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Political Analyst Parvan Simeonov: GERB could tighten the grip on media before the elections

Parvan Simeonov [Dnevnik]

“It seems logical that GERB would win the European elections if it doesn’t make mistakes. But it seems that this force is capable of making mistakes even when the problem seems easy to be solved. GERB could now tighten the grip on the media just before the European elections”, Parvan Simonov, a political analyst from Gallup International – Bulgaria, told this website in an exclusive interview.

He was speaking to Krassen Nikolov.

“There is a clear chance for survival of the government after the European elections, even though its collapse cannot be completely ruled out,” said Simeonov, who is one of the best-known Bulgarian political scientists.

“At least for the time being, the political narrative doesn’t link the European elections to the fate of the government. The opposition (the socialist party BSP) does that, of course. But Prime Minister Borissov does not seem to make this mistake this time,” he says. In 2016 Prime Minister Boyko Borissov announced that if GERB would lose the presidential election, the government would resign. The election was won by Rumen Radev, supported by BSP, and Borissov kept his promise. The Prime Minister does not make such bets now.

 “Borisov doesn’t want to make the same mistake again. If GERB doesn’t make big mistakes, it makes more sense that they would win the European elections. But it is clear that GERB is making mistakes, even in the most elementary situations possible. That is what happened with the preferential vote,” recalls the political scientist.

The attempted amendment to the Election Code were on the initiative of the Turkish minority party DPS. With these changes, the Bulgarians were practically denied the right to influence party election lists. This caused a serious scandal.

The other big problem was GERB’s acknowledgment that the country’s governance depends on the support of DPS. This party has a very bad image among the majority of voters. A few days after the adoption of the code amendments, Prime Minister Borissov intervened and tried to restore the old position in the election law.

Simeonov links the pre-election situation in the country with the media market. It was confirmed three days ago that the businessman Kiril Domuschiev had bought the biggest private television in the country – Nova TV. The deal is of the value of €185 million. The seller is the Swedish media company MTG. Domuschiev is known for his good relations with Prime Minister Borisov.

“It seems that GERB tightens a bit the grip on the media, media comfort (for the government) is becoming more and more promising. Let’s follow up if that deal (for Nova TV) is not a part of a wider process,” says Simeonov.

According to him, despite all this, the situation in the country is convenient for the Western partners.

“Our Western partners have nothing against GERB and DPS working closely. Now BSP seems to have said it for the first time – GERB and DPS are hidden partners. BSP usually refrains from talking badly about DPS for a number of reasons. Maybe even because they are afraid what might be published in part of the media (controlled by DPS). I have the feeling that the West wouldn’t mind if GERB and DPS control a stable Bulgaria that opposes possible influences from the Northeast and the Southeast and is something like a frontpost for the Western world. In this respect the dovish European West and the hawkish American West are of the same opinion. So that’s where the stability of this government comes from. And also its biggest curse. Because they are a bit overwhelmed by this stability, and they got carried away with the changes in the election law. Which means that sometimes they lose touch with the public opinion, “Simeonov said.

The political scientist commented that so far the country’s government looked stable, although there were rip currents. He reminded that in the autumn the situation was critical for those on power because of rising fuel prices that seriously affected Bulgarians with low incomes.

“First in August, Bulgaria went in limbo after the European presidency. In September there were problems with the replacement of ministers and tensions in the ruling party. There were protests against rising fuel prices. The chance for the survival of the government at that time was 50-50, but it managed to survive in the winter. Now with the changes in the election legislation the problems in GERB become quite visible. The contradictions between Prime Minister Borissov and (his right hand in GERB) Tzvetan Tzvetanov are not accidental, “says the political scientist. According to him the problems between the two most powerful people in the ruling party are due to a different political worldview.

“Borissov would hardly have made a mistake like the one with the election law. While in his party they are thinking in a different way,” says the political scientist.

One of the main political issues in the country is the fate of the United Patriot nationalist coalition, which is a junior coalition partner. The three parties in this coalition are in a constant scandal and it is very unlikely that they would be able to run together in the European elections. This augurs failure for them. The question is who will benefit from this situation.

“If the United Patriots break down, those who win the battle for their inheritance and become their successor will benefit most. And BSP may hope to take part of the patriotic space in Bulgaria in the future. Or to find some substitute for the patriots, to encourage some of its own “patriots” because the current nationalists are weak. Everyone else can gain from the collapse of this coalition,” Simeonov says.

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