Walking the Walk or Just Talking the Talk? VMRO-BND’s Efforts to Become a Mass Party

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Walking the Walk or Just Talking the Talk? VMRO-BND’s Efforts to Become a Mass Party


  • Petar Bankov School of Social and Political Studies, University of Glasgow, UK
  • Sergiu Gherghina School of Social and Political Studies, University of Glasgow, UK
  • Nanuli Silagadze Faculty of Social Sciences, Business and Economics, Åbo Akademi University, Finland


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Abstract:  Many populist radical right parties compete on a regular basis in the Bulgarian legislative elections. Among these, the VMRO–Balgarsko Natsionalno Dvizhenie (VMRO-BND, IMRO–Bulgarian National Movement) enjoys the greatest organizational stability and maintains a regular presence in politics and society despite volatile electoral performance. Using qualitative content analysis of official party documents (programs, statutes, and policy papers) and media reports, this article argues that the organizational stability of the VMRO-BND stems from its grassroots efforts to establish deep links in society. While its membership is limited, the local activities of the party between and during elections, and its network of loosely-affiliated organizations create a grandiose impression of presence across Bulgaria. Through this presence, VMRO-BND fosters a sense of belonging for its members which in turn supports the party’s goal of achieving a so-called “national cultural unity” and the preservation of Bulgarian traditions. Internally, VMRO-BND provides room for non-member participation and bottom-up initiatives from local activists, while remaining strongly centralized at the top around its leader, Krasimir Karakachanov. Overall, VMRO-BND reveals the importance populist radical right parties place on social presence, even when membership numbers are low.

Keywords:  Bulgaria; grassroots activities; mass party; organizational centralization; VMRO-BND

Published:   24 November 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v9i4.4562


© Petar Bankov, Sergiu Gherghina, Nanuli Silagadze. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.