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Flagrant Bulgarian media mogul on his way to the European Parliament, again

Delyan Peevki in one of his rare appearances in the Bulgarian Parliament [Mediapool]

By Krassen Nikolov

Delyan Peevski, who is perhaps the most controversial figure in Bulgarian politics, was once again on Monday (22 April) nominated for MEP in the election list of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS, ALDE-affiliated).

The Turkish minority party is part of the ALDE group and its aim is to have three MEPs in the next parliament. The chairman of the party Mustafa Karadaya is leading the election list. Peevski is second. Ilhan Kyuchyuk is third. He is a current MEP and also Vice-President of the liberal alliance. Another current MEP – Iskra Mihaylova, is forth. The Deputy Chairman of DPS Filiz Hyusmenova is not in the list. She was leading the list for the elections for the present European Parliament and is an MEP now.

“Our list includes young, intelligent, efficient, courageous, decisive, responsible, free and active people. Our list guarantees victory,” said Karadaya when registering the list.

It is not clear whether the DPS’s list “guarantees victory,” but it certainly guarantees problems for ALDE. Five years ago Delyan Peevski was elected MEP but surprisingly announced he would not take his seat, which he ceded to Iskra Mihailova. At that time Euractiv reported that this had happened after an unofficial intervention by ALDE leadership. There is no official reaction from the liberal group now too. But this time Peevski seems willing to be an MEP unlike the DPS leader Karadaya who will most likely stay in the Bulgarian Parliament.

For several years there have been signs that Peevski is trying to find a suitable position abroad so that he would not be the elephant in the room in Bulgarian politics. The European Parliament seems to be the perfect place. In 2016 the Prime Minister Boyko Borissov disclosed Peevski’s intention to go abroad.

“Delyan Peevski will leave the country and soon will not be the most popular topic. He is the best topic for everyone (in Bulgaria). I do not know what will they talk about when he leaves, ” Borissov said. Peevsky, however, did not leave in 2016. He remained a member of the Bulgarian Parliament, although he doesn’t attend it. Now the elections are a good opportunity for him to hide in the prestigious shadows of the European institutions.

Peevski’s image is scandalous

Delyan Peevski controls a significant number of media in the country. He also owns a big chunk of print media distribution. A few days ago, he was named by Reporters Without Borders as one of the main reasons for the poor state of the media in Bulgaria. The country is 111th in the world media freedom index – the last in the EU and one of the last four positions in Europe.

Reporters without Borders defines Peevski as “the most notorious embodiment of corruption and collusion between media, politicians and oligarchs” that is widespread in Bulgaria.

Although he is a Bulgarian MP, Peevski has gained notoriety for not going to work. Over the last few years he has become a multi-millionaire. From 2015 to 2018, in mysterious ways, Peevski managed to increase his fortune nearly 5,000 times. The Bulgarian anti-corruption agency has checked him and announced that Peevski was the most innocent of the taxpayers.

Peevski admitted that he was a friend of Tsvetan Vasilev – the majority owner of the defunct “Corporate Commercial Bank”, also known as Corpbank or KTB. This bank funded the first media acquisitions of Peevski’s family in 2007. The good relations between Peevski and Vassilev ended in 2014 when a massive attack of the MP’s media and an investigation of the bank led to its bankruptcy, which costs nearly 2 billion euros to Bulgarian taxpayers. Now Tsvetan Vassilev is accused of draining more than 1 billion euros from the bank and Peevski is again a candidate for an MEP.

In 2013 Peevski was appointed as leader of the country’s State Agency for National Security (DANS). That was followed by massive protests in Sofia and Peevski resigned 2 days after he was installed in DANS.

DPS’s goals

The DPS’s list does not only solve the problem what and where to work Peevski. It is also symbolic. The first two positions of Mustafa Karadaya and Delyan Peevski show that the party actually has two operative leaders. They are patronized by Ahmed Dogan – the honorary chairman of the party and its founder.

DPS is in a comfortable position in the Bulgarian Parliament. It is an unofficial partner of GERB and by playing this role of éminence grise the party has great opportunities to influence the country’s politics. However, European elections are a serious challenge for the party. DPS should show that it has returned its political monopoly on the Turkish-speaking population in Bulgaria after the the former leader of the party Lyutvi Mestan split off. DPS lost more than a third of its voters because of the internal party problems. Mestan, however, did not manage to organize a stable alternative to DPS, and it seems that the party is beginning to regain its influence.

A good result in the European elections is very important for DPS if the ruling GERB party loses to BSP, as the latest sociological surveys predict. The loss of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the expected poor performance of the parted “patriots” may result in early parliamentary elections in the autumn.

The opposition BSP is increasing its support, but the party visibly turns to national populism. So the BSP – DPS seems impossible. Thus, the party of the Turkish minority should look like as if it keeps the balance between GERB and the possible left-patriotic coalition between BSP and the patriotic parties in the autumn. Otherwise, DPS risks being marginalised.

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