site.btaMedia Review: June 14

Media Review: June 14
Media Review: June 14
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All media outlets comment the GERB news conference on Thursday,  the first since the party won the June 9 elections for national and European Parliament.

AFTER THE ELECTIONS

Trud leads with the takeaways from the Thursday news conference of GERB leader Boyko Borissov., The headline reads “GERB Prime Minister in Cabinet of Experts or New Elections”. The paper points out that Borissov won’t be the Prime Minister and that GERB won’t have a coalition with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms only. 

According to Telegraf, former Parliament leader Rossen Zhelyazkov is on the short list for the Prime Minister’s office. The story here highlights the upcoming start of negotiations on the formation of a government by GERB on Monday.

On an inside page, Trud has the comments of political analysts. Evelina Hristova says that she expects somebody else to nominate Borissov for Prime Minister and him to accept. Daniel Smilov expects the parties in Parliament to come to an agreement and argues that anything else carries a high risk. Anna Krasteva says that a politically unaffiliated government would be “elites vs. electorates”. 

In a comment on Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), political scientist Maria Tsvetkova says that people don’t trust governments of experts. Of the entry of Velichie in Parliament, she said, “It was clear that one of these [smaller] formations will be pushed into Parliament. Some expected it to be the party of Radostin Vassilev, others expected to see Blue Bulgaria or Bulgarian Solidarity or Velichie. These people embodied the nihilistic behaviour of Bulgarians. The majority of the talking heads on the media outlets had failed to pay attention to this simmering phenomenon,” she said.

On Bulgarian National Television (BNT), there were more political commentators on the likelihood of having a Cabinet: Stoycho Stoychev, Strahil Deliiski and Dobromir Zhivkov. Deliiski said that it won’t be easy to forma  government that would enjoy high public popularity. Zhivkov said that the lineup of GERB’s negotiating team is not on the high level it should be. “In such negotiations one would expect to see the top level: the leaders,” he said.

The cover story of the new Capital Weekly is headlined “The Trust Is Gone, Time Has Come to Restart” and much of the paper is about the fallout from the June 9 elections for national and European Parliament. Voters boycotted the elections this time: with low turnout and strong swing vote, the cover story says. There are formal winners but the real result is a crisis in the political system, a loss of voters and de-ligitimization of the large parties. Also, the elections showed that there is room for new political projects, the weekly says.

In another story (“Change the Change”, an obvious play on the name of the Continue the Change – Democratic Bulgaria, CC-DB, coalition, which suffered a considerable loss of voter support on June 9), Capital says that the main risk for the three parties making up CC-DB is that they may get too busy with themselves and forget about politics. “The coalition is faced with a myriad of questions that the coalition needs to answer and that largely depend on the leading figures: Will the present coalition format remain? Are all three parties sure that they have to be in opposition in the new Parliament? What their positions will be and what are the possible coalitions they could accept in possible new general elections this coming autumn?

According to Capital Weekly, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) was the biggest winner in the June 9 elections. It made up for the loss of votes in Turkyie via an increase of the votes in Bulgaria, the story says. “For the first time MRF is the second political force in the Bulgarian parliament and for the first time since the establishment of the party 34 years ago it will have that many seats in Parliament: 47. What is more, this was accomplished against the backdrop of record low turnout since the end of the totalitarian regime in Bulgaria,” the story says. The author further points out that the party had gained increasing support outside the ethnically mixed areas, where it traditionally finds its core voters. 

24 Chasa writes that it will be clear within ten days whether there will be government. The story says that Borissov wants to be with Prime Minister, Foreign and Defence Minister from GERB plus experts from the other parties. The alternative is new elections in the autumn.

The paper has a comment with the low turnout in the focus. It is titled “6th Dose of Election Drug and Three Types of Electorate: Abstaining, Dependent and in Withdrawal”. The author says that “going to the polls has turned into something of a drug but the effect is weakening – which will finally take us to overdosing”.

Duma has a front-page story about its two representatives that will be going to the European Parliament: Kristian Vigenin and Tsvetelina Penkova. Also on the front page, it has an op-ed by Socialist leader Korneliya Ninova headlined “Don’t Give the Party to the Merchants”. It is more of an address to the party where she accepts the responsibility for the party defeat in the June 9 elections and says that she resigned as party leader in earnest. She dismisses speculations that the resignation is a sham and that she is not really planning to come down. 

In another story in Duma, BSP ranking member Georgi Svilenski says that Ninova has a right to a new term as party leader. Also, he urges her opponents “to challenge her in direct elections for the party leadership”. 

On BNR, Georgi Angelov, the deputy head of the youth chapter of BSP, says, "We are not happy with the result of the June 9 elections. We are not happy with the outcome of the sixth parliamentary elections in a row. Kornelia Ninova has been pulling us down since 2017. This is the end of the Ninova era, the era of the BSP downfall. From now on, we need to talk of the future only. BSP has an electoral potential."

VELICHIE/HISTORIC PARK

Dnevnik.bg reports in details a Bulgarian National Radio interview (of Thursday afternoon) with Ioan Zapryanov, a  journalist with Capital.bg who tells of findings about the origins and modus operandi of the Velichie [Grandeur] party, which surprisingly made it to the national parliament in the June 9 elections. The party and the growth of its influence had remained largely undetected before the elections. Zapryanov says that the party and the Historic Park project which was at the core of the party’s establishment and both of which are run by the same person, Ivelin Mihaylov, is basically funded through bank loans from multiple banks. The journalist says, “They use a glitch in the banking system which allows a person to take out loans from several banks within 2 weeks before having this registered in the Central Credit Register.” According to him, the withdrawn money is then transferred directly or indirectly to Ivelin Mihailov. “There are indeed very serious suspicions of multiple crimes here: financial fraud, tax fraud, property fraud, electoral fraud, even potential crimes against the republic. All of this can easily be prosecuted." Zapryanov, however, does not expect this to happen and catalogues all the probes against Velichie that he is aware of (by the prosecution service, the National Revenue Agency, the State Agency for National Security, etc. He believes that Velichie “will be held in the freezer”. “They will be left to go on with their radical rhetoric, to propose their radical bills but when they need to be absent from the plenary or to back a certain bill or the government, they will be there because they will know that they can be put behind bars at any moment. I am convinced that a talk will take place in Parliament – if it has not already – between Velichie and the parties that are directly connected with the prosecution service, and these parties will tell Velichie that they are in for trouble if they refuse to do as they are told. And the prosecution won’t have to fabricate crimes because Velichie is under suspicion for a host of crimes,” says the journalist. Another grim aspect of the Historic Park/Velichie project: “Vetrino Municipality is one of the smallest in the country and has practically been captured, seized. Huge area of land has been acquired and there is no police. Protecting public order is in the hands of a security firm close to the Historic Park. They train there something that is very much like a paramilitary formation even though it calls itself a sport club. Its leader will be sitting in the new Parliament. In the past two years there has been a growing number of people who have been part of this and who have somehow been cheated, and they say that this has turned into a sect, a cult, a break-away territory with its own power structures.”

Capital Weekly also writes about Velichie and how it made its way into the national legislature. The story is entitled “The Network that Catapulted Velichie into Parliament” and says that YouTube influencers known by the names of Kiro Breika, Nikolay Markov, the Historic Park channels and journalist Martin Karbovski have been instrumental for the rise of Velichie. “The new anti-systemic political project earned close to 100,000 votes and made it into the legislature, while managing to stay below the radar of the polling agencies. Among the party’s candidates for the national and European Parliament were faces from other parties and people from the circle of Historic Park founder Ivelin Mihaylov. “Velichie profess anti-systemic conservative views which it preaches with patriotic piety and pro-Russian aftertaste, which is appreciated by those unhappy with the Establishment,” the story says. 

And here is Capital’s take on the European elections in a story headlined “No Drama in Brussels”: “The new-old 17 Bulgarian MEPS will join a European Parliament that remains dominated by the large parties in the Right, Centre and Left. The fears for a surge of the far-right did not materialize and yet the situation has changed. The expectations are for ad hoc committees on specific issues and a turn away from green to industrial policy”.

On the morning programme of bTV where one of the topics was how much the political parties and coalitions spent for campaigning on the social media, Stoil Tsitselkov of the Public Board of the Central Election Commission said that Velichie created a large number of profiles in the social networks the day before the elections and on election day without paying anything. Kalin Kalinov, a professor of brand management in the social media and deputy dean of the Faculty of Journalism at Sofia University said, “Taking into account the election results and the fact that the polling agencies failed to detect this phenomenon, we are most likely talking about a last minute mobilization of swing voters. It is this organic sharing by many social media accounts at the last moment that has given them much more visibility, which is how not only Meta works but also TikTok, which is extremely popular in Bulgaria."

ECONOMY

A Russian man with property in Bulgaria and a Bulgarian company that produces drones are on the new sanctions list of the US Department of the Treasury against entities backing the Russian military-industrial complex, writes mediapool.bg. The US authorities have found that the Bulgarian-based Freshvale EOOD (which supposedly makes drones for civilian purposes) has released on the market of an African country Russian pilotless aircraft with military capabilities. In a statement to Mediapool, Freshvale denies any connections with Russia and blames its presence on the list on unfair competition. The company is owned by the Austrian citizen Ariel Israilov. The other name with Bulgarian connection on the list is Russian Bulat Akhatovich Yanborisov. He owns an upscale property in the Bulgarian resort town of Sozopol and heads the Eurasian rally association Silk Way which, according to the US Treasy Department, is used by the Russian intelligence as a cover for espionage.

***

24 Chasa leads with a story saying that the import of car older than 20 years will be banned and the tax on old cars raised as part of the national energy and climate plan. 

***

Capital Weekly carries an interview with Geoff Gottlieb, IMF Senior Regional Representative for Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. He says that a serious delay in the eurozone membership of Bulgaria will impact investments. The GDP growth of Bulgaria and the rate of cohesion are slower than could have been expected considering the level of incomes in the country. If the government sticks to the country’s plan re entry in the eurozone (avoiding expansionistic fiscal policy while inflation remains above the desired level and adopting the euro changeover bill the soonest possible), it is realistic to see this country join the eurozone in 2025, he argues.

***

Duma has a story about the shrinking production of fruit in Bulgaria. The story uses Agriculture Ministry figures and says that the fruit output contracted by 19.2% in 2023 (but it is not clear what is the base year). The drop in vegetable production is 5.6%. 

***

Another story in Duma writes about a looming surplus of oil. The story quotes an analysis by the International Energy Agency. 

SOCIETY

In a BNR interview, Velislav Velichkov of the Justice for All platform says that there is one-man control over all three power branches: the judiciary, legislature and executive. "[Movement for Rights and Freedoms Delyan] Peevski controls all three. It is this country's biggest problem. Clearly he has influence on GERB and the fact that he calls the shots there is indisputable. Next week that will become painfully clear." He also says that Peevski's party has controlled the appointments in the judiciary for a couple of decades now. Velichkov further says, "If the Constitutional Court revokes the formula for structuring the judiciary [that was set out in constitutional changes in 2023], nothing will change for the next one or one-and-a-half years because this Parliament cannot form majority to revise the Constitution."

***

BNR reports that the Vera Mutfchieva novel “The Case of Cem” has not only come out on the US market for the first time but also sold out within two months. The novel was translated by the International Booker Prize winner and translator Angela Rodel. 

***

Telegraf leads with a story about stepped up police efforts against motorcyclists who break the traffic rules.

***

24 Chasa has an interview with Dr Assen Medzhidiev, the head of the Sofia chapter of the Medical Association, where he says that the national children’s hospital can be ready by 2028 but “we have to start thinking right now who will be working in it”. 

***

On Bulgarian National Television (BNT), the deputy head of the Bulgarian Medical Association, Dr Nikolay Branzalov, says that there has long been alerts about a shortage of medical personnel across the country and across the healthcare system, but things have become real critical for general practitioners. He mentions specific numbers: 51 GPs in Targovishte Region and 69 in Kardzhali (which have the worst shortage), against 864 in Sofia.

***

BNT also had a report on and guests in the studio to comment, the hiring of drivers from India for the public transport fleet in the southern city of Plovdiv.  Union leader Dimitar Manolov commented that “people don’t want to work in these conditions and for these wages, and they choose to drive TIR trucks for much more money”. Vassil Velev of the Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria says that “the alternatives are clear: either we walk or import workers when we don’t have enough in Bulgaria”. 

***

On Friday morning, Mediapool.bg leads with an extensive story on the poor quality of police boots. In recent years it has always been the same two companies winning the boot supply tenders of the Interior Ministry. They also win the contracts of the Defence Ministry. In 2020, then Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov filed an application for suspected cartel pricing with the competition watch-dog. The case is still pending.

***

BNR reports of devastating hail storms in some parts of the country. The municipality of Nova Zagora declared a state of disaster after a it was hit by a hail storm and strong winds on Wednesday night. Schools and kindergartens will remain closed on Friday after the hail broke windows, damaged roofs and caused considerable leaks, said Mayor Galya Zaharieva. 100 rockets were fired into the clouds from the Staro Selo hail control centre on Thursday night. The clouds, at a height of some 15 km, were unusual for Bulgaria and looked like a tornado, BNR says.

THE WORLD

The Friday news media cover the G-7 meeting in Italy. The Trud highlight is that the press were kept far away from the participants, actually 60 km away. 24 Chasa says in the headline that G-7 are taking USD 50 billion from frozen Russian assets to give to Ukraine.

/NF/

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By 06:11 on 16.07.2024 Today`s news

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