discus-
sion of the parentela as a model of party-group relations on a macro-
level, in which case the network also models macro-level processes.
Then there is also the work of Barnes (2007) who argued that the early
1990s Bulgarian politics was an arena of rival elites competing on who
will capture the state next (also Ganev 2001). In other words, his view
also implies that Bulgaria harbors oligarchic dynamics, which we now
appear to have re-discovered.

In the present chapter we will combine all of the elements of the

extended parentela that we discussed previously in order to address the
parentela-oligarchy question. The thesis here is that the extended parentela
is a model of oligarchic party-group relations in Bulgaria. The extended
parentela reveals party-centric relations which seen from a macro-level of
analysis outline an oligarchic dynamic. Elites begin to be formed when
informal groups achieve party insider status. Once locked in a party-group
cooperation, the elite unit or parente is formed and begins to expand
politically and business-wise through party’s interference over the civil
service until new parliamentary elections depose the party from power.
The “expansion” in this case means accumulation of capital by exploiting
political access (i.e. public tenders, pressure on market competitors who
lack party insider access) and the spread of favorable political appoint-
ments throughout the civil service. The two endogenous processes to the
extended parentela that run simultaneously are elite expansion by those in
power and an elite suppression of those outside. Because the parente in
power uses its control over the civil service not only to reap greater rewards
for itself at the expense of its competition, but to coerce it simultane-
ously. The one exogenous process that exerts shocks to these relations are
Parliamentary elections, where a party-change is equivalent to a new elite
coming to power, reiterating, thereby, elite suppression and expansion.

A Contest Between Elites

Let us elaborate on the relationship between the concepts elections, elites
and competition. Being one of the few authors to publish on the state-
group relations in Bulgaria, Barnes (2007) engaged with the theory that
Bulgarian politics, following the regime change in November 1989,
revealed a sequence of elites that captured the state. Bulgarian political
life in other words was a competition among elites on who will capture
the state next, thus exploiting its political access to own gain (Barnes
2007). The extended parentela model agrees that elites in Bulgaria com-
pete with each other and provides the extended parentela dynamics as
the respective mechanism, but it contests the notions that (1) elites are
exclusively actors outside political parties and (2) that a force external
to political parties and the civil service mysteriously captures both,
i.e. the state. To the contrary, the position here is that the advantages
of private actors which the public perceives from the outside are not the

result of state capture but of an agreement of cooperation between the

ruling party and that very same private group.
This is so because political parties are the actor that generates the
elites, that is, they are part of the elite. The present Bulgarian status quo
does not only empower ruling parties to resist external attempts to coer-
cive capture but has reversed such odds: political parties are in the posi-
tion to coerce private actors as demonstrated with prejudiced regulatory
inspections earlier. Such capabilities, therefore, transform them in centers
of political gravity that attract any private actors who wish to benefit
from insider access to policy-making, establishing thereby the elite that
from the outside seems to have captured the state. On elite formation we
have to highlight Chapters 2, 3 and 4 which revealed how political par-
ties seek to engage political access for campaign funds. It is this reiterated
exchange which binds the two actors to mutual dependence and forms
the nucleus of the elite, i.e. the parente. It is this parente which then
competes with rival parentes or passive outsider businesses through total
control over the Executive via appointments and reforms, and adminis-
trative coercion.
Simply put, the extended parentela reveals that the parente acts as a
temporary elite which operates until the party, at its center, loses elec-
tions. The purpose of a party’s incumbency is not only to process legis-
lation but also to improve parente’s power-political and capital standing,
which appears to be just as important an objective as policy-making. The
reiteration of the extended parentela therefore both expands incumbent
elites and simultaneously with that destroys others (aspiring or formerly
in power). Elites may change as a result of Parliamentary elections, but
that does not change the logic of the overall dynamic driven by the elite
in power: aggregation and simultaneous suppression of any political and
economic rivals.
The chapters on public tenders and type two parentela demonstrated
an elite expansion. Precisely by removing the appointees of the former
party and implanting own in the civil service, an incumbent parente
does not only passively monitors and control any legislation of inter-
est but expands its own network of appointees at the expense of (now
former) competing elites. More specifically, such expansion was better
illustrated with the chapter on procurement contracts where parente’s
political patronage effectively denied much needed funds to any rival
elites with stakes in construction. Particularly with reference to the con-
struction sector in Bulgaria, where most participants are dependent on

public tenders, the centralization of tender distribution among a handful

of party insiders is a strike at any competitors as well.
Moreover, if Chapters 2 and 3 illustrated the executive-administrative
expansion of an elite through political appointments, Chapter 4 demon-
strated how the same elite expanded its capital. As the chapter empha-
sized, political parties seek to enter cooperative relationship with private
businesses with whom to split the moneys dedicated to the completion
of the procurement contract. So it is not only about an insider winning
public tenders, as Chapter 3 implies. It is about forms of party-group
cooperation which result in the generation of capital both for the party
and its insider. However, as all of the above is facilitated by political
appointments we have to stress that there is nothing to suggest that this
behavior is in any way reserved to public tenders. Such behavior is theo-
retically possible in virtually anywhere in the civil service where servants
are political appointees. For example, legislation on standards, licenses or
any form of eligibility lends itself (in theory) as an easy route for a party
insider to change the game in an industrial sector, as their market com-
petitors will require time to adjust to any sudden changes of licensing
Chapter 4 furthermore, shows another facet of elite’s administrative
expansion through patronage, namely, executive agency coercion. That
chapter demonstrated prejudiced regulatory inspections as an instrument
of political suppression employed by the political party and its insider
against any political opposition coming from businesses members of a peak
interest group. However, they can also be used politically to coerce busi-
nesses to cooperate in a manner described in the previous paragraph, or
be harassed because they are in direct market competition with the party
insider. Again, thanks to the party political control of the civil service, vir-
tually any one executive structure could be exploited in the very same way:
to extract benefits from a politically exploitable central executive system
and to mobilize state agencies to exercise coercion against any rivals.

Party-Centric Elites and Centralization of Political

It was stated earlier that the extended parentela as an oligarchic model is
party-centric. This idea was demonstrated with parentela types one (patron-
age) and two (prejudiced inspections), both of which depend on the polit-
ical party in power in order to manifest themselves. Such party-centrism is
100  M. PETKOV

important, ultimately, as it facilitates the formation of the oligarchic elites.

There, however, are other indications of the centrality of political parties.
The control of the civil service, therefore, and its exploitation can
equally be seen as a form of centralization. At present it is only mani-
fested as a dynamic and is not explicitly stated. After all, appointments in
the civil service are not made directly by the Prime Minister but by his
or hers appointees in a downward chain. Also, the case of the NCTC is
indicative of the capability of the ruling party to curtail access to civil ser-
vice consultations. It can either attempt filtering the groups seeking civil
service representation, ignore any such consultative bodies outright, or
if need-be a ruling party can coerce any group into submission through
prejudiced inspections. These factors make Bulgarian political parties a
gatekeeper that anyone who seeks effective political representation of any
sort has to consider. But at the same time, these powers are also indica-
tive of centralization proclivities inherent in political parties, which in the
end of the day catalyze elite formation. The idea of oligarchic dynamics
implies that there must be some degree of political centralization, if oli-
garchic, or any non-democratic consolidation is to take place.
Such centralist tendencies have already made an impression in the lan-
guage of the respondents in the study who emphasized on the concept of
ruling party versus Government. Governments do not rule in Bulgaria,
rather political parties. If the former term implies strict policy-making
focus, then political parties implies a much broader scope of political pur-
suits. The Council of Ministers may be the highest executive body but
that is only de jure. The elite of the ruling party in fact governs behind
any government in power. This view stems from the fact that Bulgarian
political parties are headed by party executive bureaus. In the spirit of
total party political domination of the civil service the party leadership
is the de facto central organ of government. Said otherwise, it is not the
Council of Ministers, that governs, but the party elite embodied in the
party executive bureau, which in turn is headed by the party chairman,
who also acts as the prime minister. This pattern is valid for all politi-
cal parties in Bulgaria since 10 November 1989. Starting with ministers
every one executive position is subordinate to the party bureau which
either proactively or tacitly vets the fulfillment of any executive posi-
tions and has the power to interfere in any policy it sees fit (Chapter 3).
Much further than that, members of Parliament, too, are subordinate
to the party elite. At Parliametary elections, Bulgarian citizens vote on
closed party lists, i.e. for a pre-set list of names, as opposed to specific

candidates. All of the Members of Parliament are first selected by the

party executive bureau.
All of the above, again, speaks of a democratic system ruled by
occluded party centrals, and not of the evident government. It is notice-
able how rarely, if at all, respondents used the word government. In their
mental map, the word government was substituted with political party.
The party—so far as they were concerned—was at the center of political
life. Respondent Hadzhiev argued that it is political parties who rule the
state with insiders in close orbit, and not elected MPs nor the Council of
Ministers. The legal perspective on policy-making is blind to the reality
that informal pacts between ruling parties and insider groups lie at the
core of (Bulgarian) policy-making:

Actually in Bulgaria it is everywhere written down that it is a parliamentary

republic and respectively the supreme law is the constitution. [However,]
since 10th November 1989, the state is parliamentary republic only de
jure. De facto […] Bulgaria is ruled by miscellaneous parties. /empha-
sises/ It is entirely different the question who is connected with those
Parties and how is this entire government done more generally.

Likewise, respondent Petkov shared the rather cynical position that

power rests exclusively with the prime minister, who—as noted above—is
always the leader of the party:

By the way Bulgaria is actually only formally a parliamentary republic. The

parliament is a structure for psychotherapy for the Bulgarian citizens, who
need to know how bad the politicians they themselves elect are.

In other words, the Parliament and parliamentary consultations deflect

the attention from the real locus of power. They are meaningless because
it is the occluded party leadership that dictates the decisions of elected
MPs. The Parliament and MPs are reduced to objects of misdirected
hatred of the political system.
Like Petkov, Penchev was as also cynical about the same 23-year period
of transition to democracy. He argued that the party ruled the state
unimpeded and the powers vested in the party in power—i.e. the pre-
mier—can also be at the disposal of the party insider groups. Therefore,
through the party, an insider group can gain control over parts of the
civil service, the judiciary, the prosecution or the secret services:
102  M. PETKOV

After 23 years, democracy has not arrived yet. Everything is [politically]

controlled in Bulgaria. And that is something which they see in Brussels.
But they have given up on us and say that things in Bulgaria happen only
with diktat and pressure. So [… it is all] about the control over the polit-
ical system and political class through which [those groups] realize this
power, [and it is] in the same way they control the judiciary, the state pros-
ecutor and the services.

The above was probably one of the earlier statements directly attribut-
able to the parentela. Penchev argues that the primary objective of any
political party is the total control of the political system which includes
the prevention of any opposition from Parliament or civil service. And as
subsequent political parties, he argues, have also been quite good at pre-
venting opposition, changes inside Bulgaria can only happen with out-
side pressure.
In any case, other respondents also argued that the real power locus
lies with political parties, as opposed to the government. Speaking as
member of the directorial board, Respondent Konstantinov made the
argument that the interest group he represents, was an occasional civil
service consultations outsider (peripheral insider) to decisions of core
importance to his constitutive members:

[Business] does not make decisions; that would be the government. The
National Council for Tripartite Cooperation […] is a consultative organ
and it does not make decisions [but] we are often witnesses of how with-
out any consultations parameters are changed which influence negatively
on the business environment.

That the party is the key venue providing most effective access to pol-
icy-making is inferred from the difficulty groups experience in main-
taining a long-term meaningful representation at the consultative
administrative bodies. The respondent implies that key decisions made, in
this case, at the NCTC consultations but by the government unilaterally,
which is the party in power. Therefore, according to respondent Kirilov
lobbying efforts have to target the prime minister and the party itself.
Again, the respondents above speak of the party central and the party
insiders as the nebulous seat of power. The implication from all of the
above is that informally power is not vested in the democratic structures
but centralized the parente. It is then through the hierarchical structure

of political appointments in the civil service that this power to coerce or

withstand policy change is realized. In light of the proposed model of
oligarchic policy-making in Bulgaria, it is this element of party centraliza-
tion that adds further credence and plausibility to the hypothesis of oli-
garchic consolidation (later below) because that thesis assumes absence
of formally strong democratic structures to prevent political parties and
their insiders to exploit their control over the civil service for own needs,
and particularly to expand as a unit of elite.

Oligarchic Dynamics
In the previous section we introduced our model of oligarchic relations
and dynamics in Bulgaria. However, nowhere was it discussed why it is
oligarchic and what its connection is with the idea of oligarchy. We will
address this point here.
There are a number of studies on US oligarchy and elite politics
that bear strong similarity to the extended parentela. These studies
either theoretically or empirically look into the questions of whether
an oligarchy exists in the US and if so, how it operates. This section
argues that the extended parentela is an oligarchic dynamic because
of its overlap with core features of oligarchy voiced in the oligarchic
Probably most striking overlap between the extended parentela
dynamic and US oligarchy1 is Nonini (2005) and his rendering of
Briody’s research on the Carlyle Group. Briody (2003) looks into the
network relationships between the Carlyle Group (Carlyle)—a private
equity firm—and Washington policy-makers (2003), where the for-
mer sought to predetermine the outcome of defence public tenders in
its favor, if not circumventing the “bid stage” outright (Nonini 2005:
183–185). In a further match with the case of the Bulgarian type one
parentela, Carlyle’s success was due to the help from politically appointed
civil servants (1; see quotations below) and obliging party functionaries
(2) (Nonini 2005: 183). That ultimately translated to Carlyle’s ability to
influence the functions of the military agencies in charge of public ten-
ders (3) (Nonini 2005: 184):

1 A term used herein primarily to facilitate the argument as opposed to a statement of

104  M. PETKOV

(1) The group’s members have also often served in various capacities in
the policy-formation network that Domhoff (2002) describes—as directors
and officers (and even occasionally as scholars) in conservative foundations,
think tanks, and policy-discussion groups.4 More peripheral members of
the oligarchic clique serve outside the White House or Cabinet as high-
er-level political appointees in the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, Home land
Security, and the Departments of Commerce and Treasury. (183)
(2) They are connected to one another not only by common political
party ties—the vast majority are leaders in the national Republican party—
but also by shared personal and institutional experiences. (183)
(3) Yes, the highest ranking members of the clique are clearly in charge
of the official military, policing, and surveillance organs of the state—the
Pentagon, FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security Administration. (184)

Inadvertently, Nonini (2005) above highlights the features of the

type one parentela found in the case of construction public tenders in
Bulgaria. These are: a ruling political party in cooperation with a party
insider group (2 above), which does not represent an economic sector;
and (1) the availability of politically appointed civil servants, and by an
extension, party-controlled agency, which lent itself to party insider’s
Moreover, we should also mention the curious fact that the Carlyle
group bears its origins from the hotel where its founders conceived it,
more or less in secret—the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan, NY. This is
worth noting, because this detail also overlaps with the usually nebu-
lous phenomenon of the Bulgarian circles which the Bulgarian study
(Petkov 2017) also discussed as a pop version of the parentela. These
are a well-known phenomenon in Bulgarian policy-making and refer to
relations between the ruling party and certain businesses. The point is
that these circles bear the name of the hotels where they were conceived,
e.g. Monterrey, Admiral, Olimp. It would appear that in the US con-
text, we have found a direct counterpart of Bulgarian circles—the Carlyle
Group—having been set up at the Carlyle hotel.
A more substantial count on which both studies overlap theoreti-
cally is the element of coercion. One example is Nonini’s focus on what
Hersh (in Nonini 2005: 186) has dubbed stovepiping, or the circum-
vention of routine procedures of the intelligence agencies that normally

would assess and verify raw intelligence data. According to Nonini,

under the influence of the Carlyle Group, stovepiping was put in place
by the US president George W Bush and his closest advisers to inter-
cept any intelligence data as justifying the Iraq invasion (2005: 186).
The point is that forcing the intelligence agencies to directly feed the
White house with raw intelligence data is a case of party political inter-
ference in the interest of the Carlyle Group which completely falls in
line with the parentela. Ultimately, Carlyle stood to gain from a US
invasion in Iraq, as that would lead to innumerable tender contracts.
Arguably one could argue that the above is also an example of a polit-
ical coercion on the civil service itself as the narrative implies that
Carlyle suppressed any resistence to their plans from the respective
In any case, there is a much stronger example of coercion which is
much more in tune with what was earlier defined as type two parentela.
It is evident in Nonini’s emphasis that the core actors from the Carlyle
Group had direct access and ability at least in theory to mobilize the
work of repressive state agencies against their potential rivals:

Through his friends in the Cabinet, the CIA, the FBI, the Justice
Department, and the Homeland Security Administration, he is situated
at the apex of national policing and surveillance power. In the name of
national security under the Patriot Act, he has the power to authorize sur-
veillance of and initiate official harassment or even imprisonment (without
benefit of habeas corpus) of any US citizen, not to speak of bothersome
‘alien’ residents. (181–182)
In addition to the influence of the Carlyle Group, the clique gains
its despotic power through control over the formal, legal institutions
of the state, but in the peculiar hybrid form of the US neo-liberal state.

In other words, the description of the Carlyle Group, fully overlaps

with the description of the extended parentela. Nonini sees the case of
oligarchy in the actions of the Carlyle Group because those conform
to the definition of oligarchy found in Webster’s Third International
Dictionary: ‘despotic power exercised by a privileged clique’ (Nonini
2005: 177). Moreover, given Carlyle’s behavior in relation to public ten-
ders discussed later in his article, he adds that oligarchy has less to do
106  M. PETKOV

with legislative improvements and more to do with exploitation of one’s

access to policy-making:

one (clique, sic) moreover devoted at the most mundane level to kleptoc-
racy, or rule while engaged in plunder of the public treasury.

In other words, an oligarchy is a network of actors with insider access to

policy-making, who seek to exploit it for own enrichment. Both paren-
tela types are clearly identifiable in the case of the Carlyle Group with
corresponding logic the conversion of political access to capital, or klep-
tocracy in Nonini’s parlance (2005).
So four characteristics of oligarchy stand out from the above brief
First, (1) an oligarchy is about the exclusive cooperation between
politicians, or rather, the ruling party and private groups, who may not
necessarily represent an economic sector. It is a network which involves
party factions and business actors, which are not formally bound into
an association, nor represent one. This oligarchic community is amor-
phous, however, as Nonini clarifies that its nucleus (or the party
insider group in the parentela parlance) seeks to gain simultaneous core
insider status with all political parties with a potential to participate in
government (2005: 183):

[…] although the clique does have a Republican slant to it, its members’
quest for wealth in the Carlyle Group through access to power has been
resolutely bipartisan.

Again, this is also true for the Bulgarian case, particularly with the now
defunct corporation known as Multigroup (scrutinized by Ganev 2001;
later Barnes 2007), which the Bulgarian parentela study discussed as a
past case of the parentela (Petkov 2016). Accordingly, this was a hold-
ing corporation most active in the early 1990s Bulgaria that succeeds
to develop insider relationship with both parties with government-par-
ticipation potential: the Bulgarian Socialist party, the Movement for
Rights and Freedoms, and also potentially taking part in the formation
of a third party, which was to represent its interests and those of like-
minded big businesses at the time. The only exception was the conserv-
ative government of Ivan Kostov (Union of Democratic Forces), which

put Multigroup under pressure through prejudiced inspections in 1998,

which also started its demise (Petkov 2016).
Second, (2) the party-group cooperation generates the identity of an
exclusive community, i.e. the elite. Nonini (2005) for example uses the
term clique to communicate the notion that everyone involved and ben-
efiting from those relations is part of a highly exclusive community of
actors with privileged policy-making access. In the Bulgarian case, these
are the civil servants, party factions and their insider groups that form
one such elite clique.
Third, (3) the purpose of the cooperation within this community or
elite is the accumulation of wealth, where, policy-making appears to be a
by-product of the need to gain and maintain political access. Therefore,
another characteristic of oligarchy is the logic of conversion of political
access to economic capital. We already noted earlier in the present paper
that the underlying logic of the expanded parentela is the conversion of
power into capital, and vice versa.
Finally, (4) there is the element of coercion. In its attempt to maintain
its market and political positioning, the clique, or parente will use their
access to state agencies in order to harm their immediate rivals or other
undesirables. This feature is clearly evident in the Bulgarian case, and
strongly suggested in the accounts provided by Briody (2003) above.
So the question now is to what extent can we find the same four fea-
tures in other works dedicated to oligarchy. The overlap above though
striking is not enough. If the extended parentela offers one explanation
to how oligarchic regimes work, then the features of its dynamics should
be evident in theoretical works on oligarchy. In the following paragraphs,
the single digits in brackets will act as references to each of the four
descriptors of oligarchy noted immediately above.
In an article that is explicitly devoted to clarifying the definition of
oligarchy, Payne defines the term as a combination of two sets of prop-
erties. First in terms types of groups with highly exclusive membership
(2) (1968: 440):

A.     individuals of greatest prestige (suitably determined);

B.     identified families;
C.   individuals of greatest wealth (suitably determined);
D. employers (determined by size of firm or by number of work-ers, and
so on);
108  M. PETKOV

E.      landowners (determined by size of holding or by interest group mem-

bership, and so on);
F.   the armed forces (or specified parts);
G.   the Catholic church (or specified parts);
H. the holders of high political office at a given moment. (p. 440)

And then, in terms of the power dynamic that they deploy in order to
achieve their interests (1968: 441):

I.                     power as the extended tenure of political office;

II.           power as the ability to prevail against other members of society on
selected issues;
III. power as the ability to control opinion so that other members of soci-
ety do not oppose the group’s position;
IV.     (an attribute that, as argued below, embodies a fallacy) power as a
group’s presumed ability to cause any state of affairs from which it
benefits. (p. 441)

Seen in this light both Briody’s iron triangle (i.e. the Carlyle Group)
and the Bulgarian extended parentela fit in the above framework. The
extended parentela in particular could be coded as the combination
of BCH: I, IV. We would also include the highly contested point IV,
because the Bulgarian circles (as a pop version of the parentela) certainly
are perceived as omnipotent, although that may not necessarily be the
case. The code I is seen as relevant, because it is the political office that
facilitates the control of the agencies that determine the outcome of
public tenders. In fact the extended parentela entirely depends on the
political control over the civil service, which alone reflects the idea that
an oligarchy extends to political office. Code B reflects the position of
some of the respondents of the Bulgarian study state that there indeed
are distinguished Bulgarian families that always enjoy effective access to
policy-making regardless of the party in power (below). Code C denotes
that oligarchs were frequently reported by interviewees as partners of the
party in power. In a similar fashion, the Carlyle Group could be coded as
BCH and F, for Carlyle’s focus are military contracts (Briody 2003). And
then: codes (I) because that group’s control, too, rests on exploiting for-
mal political authority over the civil service; (IV) because it also creates
the impression of omnipotence, and (II) because through stovepiping,
the group managed to overcome any opposition to the Iraq invasion.

In short Payne’s idea of oligarchy is about a limited and an exclusive

community whose members are engaged in wealth accumulation and
its preservation by converting their party political access to policy-mak-
ing, as opposed to be genuinely invested in policy-making (1968: 447).
Probably, the coercive property that we associated between the paren-
tela and the Carlyle Group is missing or underdeveloped in his analysis
but certainly not contradicting the overall oligarchic dynamic as we shall
review later in the chapter.
The idea of wealth and power accumulation of an elite for the sake of its
own advancement, and not for the improvement of legislation appears to
be a popular feature of oligarchy. Winters and Page (2009) strictly adopt
Aristotle’s intended meaning of the term oligarchy, that it is the rule of
the richest members of society who happen to be the fewest (2009: 732).
In their review of some of the more rigorous quantitative studies on US
oligarchy they cover most of the crucial features of oligarchy described ear-
lier. Again, oligarchy is about the conversion of political power into wealth,
followed by its accumulation and protection (3—referring to one of the
four points characterizing here an oligarchic status quo) (2009: 731, 732):

We argue that the concept of oligarchy properly refers to a specific kind

of minority power that is fundamentally material in character. In the US
context, as elsewhere, the central question is whether and how the wealth-
iest citizens deploy unique and concentrated power resources to defend
their unique minority interests. In the United States (as elsewhere), to the
extent that such minority power is exercised, the political system can be
considered an oligarchy. (p. 731)
That is, highly concentrated material wealth generally brings with it
both enormous political power and the motivation to use that power in
order to win certain kinds of political-economic outcomes. Possession of
great wealth defines membership in an oligarchy, provides the means to
exert oligarchic power, and provides the incentives to use that power for
the core political objective of wealth defense. (p. 732)

As their research reveals, the US oligarchy is locked in the successful

attempts of business interest groups to procure favorable legislation that
benefits the richest members of American society, namely: international
economic policy (2009: 738), monetary policy (2009: 739) tax policy
(2009: 739). While the authors do not primarily focus on the party-
group relations, it is impossible to imagine the success in these three
110  M. PETKOV

policy areas without the cooperation of active politicians. (1) Moreover,

the exclusive community of the rich or oligarchs is clearly identifiable
in the gross income inequality and the political power they wield when
their income is converted into a measurement of power (2) (Winters and
Page 2009: 733–737). Winters and Page (2009: 736–737) conclude
that the top 1 percent of households are in the position to overpower
90% of US citizenry. Moreover, even if a more conservative estimate is
employed, when the research of Kopczuk and Saez (in Winters and Page
2009: 737) is brought to the fore, the results are even more staggering:

The Individual Material power Index indicates that each of the top 400
or so richest Americans had on average about 22 000 times the polit-
ical power of the average member of the bottom 90 percent, and each
of the top 100 or so had nearly 60,000 times as much. […] This might
be enough to get their way, on selected issues, even if the entire bottom
90 percent of the citizenry disagreed- particularly if the rest of the top
10 percent were neutral or allied with the Forbes 400. (Winters and Page
2009: 737)

Quite clearly, then, save for our point 4 of our characteristics of oli-
garchy, the Winters and Page study (2009) overlaps with the extended
parentela dynamic: an exclusive community, comprising political parties
and private groups that is preoccupied with policies that either gener-
ate more or protect already existing wealth for the richest members of
US society. These results were later corroborated by the Gilens and
Page study on the extent to which interest groups, median-income vot-
ers and 90th percentile income voters are able to influence policy-mak-
ing (2014). The results are a resounding win for strictly business-related
interest groups, as opposed to their mass-based counterparts (2014: 565,
It is also surprising that the meaning of oligarchy in the context of
US politics has not traveled much since the 1930s from its formulation
as the exploitation of public office. And it is as if Mallet-Prevost (1933:
163) refers to the parentela and the award of public tenders when he
describes it as a practice: “to secure for its members the spoils of office
and the benefits resulting from the control of governmental operations.”
In other words, in his implied party-group cooperation, the underlying
oligarchic logic is that of conversion of access to capital (3). But he then
becomes more explicit in stating that the oligarchy is primarily about the

relationship between business groups and political parties (1, 2), with
business ultimately trying to monetize its policy-making access (3):

It is well known to all that behind the machinery of government […] there
is another group that in fact controls. That group selects the persons who
constitute the visible government; and it exerts a determining influence
upon governmental acts. (163) […] They are men powerful in financial and
industrial circles who, recognizing the usefulness and the cupidity of pro-
fessional politicians, make use of them for own selfish purposes, and secure
legislative and executive favours denied to the ordinary citizen. (164)

As with the extended parentela, in Mallet-Prevost’s conception, the

core oligarchic dynamic rests on the ruling party and its insider group.
In this is exclusive relationship, both actors are united in their com-
bined exploitation of the civil service for personal enrichment. As with
the extended parentela, it is notable that the success of any such pursuits
exclusively relies on patronage (appointments or otherwise) and party’s
control of the bureaucracy: ‘there is another group that in fact controls.
That group selects the persons who constitute the visible government’.
The ultimate purpose of this party-group relationship is to ensure the
continued policy-making access and enrichment of the elite: “make use
of them for own selfish purposes, and secure legislative and executive
favours denied to the ordinary citizen”. No such favors would be pos-
sible without significant political control over the respective agency or
branch of power. In short, we have again the same configuration of the
parente elite: party, insiders and facilitating civil servants.
Furthermore, due to space limitations we will only mention a number
of other authors writing on oligarchy, this time on Russia who also adopt
the above four points. For example, they agree that an oligarchy is the
policy-making arrangement, where policy-making discretion is dispropor-
tionately vested in a limited number of extremely rich individuals (and/
or their representatives) (1, 2), who are not representative of the wider
democratic polity and by an extension are interested in the protection of
their wealth (if not its multiplication) (3) (Barker 2013: 559–561; Zudin
2000; Shlapentokh 2004; Fishkin and Forbath 2014; Shinar 2015;
Jacobs 2010; Braguinsky 2009).
By this time one might have noticed that none of the authors US or
Russian oligarchy, except Nonini, has explicitly highlighted the coercive
side of oligarchy. That gives the impression that somehow the chapter
112  M. PETKOV

forcefully argues for the existence of such a dimension but that would
be incorrect. In her exhaustive theoretical assessment of oligarchy, Leach
(2005) insists that an oligarchic rule is characterized by informal exer-
tion of non-public, i.e. illegitimate power through manipulation and
coercion (4) (2005: 322–324, Table 1, p. 323, and particularly the defi-
nition of oligarchy on p. 329). Her definition of oligarchy offers another
considerable overlap with the extended parentela, particularly as it rests
on illegitimate, manipulative coercion (think prejudiced regulation) as
the primary trait of an oligarchy:

* oligarchy, then, is a concentration of entrenched illegitimate authority

and/or influence in the hands of a minority, such that de facto what that
minority wants is generally what comes to pass, even when it goes against
the wishes (whether actively or passively expressed) of the majority. To put
this in terms of the categories in the matrix:
* Authority becomes coercive when it becomes illegitimate, i.e., when
leaders exceed the scope of delegated authority and/or resort to illegiti-
mate means of exercising formal or informal power (coercion or manipula-
tion) to squelch dissent.
* coercion becomes oligarchic when the illegitimate means of exert-
ing formal power become concentrated in the hands of a minority to the
degree that that minority can regularly achieve its intended ends against
the will of the majority.
* influence becomes manipulative when it becomes illegitimate, i.e.,
when leaders exceed the scope of informal power implied by group norms.
They can do this by usurping decision-making authority and/or using ille-
gitimate means (coercion or manipulation) to affect decisions.
* Manipulation becomes oligarchic when the illegitimate means of
exerting informal power become concentrated in the hands of a minority
to the degree that that minority can regularly achieve its intended ends
even though a majority would like to oppose them.

In her definition of oligarchy above we can clearly identify type two

parentela used to suppress political opposition, ‘when leaders exceed
the scope of elevated authority […] to squelch dissent.’ This also allows
us to include type two parentela (or PRIs) as another type of political
coercion in the sense implied above. The case of party’s intervention in
the civil service in the interest of the insider using political appointments
is the core dynamic in the extended parentela, and it fits the dynamics
Leach refers to in the paragraphs on illegitimate influence and oligarchic

manipulation above. The case of public tenders shows how it is through

the use of political appointees the parente can influence the decisions of
the committees considering procurement bids. In doing so, the parente
usurps and manipulates the process of public tender distribution, against
the interests of all other participants.
In this section, we argued that the extended parentela dynamic is oli-
garchic. To do so, we described the parentela and compared it to one of
the more famous US cases on oligarchy and secondary theoretical litera-
ture on oligarchy. The extended parentela models an oligarchic dynamic
because it contains the four elements that characterize the latter (1) close
party-group cooperation; (2) formation of an exclusive community; (3)
policy-access for the purpose of its conversion into capital and (4) ele-
ments of coercion. Again, the extended parentela does not offer a com-
prehensive explanation how all oligarchies work, but rather one form
of oligarchic mechanics. Further along the lines of presenting how the
extended parentela works, the following chapter, in turn, will look at the
overall causal dynamics that the extended parentela finds itself in.

Causes for the Extended Parentela

In the preceding sections we described the extended parentela as a model
of oligarchic state-group relations. In doing so, we also paid particular
attention to its main features: competition between elites, centrality of
political parties and general behavior consistent with the literature on
oligarchy. This section will add a few words on the present and future
causal relations the extended parentela finds itself in.
In terms of independent variables responsible for the extended paren-
tela formation, the initial study identified the intersection of the interests
of the party in power and private groups (Petkov 2016). The existence
of political appointments acts merely as an intervening, catalytic variable.
From the side of the private group, it is the desire to gain better market
standing that drives it to closer contacts with the ruling party. In the case
of the Bulgarian construction sector as of 2015, that may be caused by
the decline of the construction sector, which in turn forces construction
firms to seek closer party connections. But then again, we do not need a
formal reason why. Simply some market actors may seek other means to
beat their competition—in this case by taking the party route.
Why political parties would enter parentela relations, then? As
Chapter 2 highlighted the costs of political campaigns are exorbitant
114  M. PETKOV

and political parties are constantly starved out for funds. This drives
them to seek out private actors who would be willing to become party
contributors and as one would have it sectoral trade associations do
not appear suitable. Groups of private companies and/or individu-
als of considerable wealth may appear a better suited partner. Thus the
exchange-cooperative relationship is born: against advantageous adminis-
trative and policy-making access, the party insider group will finance par-
ty’s campaigns.
An extended parentela could emerge also because either the insider
or the party, or both, are interested in the suppression of policy dissent.
That usually comes as a reaction to outsider groups who disagree with
the policies promulgated by the parente, or internal party factions that,
too, may be opposing the current party leadership. It also may be the
case that the party itself might initiate type two parentela dynamics
against the businesses of its political opponents.
Overall, at this stage of the research it appears that the parentela is
the result of political parties and informal groups (private companies and
affluent individuals) willing to convert political access to mutual eco-
nomic gain (or in theory to tackle political opposition). Each in its own
way converts their direct access to the central administration (or poli-
cy-making) in some form of economic gain. Chapters 3 and 4 are clear
testimony of this conversion, either through by dominating the distribu-
tion of public tenders, or through prejudiced inspections where in both
cases the private group reciprocates to the ruling party.
And here is the place to highlight the study of Chalakov et al. (2008),
who researched the network structure of Bulgarian elites in the period
shortly before and immediately after the regime change in Bulgaria. With
the network which they labeled molecule of conversion, Chalakov et al.
(2008) sought to model the process where the waning access, which the
retiring communist elite still had, was actively being converted into cap-
ital by setting up the very first companies, firms and corporations which
were some of the first recipients of the newly privatized state property.
While the present study does not give credence to the continued exist-
ence of the molecule, it is evident that molecule’s logic of conversion is
at the very roots of the extended parentela formation. One might argue
that the extended parentela is the molecule transformed.
In any case, there is one last question that remains: what does the
future hold for the extended parentela? Will we observe a transition from

consolidated democracy and interest group pluralism to a consolidated

oligarchic regime?

Oligarchic Consolidation: A Hypothesis

The answer to these questions rests on the extent to which Bulgarian
political system will sustain meaningful and effective competition
among political parties. Right now, parliamentary elections have sup-
pressed the consolidation of an elitist status quo by rekindling the
elitist competition. As we saw above an elite competition is party
competition, because political party coming down from power means
the demise of the elite that has formed with it. First its appointees
will be swept out of the civil service, while the businesses of the party
insiders could be subjected to retaliatory regulatory inspections. The
forms of pressure exercised by one elite are reenacted by the one that
succeeds it.
This raises the question, then, how is an oligarchic status quo possible
in the presence of parliamentary elections and democratic institutions?
The quick answer is by removing the competitive element from politi-
cal elections. Broad grand coalitions and a party system dominated by
a single party will effectively consolidate the competing elites in a single
oligarchic status quo. This is so because both of these eventualities force
the merger of competing elites in a single community: either because
political parties have decided to rule together in grand coalitions, or sim-
ply because there is a single political party that dominates the party sys-
tem, becoming thereby the only party that provides effective access to
This view, then, is behind the hypothesis that the present book would
like to advance namely that: limiting party competition in the context of
unimpeded extended parentela relations will lead to oligarchic consolida-
tion. The term oligarchic consolidation here denotes a status quo where
the incumbent dominant party or grand coalition along with their insid-
ers and civil service appointees form a distinct and self-aware community
of those with privileged policy-making access. The notion of oligarchic
consolidation rests on the very same four characteristics developed in
previous sections. The distinction here between oligarchic dynamics of
the extended parentela and the consolidated oligarchic status quo merely
rests on the absence of competition among the parente elites in the latter
116  M. PETKOV

case. If competing parente elites using coercion and expansion are char-
acteristic of the extended parentela, then they would continue to use
those levers in an oligarchic status quo, but this time against non-elite
actors who would not have a realistic prospect of independently gaining
political representation (access).
In short, we can look at the consolidated oligarchy as a stage before
formal oligarchy and as a stage after the extended parentela. If formal
oligarchy is the improbable status quo where the actual institutional
setup is explicitly geared towards oligarchic rule, then consolidated oli-
garchy status quo is the stage where the oligarchic elites are consolidated
but operate informally or embedded in the democratic structures. The
extended parentela, then, is the dynamic stage where oligarchic elites are
in constant competition.
So, again, it is hypothesized here that the dynamics of the extended
parentela relations can transform into a consolidated oligarchy, if
the extended parentela continues unimpeded and the inter-party
competition is diminished. In other words, the transition from elite
competition to consolidated oligarchy status quo first begins by the
elimination of the business elites, following the logic of the extended
parentela. More specifically, we would further hypothesize that there
indeed will be a decrease of the number of business actors, and that
will be paralleled with an increase of the wealth of those who survive
these parentela pressures. The case on public tenders and prejudiced
inspections suggest that the elite competition is similar to a zero-sum
game. A signed contract with the state for one actor is a missed profit
for another. This is exacerbated when competitors in the construction
sector for example are dependent on public tenders for their survival.
Moreover, the expansion of one’s market share through administra-
tive harassment can only be at the expense of the market shares of
In fact, the logic of the extended parentela dynamics might suggest
at first sight that some balance is achieved with the change of political
parties, namely, that later insiders will be able to fully eradicate the busi-
ness benefits and advantages accrued by the previous insiders. The logic
of type two parentela seems to suggest that there is a balance or parity
between current and former elites when they target each other, once in
power. However, one cannot expect such complete checks and balances.
Respondents shared the view that it is in party insider’s interest to main-
tain good relations with all parties with government-forming potential

(Petkov 2016). Why work with only one party? Others reported the
now defunct Multigroup Corporation and a few other popular oligarchic
names as examples of individuals who are doing well regardless of the
party in power. Another respondent used the term families as a reference
to a generic actor that can afford cooperating with any political party. In
ideal circumstances, private actors would engage with all possible politi-
cal parties, if possible.
However, as the elitist competition among informal groups is an
incomplete zero-sum game we can expect that under the continued
influences of the extended parentela some business actors will perish at
the expense of others. The few actors who survive will also have the most
resources. They will have disproportionate wealth and market share com-
pared to the rest of the players. In any case, this tendency of decreasing
business elites could not go forever. At a future point the handful of pri-
vate actors in a given sector, eligible to partner political parties, will find
it impractical to compete among each other and begin acting as a mono-
lithic bloc, which will directly bargain with the party in power.
It is this culling of prospective private actors eligible to cooperate with
political parties that will dampen the pulse of elite competition on the
one hand and initiate the process of elite consolidation. In that situa-
tion, regardless of whichever party is in power, that party will be faced
with the prospect to cooperate with the same handful of private actors.
This scenario renders parliamentary elections as an ineffective mechanism
to remove economic elites from power, because every political party in
power will be left to partner with them. This brings question How polit-
ical parties would react in this situation: consolidate with that private elite
or fight it?, but this is a matter of another debate.
The other independent variable that is hypothesized to contribute
to oligarchic consolidation is party system change. What will happen,
then, if party competition is stifled? In the context of limited inter-party
competition, the extended parentela dynamics will lead to some form
of oligarchic consolidation as the number of government-forming par-
ties declines, because this also means that elite-forming partners (parties)
for the private groups will decrease. The presence of a single, predomi-
nant political party, i.e., one that has won Parliamentary elections at least
four consecutive times with absolute majority (Sartori 1976: location
4579–4595; Mair 1997: 53, 203), means that there will be no rivals to
the oligarchic elite that would have formed with it. That is, with the con-
tinued extended parentela dynamics, any outsider private actors will face
118  M. PETKOV

the choice to either merge with the predominant party or face extinction,
as no other political party would have government-forming potential.
Note that a change to a predominant party system is entirely within the
scope of a democratic government.
The same scenario is also possible in the case of the extreme oppo-
site status quo, that of a consociational democracy and grand coali-
tions. In that scenario the coming together of all political parties into
one will also force their insiders to achieve some degree of mutual com-
promise and merge, or be eliminated under the unchecked forces of
the extended parentela. This is the other hypothetical route to oligar-
chic consolidation based on a limited party-parliamentary competition
well-within democratic institutions. Time will tell which scenario will fit
Bulgarian realities.
Finally, there is also the possibility of type two parentela relations to
suppress inter-party competition. We observed earlier how the parente
can attack businesses that are members of interest groups which oppose
ruling party’s policies. The same, we proposed, could be applied to
donors of rival political parties. Therefore, the coercive arm of the
extended parentela theoretically could affect the intensity of inter-party
At this point some may have noticed some methodological tension
on how to conceptualize the causal variable extended parentela and the
effect consolidated oligarchy. The tension is whether these terms are con-
ceptually discrete because both of them are models of state-group rela-
tions and both of them share the four points that characterize oligarchy
derived earlier. The distinction is that of dynamics and statics. The causal
relationship here is about the transformtion of the extended parentela
from a dynamic model into a static one of state-group relations. We
could have just as well labeled the dependent variable extended paren-
tela prim, but that would cause additional confusion. Theoretically there
should be more than one way to reach an oligarchic status quo. The
extended parentela (in combination with diminished inter-party compe-
tition) then is seen here as one of many processes that could possibly lead
precisely to a consolidated status quo. But in any case, what this study
stands for is that regardless of how a consolidated oligarchy is reached, it
will bear the four characteristics derived earlier: it is coercive, party-cen-
tric, elite community-forming and access-exploitative (conversion). The
future verification of this hypothetical causal relationship would simply
mean that under certain conditions the initial parentela derived by La

Palombara does have the potential to form an oligarchic status quo and
the above hypothesis is the process to do it.
The final question that stems from all of the above analysis is whether
the proposed causal relationship is valid? Are there any other political
contexts that would validate these models and hypothesized end status
quo? Yes, we have derived these models from both empirical and theo-
retical literature, but can we re-apply them back to the real world? And
would, then, the hypothesis based on them have any relevance and justi-
fication for its declaration? Again, the short answer is yes. The next chap-
ter is entirely dedicated to the applicability of the extended parentela and
consolidated oligarchy to the real world.

In this chapter we pieced together all of the elements of the extended
parentela uncovered in previous chapters in a single coherent model of
the oligarchic relations currently active in Bulgaria. As the importance
of the present chapter was to integrate the material from a few chap-
ters back, it began again by revisiting the initial impetus for the project
and how that differs from the current objective of the present book.
That is why we began by—again—recapping previous research into
the subject and the starting research objectives behind the Bulgarian
Parentela Study. Namely, while the study was initially entirely moti-
vated to research La Palombara’s parentela policy network and its pos-
sible existence and variation in Bulgaria, the richness of the data in
fact allows us to address another question, that La Palombara too con-
fronted during his study—the relationship between the parentela and
There were two strong indicators of oligarchic dynamics which were
registered in the study. The first of them is the formation of what would
appear to be party-centric elites. Again, Barnes (2007) is among the first
authors to suggest that Bulgarian politics is subject to the takeover of an
array of changing oligarchic elites which the present study, in turn, con-
firms. At the core of this oligarchic dynamic lie the ruling party and its
party insider, which are seen here as the unit of the (oligarchic) elite, i.e.
the parente. Political patronage over the civil service enables the parente
to engage in both of its institutional embedding and expansion, both
of which are at the expense of rival counterparts or neutral businesses.
Embedding is best observed with the practice of political appointments
120  M. PETKOV

in the civil service, while expansion is best observed with the practice
of prejudiced regulatory inspections. The former practice blocks any
attempts by outsiders to gain access or benefits from the civil service,
while the latter is a mechanism of direct coercion against rivals.
Secondly, an oligarchy implies some degree of centralization of power
by the elite group. An oligarchic order by definition cannot function
in an environment of checks and balances or in the presence of actors
outside the elite clique with effective access to policy-making. Such cen-
tralization proclivities are already evident in the Bulgarian Executive.
As demonstrated earlier, the case of the NCTC is a clear example of
the capabilities of a ruling party to control the process of consultation
with interest groups in the civil service. In effect, administrative reforms
allow ruling parties to control which interest groups have access to pol-
icy-making, which is a mechanism intended to prevent effective group
opposition. But more importantly, the present chapter added the posi-
tion which a number of elite respondents shared, namely, that too much
power is vested in the Bulgarian executive. The analysis agrees with
this view, but for other reasons. Bulgarian parties overpower any form
of internal and external dissent not because they or the Prime Minister
are too much vested with political power, but because they are the only
route to redress policy grievances. This is so, because parties are capable
of suppressing dissent from the civil service and their own rank-and-file:
1) either by type 2 parentela harassment, 2) by political patronage in the
civil service and 3) by civil service reforms.
That the extended parentela model is oligarchic is evident when look-
ing at the respective literature on oligarchy, where we find four core
overlaps. First, an oligarchic order is party-centric, because access is not
won by force, as commonly thought but gained through the permission
and cooperation of the party political elite. Second, an oligarchic behav-
ior is geared toward conversion of access into capital, and not necessar-
ily to improve legislation. Third, an oligarchic behavior is coercive as the
elite in power is seeking to secure its positions. Last, an oligarchic behav-
ior forms a community identity of “the privileged”. Consciously or not,
the successful reiteration of the extended parentela creates trust between
the actors, which in the long-term delineates a sort of a community.
Such a community was reported by the Bulgarian respondents and iden-
tified by Briody earlier in the oligarchic literature.
Finally, the chapter offers the hypothesis that the unimpeded reit-
eration of the extended parentela, in combination with a diminished

competition between political parties will lead to a change of the status

quo to an informal oligarchic regime. Again, it is informal because it is
envisaged here that an oligarchic order can function under a democratic
institutional framework. A diminished inter-party competition, on the
other hand, can come in two shapes: either a party-change to the pre-
dominant type, where a single party continuously wins absolute majority
at parliamentary elections, or political parties decide to pursue politics of
grand coalitions and conscocialism. All of this analysis begs the question,
whether the thus derived model has further validity, as well as whether
its hypotheses are justified? Those are addressed in the following chapter,
where we apply the model and its hypothesis to the Ukrainian realities
during the tenure of President Kuchma.

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Ukraine Under Kuchma—An Illustration

of the Link Between the Extended Parentela
and Consolidated Oligarchy

In the previous chapter we constructed the model of oligarchic party–

group relations in Bulgaria and ended with the hypothesis that if left
unobstructed, the extended parentela dynamics in combination with
a decrease of the inter-party competition will lead to a status quo of a
consolidated oligarchy. ‘But how much of the above is valid, and can it
be applied back to the real world?’, the previous chapter asked at its very
end. The answer to these questions is in the Ukrainian case in the pres-
ent chapter on the tenure of the Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
(1994–2005) as an example of the extended parentela and consolidated
oligarchy in a polity outside Bulgaria.
Ukraine was selected primarily based on its media exposure which
often refered to the so-called Ukrainian oligarchs. If media outlets
report an abundance of oligarchs, then its internal dynamics should also
carry oligarchic traits. This exercise is entirely illustrative, which is why
only secondary data on Ukraine is used—i.e. it relies on the studies and
observations of area experts. Moreover, Ukraine is preferred here over
other candidates, such as Russia, which also features an abundance of
oligarchs for a few reasons, first of which is the broadening of the com-
parative scope in the literature. Russia at present dominates the field as
a test subject. Second, there are very strong authoritarian tendencies
in the Russian state and it seems that the absence of inter-elite com-
petition is rather the result of a single coercive party-center, forcing
oligarchic elites into cooperation, as opposed to a status quo defined
by the party-group elite that has survived the free-for-all iterations of

© The Author(s) 2019 123

M. Petkov, Oligarchic Party-Group Relations in Bulgaria,
124  M. PETKOV

the extended parentela following each Parliamentary election. But that

itself is matter of a separate study. But let us now briefly recap the basics
of the party-group model of oligarchic relations.
The oligarchic party–group dynamic, developed in the previous chap-
ter, is a model comprising the interplay of the extended parentela and
Parliamentary elections. If the former refers to the two parentela types
combined, then the latter refers to the shocks Parliamentary elections
exert on those relations. The successful reiteration of party-group coop-
eration instances creates trust which binds the actors in a single elite
unit which pursues its own political and economic goals. Because such
elites are formed on the basis of parties’ control over the civil service, the
change from one party in power to another is a change of the incumbent
elite. Parliamentary elections, therefore, followed by a party change in
effect perpetuate the competition between Bulgarian elites.
A small detail is probably worth mentioning here regarding the nature
of the party insider. The oligarchic dynamic here does not require that
the party-insider be a formal interest group, a Trade Association, for
example, as was the case in the parentela in Italy and Northern Ireland.
Thus, companies, firms and/or oligarchs are part of the definition of
party insider. The model simply states that the merger between the rul-
ing party and such informal insiders forms the parente or the elite core.
The model also does not presuppose a continued cooperation between
a party and the informal insider group. There is nothing stopping an
informal group trying to appeal to any parties with government-forming
potential, if any.
Based on the above, therefore, Chapter 5 hypothesized that the
unobstructed dynamics of the extended parentela combined with
a dampening of the inter-party political competition will cause the
extended parentela to consolidate into an oligarchic state-group sta-
tus quo, while still embedded in the democratic framework. This
hypothesis, however, first brings up the question of what is meant
by consolidated oligarchy in this study? As explained earlier, this is
a political status quo which has forced political and economic elites
to merge into a single coherent community with close to no outside
rivalry. As we will discuss later in this chapter, this concept is con-
tested particularly by pluralism or biased pluralism, and to a lesser
degree by competitive authoritarianism and neo-patrimonialism. The
latter two have been used in the transitological literature to describe

and qualify the incumbency of president Leonid Kuchma in Ukraine.

It suffices to say at this stage that a consolidated oligarchic status
quo differs from biased pluralism on four counts: it is party-centric,
it has coercive element, it is focused on the short-term conversion of
access to capital and finally, unlike pluralism, oligarchic dynamics pri-
marily engage informal groups comprising affluent corporations and/
or individuals who do not represent wider sectors of the economy or
On the basis of the extended parentela dynamics, the previous
chapter stated hypothesis H1, where: the continued iterations of the
extended parentela dynamics and a decrease of the inter-party competi-
tion will transform the extended parentela into a consolidated oligarchy
status quo. However, in order to discuss the hypothesis in the cur-
rent chapter, we will restate it as two hypotheses. This is motivated
by the fact that if the parente has a political and a business half and
if a consolidated oligarchy is the extended parentela minus inter-
elite competition, then the process of dampening of political com-
petition is paralleled by a similar process of dampening business-elite
Therefore, the process of the decrease of business elite competition is
expressed in Hypothesis 1a:

Hypothesis 1a The idea of consolidated oligarchy states that there

is a considerably low number of affluent business actors who out-
perform their market competition. That is to say, there is a decrease
of the competition among the business actors in a given sector who
can enter parentela relations. These business elites are affluent actors
whose wealth has the potential to affect the economy of the state.
This may include (near-)monopolists or a number of corporations
whose business operations are of such scale that they are in the posi-
tion to influence the economy of the state. Hypothesis 1a states then
that the reiteration of the extended parentela will both decrease the
number of market participants (who can partner parties in a paren-
tela) and increase their potential impact on the economy (or “wealth”,
crudely put).
The reasoning behind Hypothesis 1a is that the extended paren-
tela relations are imperfect zero-sum dynamics. Although advances of
one elite can be at the expense of another, this process is not perfect.
126  M. PETKOV

As we have mentioned in previous chapters there is a number of oli-

garchs whose humble beginnings are in the distant 1990s and they have
survived. The reiteration of this practice, the hypothesis states, will
lead both the decrease of market actors and simultaneously their size.
In other words, each economic sector will feature a monopolist or

Hypothesis 1b  The second part of the hypothesis refers to the nature
of the political competition. A consolidated oligarchy is a status quo
where there is no effective competition among political parties. We
stated earlier that possible examples of a party system that is condu-
cive to a consolidated oligarchy is one where parties engage in grand
coalitions and consociationalist policy-making style, or where we have
a predominant party system. Finally, as we mentioned earlier, PRIs can
be instigated against any businesses which are politically opposing the
ruling party. This too can have an effect that diminishes inter-party
competition, if PRIs are focused on the businesses that support them.
However, the Bulgarian Parentela Study did not find direct evidence of
that, other than to suggest that it is theoretically plausible. Therefore,
Hypothesis 1b states that a predominant party system, a consociational-
ist government style, or second parentela dynamics decrease inter-party
In the following sections, we will observe the extent to which Ukraine
during Kuchma’s tenure conformed to the elements of the extended
parentela and oligarchy. The following section will look at the basic
parentela relations of type one, while the following one will look at type
two. The third section will, then look at the extent of oligarchic traits
that could be found in his tenure, following the four oligarchic mark-
ers derived from the previous chapter. The second half of the chapter is
dedicated to advancing the term consolidated oligarchy as another—dis-
crete—qualifier of Kuchma’s regime, which specifically looks at the
state-group relations. In doing so, the logic of comparison, however,
obliges us to address another much more similar concept, namely, biased
pluralism (or simply pluralism) in an attempt to clearly define and deline-
ate the boundaries of consolidate oligarchy.

Basic Parentela Relations in Ukraine

In the present section, we will address Hypothesis 1a, which essentially
rested on the idea of prejudiced regulatory inspections and that the
extended parentela as a whole is a dynamic which effectively eliminates
business elites, because the parente in power seeks to eliminate their busi-
ness competition. Hypothesis 1b will be discussed in the next section.
Some of the most important analyses on Ukraine during Kuchma’s
tenure are provided by Puglisi (2003) and Aslund (2003) who are explic-
itly interested in tracing the relationship between Ukraine’s richest and
the President. Their work deserves special attention as the picture they
develop clearly fits the parentela in its basic form of a close cooperative
relationship between the Executive and an informal business group. In a
direct reflection of the general definition of the parentela, Puglisi argues
that the economic success of some firms during Ukraine’s process of
privatization of state assets was due to their proximity to the Executive
(2003: 103):

Economic liberalization has been pushed only as far as allowing the pri-
vatization of state assets, but not the correction of market distortions. The
‘selected introduction of market mechanisms’ and the consequent genera-
tion of concentrated rents has prompted a small group of actors, net win-
ners under these conditions, to lobby for the preservation of this newly
achieved status quo.

Moreover, Puglisi clarifies that Kuchma’s tenure and its success rested
on the patchwork of alliances with otherwise rival oligarchic groupings,
or clans, by exploiting and exchanging the resources available to him
under his institution (2003: 103). The close party insider group coop-
eration in Ukraine quite explicitly followed the contours of the paren-
tela, as directors and executives of affluent companies received political
representation using political appointments, which is a core parentela
dynamic (Puglisi 2003: 107–108). More specifically, Puglisi provides the
example of the so-called Dnipropetrovsk clan—a regional-based group-
ing of businesses—which were represented in the civil service through
nearly 200 appointments vetted by Kuchma (Puglisi 2003: 110–112).
Further consistent with the parentela, brightest appointments were
future prime minister Valeryi Pustoyvotenko, the secretary of Ukraine’s
security and defense council Volodmyr Horbulin or Serhyi Tyhypko
128  M. PETKOV

who was appointed the vice prime minister in charge of the economic
reforms (Puglisi 2003: 111). Such relations between Kuchma and the
Dnipropetrovsk clan fully overlap with the basic parentela.
Furthermore, Aslund, too, sees the Kuchma regime as oligarchic,
although not as a stagnant status quo but as a process (2003: 107). In
his view it would either transform further into a functioning democracy
or a full-fledged dictatorship. The reason for his latter concern, how-
ever, is namely Kuchma’s close relations with Ukraine’s oligarchs (Aslund
2003: 108):

In November 1999, Kuchma was re-elected thanks to a credible com-

munist threat and heavy financing from the newly minted, billionaire oli-
garchs, who appeared to have bought the state [… and] proceeded to
accumulate still more privileges as the rest of the economy descended […]

Already the general description of the Kuchma regime suggests that

the success of said businessmen was thanks to their privileged access to
the state. This access was facilitated with the appointment of oligarchs
such as Yuschenko (chairman of the Central bank) as a prime minister,
Timoshenko (touted gas queen, for her monopolist position in Ukraine’s
energy market) as a deputy prime minister (Aslund 2003: 108–109). The
description of Kuchma’s regime provided by Aslund and Puglisi above
follows the general outlines of the Bulgarian parentela where it is infor-
mal groups of affluent business actors that gain privileged access to the
civil service. These dynamics eventually lead Puglisi (2003) and Aslund
(2003) to explicitly advance the argument that the Kuchma regime is
in effect a regime where political and economic elites have consolidated
into an oligarchic one.
Aslund (2003) and Klein (2012), in other words, emphasize on the
competition between Ukraine’s business elites, or clans, whose primary
objective was to gain access to the Executive: either by directly nego-
tiating with Kuchma or by taking the longer route to the Executive by
forming own Parliamentary faction, with the hope to enter government
in the long run. Aslund (2003: 109) for example lists three such com-
peting clans in Ukraine’s Parliament (Aslund 2003: 109–110): First is
the Kiev clan, headed by Hryhory Surkis and Viktor Medvedchuk with
a monopolist standing in the power utilities sector and are the leaders
of the Social Democratic party (SPDU). Second is the Dnepropetrovsk
clan, headed by Viktor Pinchuk with a dominant business positioning

in the steel sector, and leading the Labor Ukraine faction. Last is the
Donetsk clan with Rinat Akhmetov as its leader and Viktor Yanukovitch
as his deputy. That clan is a large regional aggregation of coal and min-
ing businesses represented by the Regions faction.
More specifically, however, Klein argues that it was the very intention
of Ukrainian oligarchs, or those who wished to become one, to exploit
their access to the civil service through their connections with Kuchma’s
presidency by taking political office (Klein 2012: 124–125). Klein (2012:
125) gives an example with the Dnepropetrovsk businessmen with close
connections with Kuchma:

In addition to the post of prime minister, many other ministerial posi-

tions – above all those exercising authority in the economic sector – were
divided among the informal regional networks. These networks were also
frequently able to gain proximity to the president when their represent-
atives came to be appointed as personal advisers. In that way, not only
regional politicians but also the entrepreneurs themselves were able to get
a foot in the door.

As we already mentioned earlier, Puglisi (2003: 110–112), too, identified the

Dnepropetrovsk clan as the one with insider status with the Kuchma admin-
istration. What is more important, however, is that the continued presence of
those networks is not only in the civil service but as members of Parliament
who were nominated by the oligarchic partners of NDP, primarily the
Dnipropetrovsk clan, and which were later included in the party lists (Klein
2012: 129–130). It should be stressed that in light of their, the nomination
of MPs from one clan does not violate the logic of the parentela, although
strictly speaking the network by definition does not involve the Legislature.
Leaving the issue of definition aside for the moment, we will count the inclu-
sion of party insider nominations in the party lists of candidate Members
of Parliament as evidence of the parentela, because that is another form of
patronage. Instead of a civil servant, the person is appointed as an MP.

Further in support of Hypotheses 1a and 1b, there is evidence to sug-
gest that administrative coercion was used to decrease political and eco-
nomic competition. Puglisi (2003), for example, reveals how the Kuchma
regime overlaps with the extended parentela on the dimension of coercion.
130  M. PETKOV

Accordingly, Kuchma’s approach to forging his relationships with Ukraine’s

affluent business actors also included the elimination of rival economic
elites, the code word for which is “ierarkhizatsiya” (Puglisi 2003: 111):

The president’s intervention drew a distinction within the business elite

and placed on a hierarchy of influence those who were granted access to
budget resources, those who enjoyed political connections and those who
were altogether banned from the circles of power. 69

In other words, the effects which Kuchma’s insiders intended by sup-

porting him were to benefit from his networks of appointees in the civil
service as a way to gain further advantages at the expense of their busi-
ness competition (Puglisi 2003: 104):

The economic elite systematically pushed through measures that would

help to preserve their status […] The consequence was the consolidation
of a rent-seeking system in which economic advantages were afforded only
to those close to the administration, while excluding those who were not
part of it.

Note here that Puglisi in fact refers to two processes: one is the pro-
cess of gradual approximation between the executive and with its
insiders, and then the consolidation of this practice into a status quo,
e.g. a consolidated oligarchy. Puglisi (2003: 104) implies that those
who found themselves as outsiders failed in the overall inter-elite
In the same vein Klein’s rendition on the Ukrainian state dur-
ing Kuchma’s tenure also reveals that the business elites that have
party insider status sought to oust their active competition, as was the
case with Yulia Tymoshenko, who was pressured towards the periph-
ery by Premier Valerii Pustovoitenko, where: ‘the election of Valerii
Pustovoitenko as the next prime minister from Dnipropetrovsk brought
down [Tymoshenko’s] business empire’ (Klein 2012: 125). Klein (2012:
128) later re-states the party-centric elite rivalry between Ukraine’s elites,
which in turn reflects the extended parentela dynamic:

In this context the broader argument would be that since competitive

authoritarian regimes revolve around elections, the logical way for oppo-
sition forces to gain power in such regimes is to win elections. If the

opposition can engage in the same kind of manipulations as the ruling

elites, the result is just a change in the composition of the ruling elite.

As we will discuss later, competitive authoritarianism is a stage of dem-

ocratic transition where despite the existence of stable and valid elec-
tions, the ruling elite (party) tends to exploit the state resources available
through its incumbency to gain campaign advantages. Klein (2012: 128)
seems to suggest, therefore, that Ukraine is in a state of perpetual elite
rivalry in an environment of competitive authoritarianism where instead
of correcting it, rival elites vie for power with the hope of exploiting the
opportunities provided by said environment for own gain. The posi-
tion in this book in relation to the oligarchic dynamics in Bulgaria is the
same: political parties are most likely aware of the advantages provided
by political patronage and coercion, but instead of rectifying these con-
ditions, they choose to vie at elections with the hope their turn will come
one day so they too could take advantage of said opportunities. Thus, in
either case, the actors change while the oligarchic dynamics remains the
Darden (2008) also detected the coercive thread in Kuchma’s ten-
ure, and is much more specific than Klein (2012). On the surface,
Kuchma consolidated the more evident state resources of coercion,
namely the crowd control gendarme units, such as Alfa and Berkut,
which at some point were larger than the army count (Darden 2008:
214). However, there were more tacit and subtle ways of coercion,
such as the deliberate enablement of graft by the state, which served
two basic purposes (Darden 2008). It, first, induced civil servant’s
cooperation with the regime, as graft acted as a second salary. Yet, sec-
ond, it also provided some incriminating evidence to be used as black-
mail by Kuchma against internal political dissenters (2008). That, in
essence, is one of the coercive tactics used by Kuchma’s presidency.
The graft-ridden civil service during Kuchma’s tenure demonstrates
the scope of Kuchma’s control and ability to mobilize the coercive
powers of the state to own advantage—and that of the elite associated
with him. Darden argues that those were used against any potential
internal rivals who deliberately were allowed to accumulate a dossier
of malpractice only to be used selectively against them at a later stage
(Darden 2008: 47).
Consistent with type two parentela, Darden (2008: 49) also argues
that the agencies of the state in general were used for coercion against
132  M. PETKOV

political rivals. With the series of secret audio recordings made by

Kuchma’s personal bodyguard, Darden (2008: 50) illustrates how
Kuchma instructed the head of the Tax Administration Azarov and
Leonid Derkatch—the head of the Ukrainian intelligence service to work
together and mobilize their agencies to secure votes for the upcom-
ing election. The “mobilization” in this case also included blackmail of
opposition and rival political elites on their recorded misconduct. More
importantly and in direct overlap with type 2 parentela the tax inspectors
were expected to intimidate local administrative and business actors with
tax investigations unless they agitate voters for Kuchma. Observers from
the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) con-
cluded that true to their instructions state civil servants indeed interfered
with the elections on the side of Kuchma. Written orders were intercept-
ing detailing how local civil service officials should agitate the electorate
for Kuchma, while actual compliance was overseen by the intelligence
In his review of Kuchma’s regime and cooperative relationship with
Ukraine’s oligarchs at the time, Aslund (2003: 108) is far more direct
in his exposure of the coercive tactics used against political and business
rivals alike. As many respondents from the Bulgarian parentela study have
noted, sudden tax investigations by the respective agencies have also been
used as a mechanism of coercion by the Kuchma regime (Aslund 2003:

Kuchma’s first reaction to his miserable election results was to appoint

a major oligarch, Viktor Medvedchuk, as his chief of staff. Medvedchuk
focused on two tasks. One was to persuade businessmen in Parliament to
join the oligarchs. Since most of these businessmen are multi-millionaires,
they are not easily bribed, so the regime uses repression instead. Most
major businessmen in the opposition have endured raids by the tax police
and arrests of their top managers.

Other perceived rivals, such as the media, were subjected to the same
tactic of prejudiced regulatory inspections or brought to court (Aslund
2003: 111):

Disobedient independent newspapers are sometimes sued for libel and

issued prohibitive fines, forcing them into bankruptcy. The government
admits that the State Tax Administration inspected no less than 260 media

outlets in the last year, but merely added insult to injury by complaining
about their poor tax morals.

In short, the available evidence provided by Darden (2008), Klein

(2012), Puglisi (2003), and Aslund (2003) illustrated two core elements
of the extended parentela. The authors demonstrate that Ukrainian oli-
garchs deliberately sought close party-level contacts with Kuchma in
order to exploit the administrative access that he provided to suppress
their market competitors, while at the same time, Kuchma used his con-
trol over the civil service to suppress any political rivalry.

Consolidated Oligarchy During Kuchma’s Tenure

The previous sections started with noting that Kuchma’s coercive prac-
tices had an effect of decreasing both political and business competi-
tion, which satisfied Hypotheses 1a and 1b. The present section will lend
support to Hypothesis 1b. In this case, however, President Kuchma’s
behavior demonstrates that it is better theoretically to speak in terms of
general political competition. Inter-party competition, as our conception
dictated earlier, does not cover all forms of political conflict. President
Kuchma sought to preempt political competition, hence opposition, not
only by attempting to forge grand coalitions, but also by appealing to
the oligarchs for support, and by incorporating key trade associations
into the civil service.1 As Puglisi (2003: 113–114) states, Kuchma and
his party of Popular democracy (NDP) sought to preempt any politi-
cal opposition by forming large coalition, with parties that represented
big (oligarchic) business. For instance, the party of Regional Revival,
the group of Members of Parliament known as Working Ukraine, Social
Democratic party and Kiyv Seven were headed or dominated by market
monopolists, extremely influential and affluent individuals, or simply, oli-
garchs (Puglisi 2003: 113–114).
However, by appealing to business-centric parties, Kuchma was
in effect also appealing to the business elite as a whole. A policy of an
expansive coalition was one way of consolidating any political oppo-
sition, but as Puglisi (2003: 113–114) emphasizes the actual message

1 The last, by the way, is reminiscent of the NCTC case, where legislative amendments

regulating access to NCTC expected top directors to disclose their personal finances,
because the trade associations at the NCTC were seen as part of the civil service.
134  M. PETKOV

behind this move was to appeal to the wider spectrum of competing

business elites in Parliament, disguised as party factions. Accordingly he
announced that all businesses are welcome and that the only viable access
to the Executive was through NDP/SDP, headed by Kuchma, which
seems to have been well-received. In the same vein, Levitsky and Way
(2010: 216–217) explain that Kuchma’s tenure rested on a very broad
coalition of ‘oligarchic parties’, such as the party of Regions, Fatherland
and the Social Democratic party. Moreover, he also relied heavily on the
media comfort provided by supportive oligarchs, such as Medvedchuk,
for example, who controlled STB, ICTV and New Channel, and also
who headed the Presidential Administration at a later period (Levitsky
and May 2010: 217). So, again, in parallel to drawing businesses closer
to his institution through the selective award of policy-making privileges,
Kuchma also worked towards the dilution of any possible political oppo-
sition by attracting any rival parties in a broader coalition.
The end result is ultimately a state of oligarchic consolidation, where
the political elite, headed by Kuchma, effectively merged with the major-
ity of the business elites competing for access to policy-making, namely
that ‘[…] the president and his administration have become instrumen-
tal in the rise, stratification and consolidation of the Ukrainian oligarchs’
(Puglisi 2003: 102). Puglisi (2003: 110–111) later reiterates the idea
that a consolidated oligarchic status quo is not only a condition of the
absence of elite competition but it is is the result of Executive Branch’s
interference in the civil service—an idea that directly reflects parentela

In the years of the first Kuchma presidency an oligarchic system emerged

and consolidated thanks to the special privileges awarded by the president
and his administration to the members of his inner circle. The president’s
patronage network set relations between political power and business on
new foundations. Closeness to the president guaranteed access to the
administration, redistribution and utilization of state financial or admin-
istrative resources (‘a property nobody knows whom it belongs to’), cre-
ating large and unexpected fortunes. As an observer commented, The
formula ‘capital forms power’, traditional in all developed market econo-
mies has been completely inverted into its opposite – ‘power forms capital’.

Entirely inadvertently, Puglisi links Kuchma’s parentela-like relations

with the hypothesized here oligarchic consolidation status quo. The

relations between Kuchma and the oligarchs also overlap with the view
on oligarchy advanced in earlier chapters as a set of party-group relations,
which are geared towards the conversion of political access into capital,
as opposed to policy-making, and the use of various coercive mechanisms
for the elimination of any rival elites from assuming such a privileged
Another, yet indirect, indication of the consolidated oligarchic regime
is found in the outsider status of sectoral Trade Associations. We noted
earlier that one characteristic of an oligarchic status quo is that those
groups in close cooperation with the ruling party do not cater for the
interest of the sectors of the economy as a trade association would. This
in turn means that a feature of an oligarchic status quo is the emphasis
on short term moves by party insiders to convert their privileged poli-
cy-making access in capital, as opposed to promulgate policies that would
benefit sectors of the economy, which would be a secondary objective.
For instance, the interests of Ukrainian sectoral peak associations could
not outcompete big business in the fight for party insider status. Coming
from big business straight onto the ruling (Puglisi 2003). In addition
to being outsiders from the ruling party, they were co-opted by means
of state financing. On that note a form of co-option already exists in
the Bulgarian extended parentela model as we noted in Chapter 4
how a number of respondents viewed their sectoral organization as col-
liding with the ruling party and uncritically supporting former’s policies.
Their argument was that there was some form of co-option of the leader-
ship of what ought to be opposing trade associations. This was achieved
either peacefully through some financial enticing or forcefully through
type two parentela. This point rises again in the Ukrainian case, where
prospective opposition from professional or trade associations was pre-
empted by integrating those organizations in the state administrative
structures through various forms of state subsidies and what appears to
be appointments to said the trade associations elite of individuals whose
loyalties lie with the party in power (Puglisi 2003: 106–107).
Before we conclude this section we have to stress that the descrip-
tions of president Kuchma’s tenure above are also consistent with the
elements of an oligarchic state-group relations. In the previous sections
we identified four criteria that qualify state-group relations as oligar-
chic: party-centric, community-forming, (following from the party-cen-
tric community) coercion against any political and/or economic rival
and emphasis on the conversion of policy-making access into capital, as
136  M. PETKOV

opposed to emphasis on using the privileged access to advance legislative

improvements. Looking at the paragraphs above, we can find all of these
elements. The mere fact that Kuchma suppressed trade associations and
sought the active cooperation of oligarchs clearly indicates a policy-mak-
ing style dedicated to the protection of the assets of said business actors,
as opposed to finding sector-wide improvement of the legislative frame-
work (Puglisi 2003: 102, 106–107, 110–111). The advancement of the
so-called Dnepropetrovsk clan is evidence of the development of a self-
aware party-centric oligarchic community (Klein 2012: 125). The input
from Darden (2008), Puglisi (2003) and Klein (2012) on the coercive
methods used by Kuchma in his own campaigns and to aid the insider
oligarchs is in agreement with the definition of oligarchy advanced ear-
lier. This final section, again, justified Hypothesis 1b in particular by
arguing that the Ukrainian polity during Kuchma’s tenure was a con-
solidated oligarchy, political and business competition were curtailed
through administrative coercion, broad coalition-building and adminis-
trative-coption. The next section will address the obvious question, what
is, then, a consolidated oligarchy. The danger here is a superfluous termi-
nological saturation with the term consolidated oligarchy.

Consolidated Oligarchy Compared

What is a consolidated oligarchy and how does it differ from others
used to characterize the Ukrainain polity: competitive authoritarian-
ism and neo-patrimony. The major difference is in the level of analy-
sis. Consolidated oligarchy refers to the relations between the state and
Civil Society (Groups), while the latter two refer to the democratic rela-
tionship between the institutions in a given polity. The present section
argues, therefore, that it is beneficial to introduce the term consolidated
oligarchy, because it introduces another, specific, dimension when study-
ing the Ukrainian regime. Moreover, the approach is not region-bound
as it has been used to analyze Western polities, such as the US, UK, Italy,
Central and Western Europe. This in other words, would stimulate the
comparative approach and enrich the study on democratic policy-making
and democracy overall. However, in order to promote a more nuanced
terminological language, one has to responsibly and carefully define the
term not only with a stand-alone definition but define in comparison to
other similar terms, in order to avoid any conceptual overlap.

Competitive Authoritarianism
Levitsky and Way (2002: 53) define democracies as having four basic
characteristics: (1) Executives and legislatures are chosen through elec-
tions that are open, free, and fair; (2) virtually all adults possess the right
to vote; (3) political rights and civil liberties, including freedom of the
press, freedom of association, and freedom to criticize the government
without reprisal, are broadly protected; and (4) elected authorities pos-
sess real authority to govern, in that they are not subject to the tute-
lary control of military or clerical leaders. Although even fully democratic
regimes may at times violate one or more of these criteria, such violations
are not broad or systematic enough to seriously impede democratic rule.
A competitive authoritarian regime, then, is a regime that features all of
the above democratic characteristics though in a considerable degree of
violation so that at times of electoral or political contestation an uneven
playing field is created which strongly favors the incumbent political par-
ty(-ies). Accordingly, Levitsky and Way (2002: 52), define competitive
authoritarianism as a type of a hybrid regime where:

formal democratic institutions are widely viewed as the principal means of

obtaining and exercising political authority. Incumbents violate those rules
so often and to such an extent, however, that the regime fails to meet con-
ventional minimum standards for democracy.

Examples of such democratic violations are harassment of opposi-

tion parties, their supporters, abuse of journalists through persecution,
assault, or even murder. Elections, in turn are characterized by abuse of
state power geared towards biased media coverage and forms of harass-
ment against the opposition, although technically the electoral process
itself remains legal and valid (Levitsky and Way 2002: 55).
Another distinctive feature is that all branches of government are
highly contested. For example, in the case of the Executive, the ruling
party is using all of its resources (legal and other) to remain in power
(Levitsky and Way 2002: 56). Similarly, the Judiciary is also subjected
to the same kind of intense contestation with “maverick judges” ruling
against the interests of the government (Levitsky and Way 2002: 56–57).
Finally, there is the control of the media. In a competitive authori-
tarian regime, there is competition as to who will control the media.
While there exist a few independent ones, armed with state-owned media
138  M. PETKOV

outlets and the coercive powers of the state the ruling party counters any
opposition political narratives (Levitsky and Way 2002: 57–58).

Erdmann and Engel (2007) trace the origins of neo-patrimonialism in
the field of African Studies of 1990s, which attempted to explain the
state of African democratic development and the reasons for its stasis.
Accordingly, the 1990s literature on African development attempted to
define neo-patrimonialism by mixing in the right proportion a number
of concepts: ‘personal rulership’, clientelism, patronage, African tradi-
tionalism, modern industrial states and political systems, elites, tribalism,
informal politics and Weberian legal-rational bureaucratic rule Erdmann
and Engel (2007: 97–104). Dissatisfied with these feeble attempts to
define neo-patrimonialism in the literature, Erdmann and Engel (2007)
approached its definition by first differentiating it from patrimonialism:

Under patrimonialism, all power relations between ruler and ruled, polit-
ical as well as administrative relations are personal relations; there is no
differentiation between the private and the public realm. However, under
neopatrimonialism the distinction between the private and the public, at
least formally, exists and is accepted, and public reference can be made to
this distinction. Neopatrimonial rule takes place within the framework of,
and with the claim to, legal-rational bureaucracy or ‘modern’ stateness.
Formal structures and rules do exist, although in practice the separation of
the private and public sphere is not always observed.

The commonality between the terms is that both refer to a mix between
formal institutional behavior versus an informal, subjective policy-maker
behavior both within the institutional confines of the state. The authors,
then, offer a definition of neo-patrimonialism which comprises clien-
telism and patronage. Accordingly, the former, refers to the interpersonal
networks forged between policy-makers and individuals, which are hier-
archical and usually tend to benefit the patron. Rarely distributive and
unlike clientelism under patrimonialism, clientelistic networks under
neo-patrimonialism constitute much more complex relations, which
involve intermediaries and gatekeepers for the provision of select public
goods and services (Erdmann and Engel 2007: 106–107).

The relationships based on patronage, on the other hand, are forged

between groups and policy-makers. While the object of the exchange
may still be the preferential state provision of public goods and services,
the relationship is one among equals. Moreover, unlike clientelistic rela-
tions, there are abstract benefits, such as privileged access to the legisla-
tive process and the drafting of favorable legislation. While patronage,
too, depends on a complex relationship between policy-makers, civil
servants or other gatekeepers (brokers), the insider group in these rela-
tions may often be ethnic, as the term is derived from the African con-
text. In a broader sense, however, the authors seem to suggest that the
groups partnering policy-makers may be of strategic value to the patron
as they can mobilize the electorate (Erdmann and Engel 2007: 107).

The Three Terms Compared

It was stated earlier that the term consolidated oligarchy (CO) rests on
the idea of politicians and top businesses that have converged around a
single coherent body that informally presides over most macro-political
matters of the state. As already stated, consolidation here means the pro-
cess of transition from elite competition to a dominant elite status quo.
The idea of consolidated oligarchy appears to be closer to neo-patri-
monialism (NP) than to competitive authoritarianism (CA). The com-
petitive authoritarianism seems to be primarily focused on the formal
institutional relations within a nascent democracy or one in transition.
Very little or if anything at all from the description of the CA is in any
way applicable to the idea of oligarchy. Moreover, if the focus of com-
petitive authoritarianism is on the macro-level power-relations between
a strong Executive Leader, the institutions of a nascent democracy and
the Opposition, then oligarchic consolidation refers to a rather differ-
ent, meso-level cast of characters: civil servants, informal groups, polit-
ical parties and outsiders (unsuspecting businesses, (sectoral) interest
groups, rival businesses and interest groups). Furthermore, if competi-
tive authoritarianism looks at the formal relations and institutions, then
consolidated oligarchy refers to the informal mechanisms and relation-
ships which have lead to the formation of elites and their maturity into
a coherent community. Probably the only commonality between OC
and AC is the idea of limited political competition, although in the
end of the CO accentuates on the state of limited number of political
parties with government-forming potential, while CA stresses on the
140  M. PETKOV

implements available to the incumbent party to limit political competi-

tion, i.e. intimidation, media, blackmail, assassination.
Both neo-patrimonialism and competitive authoritarianism are devel-
oped with reference to a strong centralist executive in a formally dem-
ocratic institutional context. One difference appears to be that if both
terms analyze the formal relations among macro-level actors, such as
the Executive, Opposition, Political Parties in Parliament or the Media/
Public, then neo-patrimonialism looks additionally at the informal inter-
action between the Executive—be it a prime minister or president (in
our case is President Kuchma)—and the rest of the very same actors,
including social and business groups. These relations need not always be
cooperative and positive, but also confrontational and negative. More
specifically, neo-patrimonialism and its definition as a collective term for
clientelism and patronage looks at the complex informal dynamics of an
Executive which attempts to concentrate political power under function-
ing democratic institutions. Again, both terms focus on the mechanisms
that the Executive—or rather a political leader—with authoritarian incli-
nations is using to maintain his position.
In contrast, the unit of analysis under a consolidated oligarchy is not
the Executive, but groups and political parties specifically. The former
could broadly be construed as interest-, pressure-, cause or here infor-
mal groups, Trade Associations or individual businesses, corporations
or plainly oligarchs. As already stated earlier, CO looks at the polity as
a whole but from the perspective of the groups and their relationship
with the political parties. As mentioned earlier, the extended parentela
is a model that depicts the group-relations on a meso-level, which upon
magnification to a macro-level assumes oligarchic characteristics. A con-
solidated oligarchy, therefore, is a reference to the condition of the rela-
tionship that the state and the Groups find themselves in by looking at
the party-group relations. It is a static, macro-level model of the rela-
tions between groups and the state, while the other two terms appear
to be a macro-level models of the Executive and its relations and other
Still, there is some overlap between consolidated oligarchy and
neo-patrimonialism. Both terms share a focus on the informal relations
between groups and the Executive through clientelism and political
patronage. However, again, if neo-patrimonialism explores this topic
top-down, because we are interested in how the Executive manages to
preserve its power, then the consolidated oligarchy does so bottom-up,

being interested in how certain (informal) groups succeed in procur-

ing long-term insider status for themselves by engaging with the party
in power. The overlap, therefore, is insufficient to render the terms
Before we conclude the present chapter, however, there is one very
last term that is relevant to our comparative exercise, not because it is
related to regimes in transition but because it overlaps with the idea of a
consolidated oligarchy. The term in question is pluralism, and specifically,
biased pluralism. We will briefly look into pluralism because this is still
the textbook term used to describe the state-group relationships in the
West and the US in our example.

Consolidated Oligarchy vs. Biased Pluralism

Stated briefly, the overlap between the terms consolidated oligarchy, or
simply oligarchy, on the one hand, and biased pluralism, or simply plural-
ism, on the other, is the inequality of power among groups. Jordan (1990)
has argued that authors, who were later dubbed pluralists by their read-
ers and critics, did not associate pluralism with a status quo of equal
opportunities and political resources available to all groups, locked in the
policy-making fight. Instead (with what later will be advertised as biased
pluralism, sic) they associated it with conflict among groups, which is
neither equal, nor fair, nor leading to a level policy-making access.
That this conceptual tension is still valid today, and that Jordan’s note
was left unheeded, is evident in some of the more recent and influen-
tial quantitative studies on the macro-political models that best fit the
US, namely, Gilens and Page (2014) who confirmed that it is this biased
version of pluralism that remains true for the US today. The conceptual
confusion becomes noticeable when one observes that their research is
in fact a continuation of an earlier one that explicitly focused on oligar-
chy, namely by Winters and Page (2009). Page is the common scien-
tist in both studies which suggests that some degree of continuity was
intended as both studies investigate the very same phenomenon using
two different terms: oligarchy (Winters and Page 2009: 731–733) and
biased pluralism (Gilens and Page 2014: 567–570, 574). Why is that
Page (probably) decided to move away from oligarchy and operationalize
the term biased pluralism later is a mater of speculation.
The important bit for us is that even if we compare the four-point
definition of oligarchy derived earlier to the idea of (biased) pluralism,
142  M. PETKOV

we can still observe some considerable overlap between the two terms.
Both of them stress on the unequal access to policy-making, the une-
qual distribution of power-resources and access, and the domination of
some groups over legislation. So then, how do we resolve this conflation
between (consolidated) oligarchy and (biased) pluralism?
The answer to this question lies again in revisiting the points used
earlier to establish the overlap between the idea of oligarchy and the
dynamics of the extended parentela. First, while both views agree that
power is dispersed unequally among groups, pluralism seems to be more
concerned with actual policy-making in the sense of solving societal
problems, while oligarchic relations exploit political access. That is, as
Mallet-Provost explains, oligarchic policy-making has less to do with pol-
icy-making, and more to do with converting political access to economic
capital (think Chalakov et al. 2008), or gain business advantage by the
spoils of the office (1933: 163, emphasis added):

What is the nature of the group? It is essentially a business enterprise

organized professedly to represent and guard the public [but] in reality,
to secure for its members the spoils of office and the benefits resulting
from the control of governmental operations. […] The members of these
groups are the men and women who make a business of politics as distin-
guished from the business of government. […] but there is a difference
between the party system that exists mainly for the purpose of advocat-
ing governmental policies, and the party system that lives primarily for the
spoils of office. Unfortunately, our system is of the latter type.

Oligarchic policy-making then tends to also include the politics of the

spoils of the office, which seems to suggest the provision of immediate
legislative and administrative benefits to an insider groups. An example
of such administrative benefits can be the winning of public procure-
ment contracts, or the subtle change in standards and licensing which
can have the immediate effect of advancing certain businesses over oth-
ers. Whatever it is, the presence of oligarchic insiders in the policy-mak-
ing process, according to Mallet-Provost, is not motivated by a genuine
interest in improving the existing legislative framework, but by a desire
to quickly convert that access to capital—or immediate market advan-
tage, if we are allowed to give it a more modern interpretation.
Second is the question of the nature of the group in an oligarchic
order versus a pluralist one. Mallet-Provost (1933) above suggests that
these are groups that only publicly advertise their interest in improving

existing legislation in public’s interest, which may suggest sectoral and

professional bodies, although it is unlikely. His stress on oligarchic pol-
itics being business of politics as opposed to governance renders trade,
professional organizations and advocacy groups unlikely candidates.
That is why, as we already established in the earlier discussion, particu-
larly with the Carlyle Group, and public tenders in Bulgaria, the oligar-
chic participants are informal groups, which cannot be defined in terms
of public organizations tasked with the objective to protect the interest
of an economy or social group. Rather these are businesses, companies
or single affluent entrepreneurs who work solo or in concert to protect
their common interest, unbound in a formal organization. Unlike plu-
ralism, therefore, which is defined by clearly identifiable camps of inter-
est groups, the view of oligarchic non-policy-making implies nebulous
groups not interested in actual policy-making. It is this view that is part
of the extended parentela and consolidated oligarchy.
Third, another contrasting point between pluralism and oligarchy
is the role of the political party. Pluralism implies that groups fight for
access on any arena. However, as we discussed this point earlier and vis-
ible again the Mallet-Provost quotation above, who sees oligarchy as an
association between the party system and spoils-minded groups, the oli-
garchic dynamic is locked between an informal group and political par-
ties. Pluralism does not compel any such specific interaction.
Fourth and finally, the competition for power and access in a plural-
ist order is waged by lobbying or public campaigns, or both, unlike in
an oligarchic one, where competition also extends to various forms of
executive coercion. As a form of low profile persuasion, lobbying is com-
patible with an oligarchic order, however, the crucial difference is that
coercion is just as prevalent if not the major tool used by the ruling elite
against its competitors. Here, the consolidated oligarchy truly mani-
fests an oligarchic order as described in the literature: hosts amorphous
sub-sectoral membership, it is party-centric, state-exploitative and coer-
cive of outsiders. In any case, the oligarchic vs pluralist orders compari-
son is summarized in Table 6.1 below:
And again, the point is not to belittle the results of the Winters and
Page (2009) or Gilens and Page (2014) studies. The reason for this dis-
cussion was to demonstrate that there is a budding terminological overlap
between consolidated oligarchy and (biased) pluralism, which needs to be
addressed. This, for some, may seem like a cosmetic take on the literature,
but the position here is that such a terminological precision will greatly
aid us in better understanding the type of political order we live in.
144  M. PETKOV

Table 6.1  Pluralist vs. oligarchic state–group relations

Dimension State-group relations

Pluralist Oligarchic

Policy-making Actual Exploitative

Actors Sectoral groups Amorphous, sub-sector specific
Competition Lobbying & public campaigns Executive coerciona
Policy venues Any Party-centric
aDoes not exclude lobbying, though coercion is clearly tangible

Throughout Chapters 2, 3, and 4, we looked at the different elements
of the extended parentela, which was defined in Chapter 5 as a model
of oligarchic party–group relations. The previous chapter concluded with
the hypothesis that if unimpeded and in combination with a process of
decreasing inter-party competition, the extended parentela dynamics
will transform in an oligarchic status quo. The model and subsequent
hypothesis were developed both from primary and secondary data. The
question then was that in light of this high level of abstraction, can we
relate the model and the hypothesized relationship to real-world dynam-
ics. Is the extended parentela dynamic a purely Bulgarian phenomenon?
Do we have reasons to believe the model is accurate and that the hypoth-
esis could work outside Bulgaria? While it is beyond the scope of this
book to engage in a field-work, the present study instead reviewed sec-
ondary literature related to the regime of President Kuchma, as a validity
test, which would provide us with at least some preliminary confidence
in the extended parentela model and hypothesis. The results confirmed
the existence of the model and causal relationship.
First of all there is evidence of diminishing inter-party, or more appro-
priately, political competition as President Kuchma exploited his access to
the civil service by mobilizing all central and local servants to campaign
for him. Also along the lines of type two parentela, the secret services
were mobilized to discredit his opposition and intra-party rivals. He also
attempted to diminish competition at the level of formal and informal
interest groups, namely, by appealing to trade unions and ultimately con-
trolling them through the provision of state funds, and by attracting the

support of oligarchic communities. Most receptive to his call of support,

among the oligarchic groups, or clans, was the Dnepropetrovsk clan,
which as the parentela posits, was in the position to nominate new civil
service appointments.
Second, further in line with hypothesis 1b there was also evidence
of at least attempts to limit the number of business actors on the mar-
ket and with access to policy-making. Coercive powers as in type two
parentela were used against economic rivals, too, where licenses were
revoked from rival businesses or the same were subjected to administra-
tive/police raids and pressure from the intelligence services. As a result,
the Dnepropetrovsk clan and other equally entrenched oligarchs were in
the position to directly benefit from the process of privatization of state
assets (analogous to the privileged position of Bulgarian party insiders
who took advantage of public procurement contracts). Ultimately and
though limited by the scope of the present study, which would other-
wise require a specific field-work, the available secondary data allows us
to validate the very same elements of the hypothesized causal connection
between the extended parentela and consolidated oligarchy.
This validation means that at least on a theoretical level, the proposed
relationship model and hypothesis are valid constructs. One clarification,
however, is necessary. We are probably imprecise to conflate inter-party
competition with political competition. As Kuchma’s presidency demon-
strates, the former is only one type of the latter. There is political compe-
tition between interest groups, just as it is between political parties. And
it should be repeated that this does not mean that the Bulgarian regime
will transform into one analogous to Kuchma’s. Rather, we are looking
at the transformation of the relations between groups and the state.
Finally, by validating the causal relationship outside Bulgaria we also
promoted the term consolidated oligarchy as the hypothesized end-state
of the extended parentela’s transformation from a dynamic to a status
quo. As the Kuchma Presidency demonstrates, it is a status quo of dimin-
ished political and economic competition, where competing political and
business elites are drawn in the same elitist community (i.e. those who
support his Presidency). Kuchma certainly made attempts to unify both
elite types through enticement and coercion. And for the brief period of
stability of his presidency we can say that such consolidated oligarchic
status quo did manifest, even if imperfectly as a relationship, which was
embedded in existing democratic institutions.
146  M. PETKOV

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National Interest, No. 73 (Fall), 107–116.
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Studies, 38(2), 286–301.
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Cambridge University Press (Kindle Edition).
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Winters, J. A., & Page, B. I. (2009). Oligarchy in the United States? Perspectives
on Politics, 7(4), 731–751.

The Parentela and Oligarchy

The major contribution of the BPS is that it enriched the original paren-
tela model with greater dynamism, which stems from the discovery of
the second parentela dynamic and the non-policy-making dimension
of the extended parentela as a whole. According to the first parentela
arrangement discovered by La Palombara, a parentela insider ensured a
privileged positioning in the civil service through the nomination of new
or utilizing already existing political appointments made by the party in
power (1964). This meant that any legislation, under discussion with
interest groups and organized by the civil service would be under the
oversight of civil servants who are loyal to the ruling party or the paren-
tela insider. Either way, a parentela insider is strategically positioned to
passively oversee and actively shape any nascent legislative initiative. The
discovery of the parentela in the Bulgarian polity, however, revealed that
insiders may also have non-policy-making objective. If the earlier ver-
sions of the model discussed it in the context of specific legislation, the
Bulgarian parentela insiders are not exclusively interested in policy-mak-
ing. First and foremost, with the distribution of public procurement con-
tracts, one can observe that parentela relations have been utilized in a
non-policy-making manner. Indeed, it is self-contradictory to state that a
group is involved in policy-making but not for the sake of policy-making,
yet this is the case. However, this is not anything new. Lukes has argued
that the second dimension of power (Lukes 1974: 16–19) is that of
resisting political change. Interest groups that have attained insider sta-
tus among policy-makers eventually are put in the position to defend the

© The Author(s) 2019 147

M. Petkov, Oligarchic Party-Group Relations in Bulgaria,
148  M. PETKOV

status quo that they benefit from. And one way of doing so is to remain
in policy-making but for the purpose of non-policy-making, that is, to
resist policy change. They would fight to control government’s agenda
and attempt to filter out any political issues that might jeopardize their
insider status, but that is not policy-making, strictly speaking.
Another example of non-policy-making is coercion. In the Bulgarian
case, we were able to observe the parentela extending into the regulatory
agencies of the state. Insiders in the Bulgarian case are no longer satisfied
from, or interest in, dominating consultations. Instead, they may seek a
direct engagement with their market competition by exercising control
over the state regulatory agencies. The type of direct engagement we
discussed here were the prejudiced regulatory inspections, or type two
parentela. Again, these stand for the practice when a regulator targets a
business with the ulterior motive to disrupt its operations to the advan-
tage of the party insider.
Another way we can conceptualise non-policy-making is with the
concept of conversion. Borrowed from Chalakov et al. (2008) and later
re-discovered in the literature on oligarchy, and the Kuchma case, con-
version stands for the exploitation of one’s privileged position in pol-
icy-making by extracting short-term non-legislative and immediate
benefits for themselves. One example could be the privileged distribu-
tion of public tenders (Chapter 3), prejudiced inspections (Chapter 4)
or the later attempts by the Ukrainian clans to gain preferential stand-
ing in the process of privatization of state assets. The impulse to engage
in such non-policy-making, according to the BPS, originates from the
need to improve one’s market position, or to survive in a shrinking eco-
nomic sector. The engagement of the Ukrainian oligarchs on paren-
tela terms with president Kuchma could be explained with their similar
desire to preserve and expand their wealth, which is just as relevant to
the Bulgarian reality. From the perspective of political parties, conver-
sion takes the shape of either exchanging the access they provide to party
insiders for campaign contributions or re-directing public monies to
themselves. For instance, the case on procurement contracts in Bulgaria
also demonstrated that part of the deal between the ruling party and the
insider is that the budget dedicated to the completion of the public pro-
ject (or provision of public service) is divided in some way between the
party, obliging civil servants and the group. It is also this conversion per-
formed by the party and its insider that Mallet-Prevost (1933) has labe-
led earlier as the spoils of office pursued by what he called the oligarchy.

Finally, prejudiced inspections, could also be seen as a form of conver-

sion, where insiders improve their business competitivenes by influencing
the behaviour of the regulatory agencies.
The BPS also revealed that political parties, too, could be engaged in
non-policy-making. None of the above should deflect from the fact that
prejudiced inspections can also be used by political parties in order to
suppress political dissent: either from within or from outsider (interest)
groups. In this case, the targeted business entities are those of the dis-
senting party functionaries or of those firms which comprise the interest
group opposing party’s policy line. Likewise, in terms of conversion, we
also observed in interview responses, the VUARR report and in some of
the key statements made in Chapter 5 that political parties may also try
to take material advantage, particularly when it comes to the award of
public tender. These new dynamics of the parentela, then, paint the party
in a different light—as a semi-interest group which is just as focused on
its own survival as any other social organism, if we are allowed the luxury
of imagining groups in general as organisms.
Type two dynamics and non-policy-making, then allow us to see polit-
ical parties and their insiders, i.e. the parente, in an elitist light, and the
extended parentela as an oligarchic dynamic. Parties and party elites are
in the position to concentrate power. We observed here that party’s abil-
ity to control the appointments in the civil service allows it to control the
service itself. The case on the NCTC demonstrated that parties have the
potential to shape the structure of consultations, which can effectively
filter out opposing groups. Moreover, again through prejudiced inspec-
tions, a ruling party can engage its political rivals. Businesses that are
members of trade associations that oppose government policies would
then be the prime targets from the ruling party. These two scenarios act
as instruments of coercion against any political opposition, and, too, can
be used against intra-party defectors. All in all, these are instruments that
allow the ruling party to concentrate power. Not because such is formally
conferred to the institution of the Prime Minister, for example, but bec-
uase these instruments enforce the impression that the ruling party route
to an effective participation in policy-making is the most effective one.
At the same time, we can see party insiders as the business half of
this elite. The reiteration of the cooperation between ruling parties and
their insiders breeds trust and begins to take shape of a community of
the privileged. This was evident both by the respondents who spoke in
terms of families with privileged access, or using the phrase “either with
150  M. PETKOV

us or against us” to describe the dominant mentality at the party-insider

level. Another example of such mentality are the so called circles which
we introduced earlier. A sense of community is not foreign the policy
networks in general. Richardson and Jordan (1979) discovered a similar
process of community-formation in the British civil service, when they
discovered the policy community policy network type. In fact, the name
itself suggests that the preferred policy style in the 1970s–1980s rested
on a set of values and principles, whose reiterated observance by those
involved in British policy-making granted them an insider status, but
most of all—as the name suggests—shapes a community.
The extended parentela model, therefore, goes further from its initial
definition of La Palombara, because it now reflects the dynamic where
(informally) overpowered ruling parties with their privileged insiders
compete against other party-centric elites, and unsuspecting outsiders.
The dynamic begins with a party winning elections and the elite forma-
tion following a reiterated cooperation with an informal group. Once
formed, the parente is in the position to expand politically and econom-
ically, knowing that the improvement of the positioning of the one part-
ner (say, the business insider) improves the positioning of the other (say,
the party). For example, the better market positioning of the insider, the
more reliable they become as a donor, and at the same time, the more
reliant the insider becomes on the privileged standing which the party
provides them with. The better positioned the party becomes in the
civil service, the greater the policy-making benefits that it can offer to its
insider, e.g. privileged access to consultations or the award of public ten-
ders. Thus, the party and its insider can be seen as behaving as a single
elitist unit because each side needs the other for long-term benefits.
It is this unit, then, that grows through patronage and coercion. The
availability of party patronage enables the parente to populate strate-
gic civil service agencies and consultative bodies with trusted appoin-
tees, nominated either by party’s rank and file or the insider themselves.
Again—we can see this not only as an advantageous move by the party
insider, but rather by the parente as a whole. In other words, what we
have described earlier in terms of individual benefits accrued to a party
insider through type one and two parentela dynamics, that could just as
well be seen as the mechanisms through which the elite embeds deeper
in the institutions of the state and the market. Thus, as regulatory coer-
cion for political or economic benefit share the common source—the
parente—then it follows we can speak of it as a single unit of elitism.

Therefore, any move in those directions means the improved standing

of that elite at the expense of the others. It is a zero-sum game. The
award of public tenders to party insiders means that potential gains have
been denied to rival elites. The successful harassment of outsider busi-
nesses leads to the vacation of market space, which is then absorbed by
the party insider. A control over ruling party’s agenda or consultative
process as hosted by the civil service means that ensuing legislation could
go directly against the interests of rival elites.
Thus, again, the dynamics brought into the model by the discovery of
type two parentela and its discovery in non-policy-making contexts have
greatly enriched the parentela model not only in terms of causal dynam-
ics but also in terms of levels of analysis, which allows us to perceive
the, now, extended parentela as a dynamic which simultaneously gener-
ates and eliminates oligarchic elites. Again, this dynamic is seen here as a
competition among elites which is re-started whenever a party loses par-
liamentary elections and another that comes to power. But then again
there is the question whether there is other evidence that allows us to
state that the observed extended parentela dynamics are indeed oligar-
chic, and what does that mean? Chapter 5 reviewed some of the liter-
ature on the subject of oligarchy and compared the described dynamic
to the extended parentela. Four overlapping points became evident as a
result of this. Oligarchic dynamics are characterized by: (1) party cen-
trism; (2) community-formation; (3) conversion and (4) coercion. Point
one refers to the fact that what we perceive as state capture by a private
business is in fact the result of successful negotiations between capturing
business and policy-makers. At least in Bulgaria, parties in power act as
gatekeepers to the policy-making process, facilitated by political patron-
age. Therefore, any perceived benefits accrued to a private company can-
not be the result of a capture, but permission granted by the party in
power. Reviewing the oligarchic literature also reveals a similar stress,
particularly evident in the case study of Briody on the Carlyle Group
investment fund, which heavily relied on forging close relations with
active and former politicians of any party in order to secure privileged
access to defense procurement contracts (Briody 2003).
Point two refers to the idea that an oligarchy comprises a commu-
nity. We already touched above on the community-forming mechanics
of the extended parentela whenever parties and insiders reiterate their
cooperative endeavors. The Carlyle Group is a community, just as are the
Bulgarian circles of close interaction between ruling party politicians and
select businessmen.
152  M. PETKOV

Point three refers to the idea that parallel to policy-making, ruling

parties and their insiders are also engaged in the process of converting
their privileged policy-making access into capital. We observed that with
the chapter on public tenders and type two parentela. A similar confirma-
tion was found in the oligarchic literature where Mallet-Provost (1933)
in particular highlighted that that behavior was a key feature of oligar-
chic dynamics. Briody (2003) in turn demonstrated the same point with
Carlyle’s push for gaining insider status in the defense administration in
order to secure lucrative defense contracts.
Here is probably the place to make another parenthetical point about
conversion and the type of party insiders in the case of the extended
parentela which can be seen as another novelty introduced to the inti-
tial model. In all three studies on the parentela (La Palombara 1964;
Greer 1994 and Yishai 1992), the partnering insider was a formal inter-
est group. In the Bulgarian case, however, the parentela insider is what
we called here, an informal group. An informal group stands for either a
single or a number of companies, firms, corporations or extremely afflu-
ent individuals (such that would be called oligarchs) who represent their
collective or own interest, as opposed to those of a social group/strata
(think, advocacy coalitions), profession or sector of the economy (peak
association, trade union). This is in turn suggests that there might be a
correlation between the type of group assuming insider status and the
nature of the demand. Namely, an informal group would seek to convert
its access, while a formal group would be more interested in changing
the legislation. While this may be subject of future research, this impor-
tant distinction remains.
Finally, coercion is the last feature shared both by the oligarchic litera-
ture and the extended parentela. The extended parentela saw type two or
the prejudiced regulatory inspections as weapons of coercion employed
by the ruling party or its insider. The case on Carlyle whose members
attempted to secure access to the intelligence and defense departments of
the US and the wider oligarchic literature, too, confirm coercion as part
of the definition of the concept (e.g., Leach 2005).
Of course, the list may be incomplete. Other researchers might
emphasize on other dimensions as defining the parentela. However, the
four that were extracted from the literature review considerably cover
both dynamics: the one that is labeled here extended parentela, and the
one referred to as an oligarchy. That is why they are adopted.

So far, we re-examined the construction of the extended parentela

along with the novelties introduced to the model by the BPS. From the
basics of the model, as defined by La Palombara (1964), to the discov-
ery of its second dynamic and leading to the re-conceptualization of the
network model as one of party-group oligarchic relations. But in the end
of the day, there is the question of the effects of the extended parentela
dynamic on the Bulgarian polity and democracies in general? This ques-
tion is not new and in part motivated the writing of the present mon-
ograph. In his study on the parentela, La Palombara was confronted
with the question of the possible link between oligarchy and the paren-
tela (1964). Some of his respondents spoke in terms of Italian oligarchy
when discussing the party–group relations in Italy at the time. The argu-
ment was that everything in Italy was politically decided by the Christian
Democratic party, the affluent families and the number of wealthy indus-
trialists. These responses then prompted the question whether the paren-
tela was a synonym of oligarchy or whether there is a link between the
two at all. La Palombara is quite dismissive of the idea that 1960s Italy
was an oligarchy or that any such links could be established.
And so, the study behind the present book initially did not set out to
investigate this question. The situation, however, changed when the rich
qualitative data from the Bulgarian Parentela Study brought this subject
back to light. At first, some of the respondents directly spoke in terms of
elites and an oligarchy. That simply reiterated the same confrontation that
La Palombara experienced. However, this subject appears again once we
look at the extended parentela as a model of state-group relations from a
macro-level of analysis. The policy network literature normally operates on
a meso-level, that is on the level of interest groups, ministriers, NGOs, cor-
porations, courts, Parliaments, civil service. However, from a macro-level
we can discuss the same relationships from a larger perspective—of the pol-
icy network as a whole, and its effect on the politics of the state. And again,
the macro-view was made available with the discovery of the second paren-
tela dynamic.

So, therefore, the short answer to the question on the implication of the
extended parentela on the Bulgarian polity is the hypothesis that the con-
tinued reiteration of the extended parentela dynamics and in combination
of decreasing inter-party (or political) competition can serve as a process
that could lead to an oligarchic status quo.
154  M. PETKOV

But what does it mean?

The extended parentela as an oligarchic model is a dynamic, and not a
regime. The emergence of elites and their competition occurs within the
state-group set of relations. For example, corporatism and pluralism are
macro-level state-group relationship models within a democratic institu-
tional framework, just as the extended parentela purports to be as well.
However, an oligarchic regime, is seen here as the formal institutional-
ization of an oligarchic rule. This scenario, at this point in time, how-
ever, seems hardly possible. It is inconceivable that anyone would openly
advocate an oligarchic regime and change institutions accordingly.
There, however, are other scenarios that can transform Bulgarian politics
to a stage below a regime, namely, a status quo.
How does the hypothesized oligarchic consolidation unfold? This
is the result of two processes: one of the continued extended parentela
which has the effect of reducing the business players per economic sec-
tor, who later seek to partner the party in power, and the other of the
diminishing inter-party competition. The consolidation hypothesis is
partly based on the idea that the reiterated dynamics of the extended
parentela will ultimately diminish the number of private actors who
would later partner ruling political parties. These actors are essentially
the businesses comprising the informal party-insider group. This is idea,
expressed as a hypothesis 1a in previous chapters stems from the coercive
feature of the parentela. The second parentela dynamic states that busi-
nesses with outsider status risk being coerced by the parente in power. As
it is a zero-sum game, where any gain by the insider is an outsider’s loss,
and where the end result will be that a fewer players will be left, who at
the same time will be more affluent than before.
We have to remind again that this simple declaration risks suggesting
that the type two parentela may bring the impression of some degree
of checks and balances between competing elites. In the spirit of biased
pluralism, political resources and power are unequally distributed. This
means formal or not, groups competing for political access have varying
chance of assuming insider status and keeping it. This also means that
although the extended parentela creates zero-sum dynamics, given the
imbalanced or biased political environment, it does not follow that these
are perfect. Not every new elite in power will be effective in checking
previous elites. In fact, a safer strategy may not be to engage previous
business elites, but engage with unsuspecting outsiders.

The other process parallel to the above, and necessary for the arrival
of the consolidated oligarchic status quo, is the curtailment of inter-party
competition. The study initially hypothesized two major scenarios lead-
ing to this effect: a change to a predominant party system or an inter-
party policy-making approach of grand coalitions and consociational
democracy. The first scenario refers to one of Sartori’s party system type
characterized by a pluralist party competition where a single party wins
absolute majority for at least 4 consecutive terms. The second scenario is
a style of governance where political parties decide to unite and govern
together in grand coalitions.
The Ukrainian case revealed that certain refinement in the above
hypotheses is necessary. First of all, grand coalitions and predominant
party systems are not the precise term to signify the competition on elite
political level. Formal and informal groups, such as Trade Unions and
single oligarchs, too, are part of it. This became evident when the case
revealed how President Kuchma subjugated one of the more influential
trade union in Ukraine by providing it with state subsidies, while at the
same time appealing to all oligarchs to support his candidacy, as there
will be spoils for everyone.
Second, the Ukrainian case revealed something that is theoretically
plausible under the extended parentela, but there was no evidence of. We
observed type two parentela used both against opposing interest groups
and dissenting rank-and-file. This in turn suggests that administrative
coercion could be used against the donors of political parties. Though
plausible, there was no direct evidence of that in the BPS, although no
evidence was found. The Ukrainian case demonstrated that the Kuchma
presidency used the resources and agencies of the state to intimidate the
opposition. With regards to the hypothesis, this means we should also
hypothesize that type two parentela can also diminish political compe-
tition. This also means that future research has to be informed by the
much simpler generаl hypothesis that the extended parentela causes a
process of oligarchic consolidation, which can be catalyzed by a predomi-
nant party system or a consociational style of governance.
Now that the hypothesis has been stated on the basis of primary and
secondary data, there is the question whether it is valid. Has the level of
abstraction made the hypothesis far-fetched from the real world? Is the
extended parentela at all applicable to other cases? If the hypothesis and
the model it is based to are valid then there should be evidence of their
applicability to other cases.
156  M. PETKOV

With Chapter 6 we explored these final concerns with both the model
and the hypothesis based on it. We looked at the case of Ukraine and
the tenure of president Kuchma from mid 1990s to mid 2000s. Limited
by the scope of the exercise and available space and resources, the book
conducted a literature review of the available secondary data on the
democratic state of Ukraine. The objective was to find any evidence of
the elements from the hypothesized causal relationship: evidence of the
extended parentela dynamics of diminishing business actors, limited
political competition and evidence of the characteristics borne by a con-
solidated oligarchic rule.
The exercise demonstrated that, similar to the basic parentela, the
Kuchma presidency appointed to top ministerial positions or in the civil
service individuals nominated by what is commonly known in Ukraine
as the clans. Akin to the informal groups from the extended parentela
or the Bulgarian circles, these are informal groups comprising regional
businesses behaving as a single unit and usually represented by a single
person also labeled an oligarch. Similar to the second parentela dynamic,
as well, President Kuchma was able to rely on the coercive powers of the
state both in terms of prejudiced inspections and the intelligence forces.
A consolidated oligarchic status quo was described as the extended
parentela dynamic minus the competitive element and exhibiting the
four characteristics of an oligarchy: party-centrism, conversion, elitist
community-building and coercion. First, the regime has been defined as
neo-patrimonial and competitive authoritarian. Both terms are based on
the idea that despite parliamentary and presidential elections, the demo-
cratic institutions are under the severe influence from the Executive. In
this case, it is President Kuchma. The consensus among the authors—
and as evidence demonstrates—is that the President exploited his con-
trol of the civil service in order gain advantage over his political and
economic competition. This is not to say elections were falsified but that
legal-administrative barriers were imposed on the opposition in its abil-
ity to organize, e.g. favorable media coverage, forcing the civil service
to informally mobilize voters (friends, family, etc.), withhold permits for
meetings and protests, etc. All of this renders President Kuchma’s presi-
dency a polity with low political competition, which falls in line with the
consolidated oligarchy.
With regards to the four oligarchic points, in the Ukrainian case the
notion of party-centrism overlaps with the presidency of Mr. Kuchma. His
attempts to stifle political competition and control over the civil service

and render the party venue as central vis-a-vis other venues. Any pol-
icies had to be coordinated with president’s administration. As the arti-
cles suggest, there was a competition among some of the clans for closer
access to the president. The community-building element is evident with
the clan-culture which the presidency maintained, while coercion was
observed with Kuchma’s control over civil and intelligence services. We
also saw that conversion, too, was evident in Kuchma’s tenure particularly
in the process of privatization of state assets, where certain clans prevailed
over others thanks to their close relationship with the Presidency.
Finally, the search for the elements of the oligarchic model in
Kuchma’s tenure, prompts the question whether there is a conceptual
overlap between consolidated oligarchy and the terms used to describe
his tenure: neo-patrimonialism and competitive authoritarianism. The
closer study of the definitions towards the end of Chapter 6 demon-
strated that consolidated oligarchy is a distinct term from competitive
authoritarianism and somewhat closer to neo-patrimonialism, although it
is not sufficient to render the terms interchangeable.
The major distinction is in the unit of analysis of in the extended
parentela and in consolidated oligarchy, which is the group—formal or
not. Following the policy network approach, the extended parentela
and by an extension the consolidated oligarchy look at the relation-
ship formats group engage in with policy-makers. We may then choose
to look at those relationships from a larger perspective, but that would
be an exercise of generalizations from a lower analytical level of analy-
sis to a higher one; hence, the re-imagining the extended parentela as
an oligarchic dynamic. In contrast, the other two terms are focused on
the Executive and its attempts at maintaining or concentrating political
power in the context of democratic institutions. Competitive authoritar-
ianism focuses on the overt dynamics surrounding the tense contesta-
tion of democratic institutions by the Executive and its opponents, while
neo-patrimonialism is a reference to the informal mechanisms of patron-
age and clientelism used to the same ends.
And here lies the conceptual overlap between neo-patrimonialism and
consolidated oligarchy. Both terms are partly defined with reference to
the relationship between the Executive or the party in power, and the
groups that be. The distinction here is the perspective. The consolidated
oligarchy is a concept derived by the bottom-up approach because it is
based on tracing how groups interact with the various policy venues. On
the other hand, neo-patrimonialism features a top-down perspective on
158  M. PETKOV

how the Executive—as a macro-political concept—interacts with groups,

as expressed by the concepts of clientelism and patronage. Nevertheless,
it is not seen here that this overlap is sufficient to render the terms
The other major distinction is based on what the terms are: descrip-
tive or causal models. Both neo-patrimonialism and competitive author-
itarianism are labels describing what the Executive regime does. It may
engage in clientelism, patronage, or may opt for favorable media expo-
sure, but these activities are part of the definition. Instead, with the
advancement of consolidated oligarchy as the result of the combined pro-
cesses of the extended parentela and diminished party competition, we
seek to advance a dynamic model or a process with an explanatory power.
Finally, because consolidated oligarchy insists that its major distinc-
tion from the other two terms is its focus on the relationship between
the state and groups, then the study ended the comparative section by
addressing the question whether it is different from biased pluralism. This
term refers to a condition in the state-group relations where groups are
freely competing with one another for access to policy-making. Debates
on terminological purity aside, the term signifies that power resources and
access to policy-making are not equally distributed. Some groups, there-
fore, are in the position to carve out a dominant position for themselves,
while others are peripheral insiders at best. The necessary comparison with
consolidated oligarchy suggests that while both terms converge on their
focus on the inequality of political participation of groups, the nuances
in the relationships under investigation render the terms sufficiently dis-
tinct. Consolidated oligarchy, therefore, differs from biased pluralism on
the grounds that: it is party-centric, conversion-focused, coercive, and
also involving informal interest groups. On the other hand, the pluralist
narrative seems to be looking at formally established interest groups, such
as Trade Associations, NGOs or any sectoral, professional or advocacy

So, what gains have been made so far with the present book with regards
to the parentela? What would be the implications of the hypothetical rela-
tionship, should it be validated?What does it tell us about democracy and

Probably the most pressing question right now is the implication of the
hypothesis for democracy. The hypothesis suggests that the parentela

policy-network can serve as a process that can explain the formation of an

oligarchic status quo. The research so far has allowed us to enrich the ini-
tial parentela to the point it has become a process. In its starting version
the parentela was merely an observation of the relationship between one
interest group and the party in power in Italy, which relationship was later
confirmed in Northern Ireland.
The discovery of the second arm of the parentela, then, allowed us to
look at the network from much greater analytical depth. Horizontally,
we can look at the extended parentela strictly as a party–group rela-
tionship, from the very same perspective La Palombara did in in 1960s.
Furthermore, the rich data allows us to perceive the parentela as a causal
and dynamic model of party-group relations: those of conflict and coop-
eration. Pressured by the need to convert their policy-making access to
capital, both the party and interest groups engage in the formation of
the (extended) parentela. Parties are drawn because the actual campaign
costs will not be tolerated by the public purse, while companies particu-
larly in flagging industries might find political protection as their only
solution to inevitable bankruptcy (or simply want to improve their mar-
ket standing regardless).
Vertically, from a higher view-point, we can now look at the extended
parentela as a process, which in combination with diminished party com-
petition can transform the party-group relations to an oligarchic status
quo. This, in turn allows us to address the question of the relationship
between the parentela and oligarchy that La Palombara was confronted
with in his initial study. The research ultimately theorizes that under cer-
tain conditions the parentela can act as a process of transformation of the
relationship between Groups and the state: from an oligarchic dynamic
to an oligarchic status quo.
The extended parentela reveals how anti-democratic processes can
function embedded within a democratic institutional framework. It
demonstrated that an oligarchic rule can be enforced through the regula-
tory agencies of the state and latter’s control over the consultative process
in the civil service. Both measures effectively allow the incumbent party
to either coerce non-compliant groups (or businesses funding those) or
nullify their access in the civil service. A group can still be invited to con-
sultations but any measures accepted by the civil servants would have
no weight, if the latter are politically appointed and disfavour. The book
therefore argues that the oligarchic dynamic which we can observe in
present-day Bulgaria can transform into an oligarchic status quo.
160  M. PETKOV

Having said that and delivered the final accords of this volume, hope-
fully, we have found a process that can shed more light on the reverse
processes to democratic transition. If the democratic literature is con-
cerned with democratic consolidation, one can argue that we were inter-
ested in the reverse process of transition towards a non-democratic rule,
albeit embedded in a democratic institutional framework. As this research
demonstrates, the concern with the formal institutions of the state
deflects from the undercurrent processes that may establish a different
status quo that is not visible from the outside. So, hopefully, the extended
parentela and consolidated oligarchy will prove to be effective analytical
tools to detect non-democratic processes early in advance before Bulgaria
or any other state transitions away from a democratic policy-making.

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The Appendix features additional tables that shed more light on the
respondent pools and respondent recruitment process. Table 1 rep-
resents the profile of La Palombara’s respondent pool. The codes are
the same as they were mentioned in the methodological section in the
Table 2 illustrates the profiles of all respondents in the BPS.
In addition to the profile, we are also including the map of Bulgarian
respondents which illustrates the process of respondent selection. In
order to maintain their anonymity, each respondent was assigned a code
during the field-work. At the stage of writing up, the codes were sub-
stituted with pseudonyms. The map or network is developed on nVivo.
In more detail, the study initially divided respondents in three groups:
primary—those who belonged to Bulgarian circles; secondary—those
who participated in policy-making outside any interest groups or cir-
cles, and tertiary: those respondents who were part of interest groups,
e.g. trade associations. Primary respondents are denoted with circles, sec-
ondary with rhomboids and the tertiary with squares. Intermediaries are
denoted with circles or elliptical shapes. In figure comments are denoted
with trapezoid or a yellow rectangular shape (Fig. 1).

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 161

M. Petkov, Oligarchic Party-Group Relations in Bulgaria,
Table 1  Italian respondent pool

Page number, Description Party Administration Groups Misc

162  Appendix

307, 83 Servant of the Ministry of Industry and ? ? ?

309, 3 Servant of the Ministry of Treasury ? ? ?
318, 7 Servant of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ? ? ?
328, 16 Servant of the Ministry of Treasury ? ? ?
344, 37 Servant of Ministry of Agriculture ? ? ?
326, 79 Servant, “highly placed” in General ?
Accounting Office
329, 17 Servant of the Ministry of Finance ?
Commando Generale “high placed”
314, 46 Socialist deputy 1
316, 40 Leader of Christian Democratic Party ? ?
345, 4 Leader of Christian Democratic Party ? ?
337 fn. 37, 29 Leader of Christian Democratic Party ? ?
334, 36 Socialist deputy 1
320, 31 Member of the senate 1
311, 98 Leader of Confindustria 1
312, 30 Leader of UILa 1
319, 80 Leader of UIL 1
336, 20 Leader of the National Civic Committee 1
338, 35 Leader of UNURIa 1
344, 65 Representative of IRIa 1
309, 33 Informed writer 1
310, 81 Anonymous 1

Table 1  (continued)

Page number, Description Party Administration Groups Misc


310, 94 Anonymous 1
335, 59 Editor of a left-leaning periodical 1
337, 90 Journalist 1
303, 54 key observer of the administrative process 1
TOTAL respondents per sub-category 6 7 6 0 2 1 3
TOTAL respondents 25
aA trade association in Italy

MP Member of Parliament
MIN Minister, ex-minister
LDR Leader of Pol. Party
COM Participated in Consultative Committees
ADV Adviser to Party HQ, PM, MIN, Department
DIR Appointed Director of a state agency/firm
TA Director of a Trade Association
B Business Owner
J Journalist
W Writer
U Unknown
Table 2  Bulgarian respondent pool

Respondent Party Administration Groups Periods of Policy-making activity measured in parliamentary mandates

MP LDR ADV MIN COM DIR TA B 07* 36.9194 37.9597 38.9701 39.0105 40.0509 41.0913 42.1317

Golemanov 1 1 1
Dimitrov 1 1 1 1 1 1
Kuzmanov 1 1
Georgiev 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Aleksandrov 1 1 1 1
Konstantinov 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Lyubenov 1 1 1 1
Nikolov 1 1 1 1 1
Mitrev 1 1 1 1 1
Bachv arov 1 1 1 1 1 1
Kirilov 1 1 1 1
Petkov 1 1 1 1
Hristov 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Valentinov 1 1
Penchev 1 1 1
Hadzhiev 1 1
Zlatarov 1 1
Cenov 1 1 1 1
Gospodinov 1 1 1 1
Donchev 1 1 1 1
Mihailov 1 1 1 1 1 1
Rumenov 1 1 1

Table 1  (continued)
Respondent Party Administration Groups Periods of Policy-making activity measured in parliamentary mandates

MP LDR ADV MIN COM DIR TA B 07* 36.9194 37.9597 38.9701 39.0105 40.0509 41.0913 42.1317

Stoyanov 1 1
Dobromirov 1
Petrov 1 1 1 1 1
Varbanov 1 1
Subtotal per 11 5 6 4 8 6 9 6 5 5 6 5 8 11 10 6
Total per 22 18 15 56
Total 55 Total temporal representative (above)

MP Member of Parliament
MIN Minister, ex-minister
LDR Leader of Pol. Party
COM Participated in Consultative Committees
ADV Adviser to Party HQ, PM, MIN, Department
DlR Director of a state committee/commission/agency/firm
XX.YYZZ Person active during respective Parliament tenure
XX ordinal number of the Parliament
YY start of Parliamentary tenure
ZZ end of Parliamentary tenure
36.91-94 For example: XXXVI Parliament, from 1995 to 1997
7* The VII Great Parliament (double the seats)

TA Director of a Trade Association

B Business Owner

i0 or
IF i0 - researcher 000 ACCESS OK Primary Respondent: circles
000i [/
personally knows (000)] i2 and grupirovki
intermediary. IF i3 i5
000i - researcher is Mentioned in Respondent-turned-Intermediary
Mentioned in NO ACCESS secondary respondent:
210i not acquainted to Interview:
i4 i6 Interview politicians and civil servants
/ i2 the intermediary. negative attitude Colour Codes
i9 i11 Neutral attitude to to latter
i0 or 000i - i7 PARTIAL ACCESS
latter respondent respondent Tertiary Resp.: interest groups
i8 Neutral Negative and business
210i / i2 000i (000) - i10 snowballing snowballing Intermediary
respondent Intermediary
and vice versa 000

237 279 280 277 247
i5 24 28 239 278 274 242
246 248 0

210 260
14 /
250 1454
240 244(i) 001 /
237 236
241i 238
241 213
211 002 - 32184 32185
i 213
(248) REL
205i 10125-
(250) 211 205- 003
Researcher pilot
/ not 31970
REL used
intermediary 1012
into 5-211 321
respondent 1125

208 31768
15/ 10125- 10115-
205 10125
103 10115
10129 101 - 31667
234 10118
Ivanov 10335 30182
(MULTI 31566
CEO) 205
10116 10117 300
memoirs in block
Toshev ing 11 302
10120 30251

Videnov 10128 30249
hev.Memo 10121
205 memoirs
in petev
2008 31364
10122 10124
30353 30455
2004a.Tos 10123
10119 i8
30556 31263

blocked 30381
access 30657 31162
212 to 212

30872 310




Fig. 1  Bulgarian respondent map_redacted

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A 77–80, 87, 90, 92, 93, 95, 97,

Appointment, 11, 31, 33–35, 37–40, 99–103, 105, 108, 111, 112,
51–53, 56, 66, 69, 71, 73, 80, 115, 119, 120, 127–134, 144,
100, 111, 127, 128, 135, 145, 145, 147, 149–151, 153, 156,
149 159
Clan, 127–129, 136, 145, 148, 156,
B Coerce, 17, 79, 81, 98–100, 103, 159
Biased pluralism, 124–126, 141, 154, 158 Coercion, 13, 17, 18, 79, 85, 99, 104,
105, 107, 112, 113, 116, 120,
129, 131, 132, 135, 143–145,
C 149–152, 155–157
Campaign, 15, 16, 45, 47, 50, 51, Competition, 3, 4, 17, 18, 29, 60–62,
53–55, 59, 65, 66, 74, 80, 113, 64, 65, 74, 78, 79, 81, 84, 86,
114, 131, 136, 143, 144, 148, 87, 93, 97, 99, 113, 115–118,
159 121, 123, 125–128, 130, 133,
Campaign funds, 15, 49, 50, 53–56, 134, 137, 143–145, 151,
59, 98 153–155, 157–159
Catholic Action (CA), 2, 95 Competitive Authoritarianism (CA),
Circle, 50–53, 55, 62, 81, 96, 104, 124, 131, 136, 137, 139, 140,
108, 111, 130, 134, 150, 151, 157, 158
156 Consolidated oligarchy, 4, 17, 18,
Civil service, 1, 2, 3, 7–9, 11, 12, 116, 118, 119, 123–126, 130,
15–17, 19, 29–35, 39–45, 47–50, 136, 139–141, 143, 145,
56, 60, 62, 63, 68, 69, 71–74, 156–158, 160

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 181

M. Petkov, Oligarchic Party-Group Relations in Bulgaria,
182  Index

D 53, 56, 59–61, 63, 67–70, 74,

Democracy, 3, 15, 101, 102, 115, 77–80, 84, 86–88, 92, 95,
118, 128, 133, 136, 137, 139, 97–99, 101, 102, 104, 106,
155, 158 107, 111, 112, 114, 116, 119,
124, 127, 129, 130, 136, 139,
141, 142, 147, 148, 150–152,
E 154
Economic competition, 129, 145, 156 Interest group, 1, 2
Elite, 12, 14–19, 22, 23, 25, 29, Interfere, 11, 15, 29, 40, 47, 61, 70,
30, 48, 56, 74, 77, 79, 80, 93, 73, 74, 100
96–100, 103, 107, 109, 111, Interference, 11, 31, 40, 60, 61, 65,
113–120, 123–125, 127, 128, 68, 69, 74, 78, 97, 134
130–135, 138, 139, 143, 145, Intermediary, 23, 50–52
149–151, 153–155 Iron triangles, 8, 47, 108
Extended parentela, 3, 4, 14, 16–18, Issue network, 7, 9, 10
24, 25, 29, 78, 92, 97–99,
103, 105, 107, 108, 110–120,
123–127, 129, 133, 135, 140, J
142, 144, 145, 149, 151–160 Jordan, G., 4, 7–9, 24, 44, 141

Group, 2–7, 9, 11, 14, 15, 17, 19, Kopecky, P., 31–35, 39, 40
22, 24, 29, 31, 41–51, 53, 56,
59, 63, 66, 68, 74, 77–81, 86,
87, 89, 91, 92, 95–102, 104, L
106–114, 118–120, 123, 124, La Palombara, J., 2–4, 7–9, 11–13,
127, 133, 135, 139–143, 147, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 29,
148, 152, 154, 157, 159 30, 40, 47, 56, 63, 68, 73, 77,
79, 80, 92, 95, 96, 118, 119,
147, 152, 153, 159
Influence, 8, 12, 29, 37, 39, 42, 48,
49, 60, 63, 66, 67, 70, 73, 80, M
87, 102, 103, 105, 110–113, Mair, P., 35, 117
125, 130, 156 Model, 1, 4, 12, 14, 15, 18, 24, 25,
Informal group, 14, 16, 97, 114, 117, 29, 49, 56, 89, 92, 95–97, 103,
124, 125, 128, 139, 140, 143, 113, 114, 119–121, 123, 124,
150, 152, 155, 156 135, 140, 144, 145, 151, 153,
Insider, 1–3, 6–13, 16, 17, 22, 25, 155, 156, 158, 159
30, 31, 34, 40–43, 45, 47–50,
Index   183

N Political opposition, 15, 99, 112, 114,

Neo-patrimonialism, 124, 138–140, 133, 134, 149
157, 158 Power, 5, 6, 8–12, 15–17, 30, 31, 34,
Non-policy-making, 14, 25, 143, 147, 35, 37, 38, 40, 44, 47, 49–52,
148 54, 56, 66, 67, 71, 73, 79, 81,
82, 86, 91–93, 97–103, 105–113,
115–117, 120, 124, 128, 130,
O 131, 134, 135, 137–143, 147,
Offer, 12, 14, 35–37, 60, 63, 65, 149, 151, 154, 157–159
82–84, 86, 113, 138, 150 Pressure, 14, 16, 46, 66, 74, 79, 81,
Oligarchic model, 4, 29, 74, 79, 99, 82, 87–92, 97, 102, 107, 115,
154, 157 140, 145
Oligarchy, 3, 4, 9, 11, 17, 96, 97, Primary venue, 6, 7, 10, 30, 31, 40,
103, 105–113, 116, 118–120, 47
126, 135, 136, 139, 141–143, Public Tender Committee (PTC),
148, 151–153, 156, 159 68–71, 73
Opposition, 42, 43, 46, 78, 102, 108,
120, 130–133, 135, 137, 138,
144, 155, 156 S
Spirova, M., 31–35, 39, 40

Parente, 2, 16, 17, 74, 78, 79, 81, 89, T
93, 97, 98, 102, 107, 113, 118, Type two dynamic, 85, 90
119, 124, 125, 149, 150, 154 Type two parentela, 14, 17, 24, 25,
Parity, 30, 31, 47, 56, 116 29, 74, 78, 79, 83, 88, 89, 91,
Party, 1–4, 7, 9, 11–17, 19, 20, 24, 92, 96, 98, 118, 126, 131, 135,
25, 29–35, 37–56, 59–74, 77–92, 144, 145, 151, 152, 154, 155
95–121, 123–131, 133–138,
140–145, 147–159, 162–165
Patronage, 11, 16, 31–33, 35, 44, 60, U
69, 73, 98, 99, 111, 119, 131, Unionist party (UP), 95
134, 138–140, 150, 151, 157,
Pluralism, 124–126, 141–143, 154 V
Political appointment, 2, 15, 30–41, Venue scope, 6, 7, 30, 31, 40, 41
47, 68–70, 72, 73, 79, 80, 92,
93, 97, 99, 103, 112, 113, 119,
127, 147 Y
Political competition, 124–126, 133, Yishai, Y., 7, 13, 152
139, 140, 144, 145, 155, 156