site.btaMedia Review: September 30

Media Review: September 30
Media Review: September 30
BTA Photo

The leading topic in Friday’s print media is the October 2 early general elections.

POLITICS

Capital Weekly’s main topic is the snap elections, which the weekly calls “intermediate elections” with the argument that the expected low voter turnout will put the same formations in Parliament as before with the same dividing lines between them. These elections will hardly show a way out of the political system’s crisis. Even if a regular government gets formed, the majority will be such that the justice reform and counter-corruption will be blocked, the article reads. Presented are the opinions of several political experts and sociologists on what will happen after October 2. A related article looks into the trends in voter behavior from 2009 onwards, concluding that the trust in the Bulgarian party system has eroded. This poses a series of risks to parliamentary democracy: low representation, rise of populist and anti-system formations, radicalization of the vote, and opinions in favour of a shift to a presidential republic gaining strength.  Another related article examines vote buying cases. Judging from the low number of pretrial proceedings for vote buying (only 30 as at September 28, compared to the 150 launched prior to the November 2021 elections and the 100 opened prior to the July 2021 elections) and of those detained (just 17, according to data as at September 28 that the weekly got from caretaker Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev), parties are keeping this type of “resource” for next elections. Capital Weekly also has an article about the legislative tasks awaiting the new National Assembly, namely the 2023 state budget and laws on which the National Recovery and Resilience Plan depends.

24 Chasa’s front-page article presents the results of a Trend survey among voters commissioned by the daily, according to which six parties will surely make it into the new National Assembly and two more might pass the 4% threshold. GERB will win the elections with 25.7%. The other formations to enter Parliament are Continue the Change (16.4%), Vazrazhdane (13.9%), the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (11.9%), the Bulgarian Socialist Party (8.7%), and Democratic Bulgaria (7.6%). Just over the 4% threshold are Bulgarian Rise (4.4%) and There Is Such a People (4.2%). Twenty-six per cent of those who intent to vote on October 2 are yet to decide who they will support.

bTV’s morning show presented the results of an Alpha Research survey showing eight parties in the next National Assembly and GERB-UDF as the winner of the October 2 elections. The percentage of the votes for each formation is similar to Trend’s, the only difference being that the Movement for Rights and Freedoms comes third with 13.1% ahead of Vazrazhdane’s 11.0%.

Bulgarian National Radio presented the results of a Gallup International Balkan survey commissioned by it, showing the same eight parties in Parliament. The percentage of the votes for each formation is similar to Trend’s results, with two differences only: the Movement for Rights and Freedoms comes third with 13.2% ahead of Vazrazhdane’s 12.8%, and There Is Such a People comes seventh with 4.2% ahead of Bulgarian Rise’s 4%. 

In an interview for 24 Chasa, Prof Daniel Valchev, Dean of Sofia University’s Faculty of Law and former education minister (2005-2009), comments on the election campaign. According to him, the parties failed to convince people that these elections matter because they didn’t show readiness to build bridges with former opponents in the name of forming a government. It appears that a new government will be impossible without forming a coalition involving GERB or the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. He lists three things that the new government should do: unite the people rather than deepen the existing divisions; show more expert behavior and real governance decisions rather than the current childishness and empty talk on television; follow a certain budget discipline because extra spending is inevitable but should be done in a way that does leave a generation and a half wandering what to do.

In an interview for Trud, sociologist and Trend polling agency co-founder Evelina Slavkova says that a possible scenario after the elections is the formation of a cabinet of experts without politicians. Other exotic scenarios should not be ruled out either, given how it is in the parties’ interest to form a government rather than run in new elections. To avoid new elections now, the political formations might agree on forming a cabinet with a term in office shorter than four years. 

On Nova TV’s morning show, Slavkova commented that in last year’s elections the protest vote was much louder and clearer, making it easy to predict where it would go. Now, however, the direction of the protest vote is unknown. It will most probably be generated by Vazrazhdane, she said. According to Trend’s latest opinion poll, 69% of voters want a regular government, meaning that new snap elections would lead to loss for every formation, perhaps except Vazrazhdane, Slavkova forecast. Delyan Dobrev of GERB-UDF commented that 70% of voters may want a regular cabinet, but it should not happen at any cost; there should be key principles over which the government to be united. GERB-UDF would hold cabinet-forming talks with all parliamentary parties except Vazrazhdane due to their completely differing positions.  

Sega’s front page presents a cartoon of a person standing in front of a voting machine, finger posed over the screen in wonder where to press. The image on the screen is divided into a blue and a red half, with arrows pointing at various places along the dividing black line. An inside-page analysis of the election campaign titled “Chronicles of a Communication Fog”, reads that certain parties put a lot of effort into preventing voters from taking an adequate decision on October 2, leaving them disoriented in a fog generated and spread slowly and calmly by a single centre as early as from spring 2022. The goal is to gradually pull Bulgaria away from western democracy and return it to the orbit of Kremlin’s dictator. This scheme could be sabotaged somewhat only if the voter turnout is higher, preventing certain marginal formations from entering Parliament, the analysis reads.

On Bulgarian National Radio, Diana Eftimova of the Institute for Public Environment Development, which observes 39 media in Bulgaria, said that Continue the Change spent the most during the election campaign. In the last eight days alone, the party invested nearly BGN 480,000 in media ads. Next are the Democratic Bulgaria coalition with some BGN 420,000; they used to be the top spender at the start of the campaign. The Bulgarian Socialist Party and GERB-UDF are next with just under BGN 320,000.

ECONOMY

Trud’s front-page article reads that electricity bills might increase six-fold next year as a result of the first stage of households’ transition from the regulated to the free electricity market. That transition is part of Bulgaria’s commitments to the European Commission within the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. Energy experts commented for the daily that the transition means the electricity supplier of a household will no longer be buying electricity at a price set by the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission; the household will pay a price dependent on the free market plus supply taxes and VAT. As part of the second stage of the transition, which should end by December 31, 2025, households will be able to choose their electricity supplier.

Telegraf frontpages the news that local authorities plan to install energy-saving street lamps in villages.

***

Telegraf has an interview with Regional Development and Public Works Minister Ivan Shishkov in which he comments on the problems with road construction in Bulgaria, such as the delay in the construction of Hemus motorway. 

On Bulgarian National Television’s morning show, Shiskov commented on the repair and construction of Bulgaria’s motorways and on the completion of the Greece-Bulgaria gas interconnector, saying that Bulgaria will have no problem with gas supplies along the interconnector. 

HOME AFFAIRS

In an interview for Bulgarian National Radio, journalist Dimiter Stavrev of the Club Wings aviation magazine commented on Wednesday’s crash of a military Su-25 aircraft at Bezmer Air Base. The reasons for the crash, which occurred in the landing process, are yet to be determined using the flight recorder, but according to Stavrev it is probable that the pilot, Colonel Peyo Donchev, lost control of the aircraft. Perhaps the pilot, who managed to eject before the crash, lost speed while landing, i.e. was trying to land at a speed lower than necessary. Colonel Donchev is not from Bezmer Air Base but from the Sofia staff of the Air Force, Stavrev specified. In his words, there are people who fly two to three times a year just to get flight money, a practice which should be stopped because it only wastes the Air Force’s limited resources. The flight hours of the Air Force pilots are too few per year (some 20 to 30 hours in 2021) to truly prepare them to defend the Bulgarian air space in case of a conflict. It is high time the Bulgarian society decided whether it wants to have military aviation or not, bearing in mind that properly maintaining one is very expensive, he argued.

On bTV’s morning show, the former commander of Bezmer Air Base, Colonel Dimitar Dinev, called untrue the claims that more experienced pilots fly instead of the young ones just to get some BGN 2,000 in flight money. As for the reason for Wednesday’s crash, he said any unforeseen circumstance can lead to a critical situation, for example a flock of birds can affect the engine’s work.

***

On Nova TV’s morning show, Atlantic Council member Vladimir Milenski and Dnevnik deputy editor-in-chief Dimitar Karaboev commented on the war in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest actions. Prof Vladimir Milchev, Dean of Zaporizhzhia National University’s History Faculty, said they expect the worst to happen after the occupied Ukrainian territories are declared Russian. “The referenda were held illegitimately. Voting commissions accompanied by Russian soldiers went to people’s homes and forced them to vote not only for themselves but also for the other members of their families,” he said.  

On bTV’s morning show, former head of the National Intelligence Service Gen. Dimo Gyaurov commented on whether the State’s actions are adequate given the current situation in Ukraine. According to him, the State cannot do much because of the caretaker government’s limited powers. The caretaker cabinet cannot propose something radical and lasting, therefore Gen. Gyaurov did not expect something to come out of Thursday’s meeting of the Council on Security with the Council of Ministers [the meeting lasted over 5 hours to discuss the security situation in light of the expected escalation of tension in Ukraine]. The caretaker government can only activate pre-existing plans, and that is what was done on Thursday, Gen. Gyaurov commented, referring to the Council of Security’s decision to have the responsible institutions review and update the disaster protection plans. 

On Bulgarian National Television’s morning show, the topic of President Putin’s actions towards Ukraine was discussed by international security and geopolitics expert Prof Roumen Kunchev and by vlogger Assen Genov. Former MEP Svetoslav Malinov and MEP Petar Vitanov (Bulgarian Socialist Party/S&D Group) commented on whether the European Union will remain united in light of the events in Ukraine and the issue with Russian gas supplies.

/DS/

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