former bodyguard with a shaved head wins his bet. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boïko Borissov, 61, sees his formation, the Gerb (Citizens for the Development of Bulgaria), come first in the general elections with 25% of the vote. Not to brag about so far. He will have to compose with the second force of the country (16% of the vote), a new populist party baptized “Such a people exist”, led by a national star of the song, Slavi Trifonov, 54 years, whose program takes in a few words: “give power back to the people”.
A period of instability opens in this country of 7 million inhabitants, the poorest in Europe, plagued by corruption. A few months ago, Borisov himself appeared in photos, asleep in the bedroom of his official residence amidst gold bars and 500 euro bills. As for her Minister of Agriculture Desislava Taneva, she has just been pinned for pocketing 500,000 euros, a sum coming from European aid.
Bulgarian MEP Elena Yoncheva explains how, despite these scandals, Boïko Borissov manages to stay in power.
Did Prime Minister Boyko Borissov win?
Elena Yoncheva: We cannot speak of victory. He lost 400,000 votes compared to the 2017 election. Furthermore, he will have a hard time building a coalition and forming a new government. All the political parties entering Parliament oppose his policy. His objective will nevertheless be to do everything to avoid the appointment of an interim government by the president, because this new team will have access to all the compromising files in which he participated.
How to explain that it still makes a good score despite the accumulation of scandals?
In more than ten years in power, he has built a very loyal administration. It has significantly increased the workforce and salaries of the civil service, which allows it to have a million votes with the families of those concerned. Those who do not play the game are threatened or fired. The practice of buying votes also continues to exist. During an election, prices change throughout the day and can reach 50 euros just before the close of offices when we realize that the election is close.
It is also necessary to take into account the role of the media which are acquired to it. Studies show that 80% of commentators on channels work for power. He has finally developed a very effective communication system. First, he does not participate in any debate, which allows him to not be put in difficulty. Then, the television news are satisfied to take again the videos which it posts on Facebook. We see him driving his 4X4 questioning passers-by about his action and praising the construction of roads. That is enough to convince some of the voters that the Prime Minister is working.
Why does the European Union continue to be lenient towards Borisov?
He’s a sort of Viktor Orban (Hungarian Prime Minister, Editor’s note), but more cunning. Unlike his Hungarian counterpart who is building an image for himself through his confrontation with Brussels, Borissov is trying not to irritate the European Union. He buys his tranquility by obeying him.
However, the European Union must react. It must express the strength of its values, including with regard to small distant countries. Last year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the breaches of the rule of law in Bulgaria. What did it come out of? Nothing. The Bulgarian government never mentioned it. The European Commission now provides for a mechanism to verify respect for fundamental rights before granting European aid. I hope it will come into effect. It is not normal that Bulgaria is among the countries where the freedom of the press is the least respected in the world whereas it equaled that of France at the time of the accession to the European Union. Here, the separation of powers does not exist.
The amounts swallowed up in corruption are estimated at 11 billion euros each year
In which areas is European aid being diverted?
The most corrupt sector concerns the construction of highways. The share of sums embezzled can amount to 50%. This explains the deplorable quality of our roads. After a year, they deteriorate because unsuitable materials have been used. I have carried out several studies on the subject by soliciting international experts. In response, the government mobilized, two years ago, a thousand construction machinery that came to demonstrate in the center of Sofia and demand my resignation. It is not a question of excluding Bulgarian companies. They have the know-how. It is enough to see them operating in Serbia where the quality of the roads is superior. It is only necessary to ensure that the amount of their contracts is not reduced by the bribes paid to people in power. It is a huge mess. The sums swallowed up in corruption in all sectors are estimated at 11 billion euros each year. It is impossible to build a modern economy under these conditions. How do you want to attract investors?
Will Borissov continue to benefit from European support?
I think Borisov will lose his support for the EU. The EPP (European People’s Party, including the Republicans and Angela Merkel’s CDU) has long supported Orban before releasing him since his party has not been represented there since last month. It will be the same with Borissov. It will lose its support.
Have you received any other threats since Borisov said in a telephone recording that you had to be “crushed”?
Nothing worked after the broadcast of this recording. The Attorney General said there was no action to take as nothing had happened to me. I take my precautions all the same, because these people are capable of anything. When I start my car in the morning, I always take a short walk before picking up my son.