site.btaMedia Review: June 20

Media Review: June 20
Media Review: June 20

POLITICS

The failure of Bulgaria's new National Assembly to elect its speaker on Wednesday, the first day of its inaugural sitting, is a leading topic in the media.

24 Chasa sees a recurrence of the situation in the previous two parliaments. The daily reports that four people were nominated for Chairperson of the National Assembly: Raya Nazaryan (GERB-UDF), Petar Petrov (Vazrazhdane), Silvi Kirilov (There Is Such a People, TISP) and Yuliyana Mateeva (Velichie). Nazaryan's bid was supported by the most votes, 116, coming from GERB-UDF and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). Observers had wondered whether TISP would back Nazaryan, given that they negotiated with the election-winning GERB on Tuesday for the formation of the new government. According to a statement by GERB leader Boyko Borissov earlier in the week, the possibility to hold further talks on the future government hinged on the success of Nazaryan's bid to head the legislature, the paper recalls. Eventually, TISP abstained from voting.

Trud quotes Boyko Borissov as saying with obvious disappointment: "We are moving towards new elections at a flying rate." According to him, the other parties are not behaving responsibly. "A month ago, I said that we cannot form a coalition with MRF. A coalition is impossible, except in a broad format," Borissov argued. In a separate comment in Trud, law expert and former caretaker prime minister Georgi Bliznashki says that new snap elections would be a disaster. Bliznashki recommends: "If they want to address the situation in the National Assembly, they should change the formula. They should opt for a government without prominent political figures in it and should reach a short [short-term?] agreement." According to Bliznashki, the struggle for the speaker's seat in the National Assembly is a struggle over what the future government should look like.

Duma says the 50th National Assembly got off to a false start. The presiding MP, Silvi Kirilov, announced that the sitting will continue on Thursday, the daily says. It quotes the Bulgarian Socialist Party's interim leader Atanas Zafirov as saying that the three watchwords of the BSP for Bulgaria parliamentary group are responsibility, reason, and dialogue. A front-page comment in Duma compares the "parliamentary show" to an unsuccessful attempt at a Hollywood blockbuster. The author blames the bad start of the new National Assembly on Boyko Borissov, saying that his GERB party does not want a functioning legislature. "They have become a party of poachers who prefer to fish in the muddy water of a political swamp," the comment says.

* * *

President Rumen Radev wants to take control of the Bulgarian Socialist Party from the inside, MP Kaloyan Metodiev said on the morning talk show of bTV. Metodiev was sworn in as an independent MP after he was expelled from the BSP for Bulgaria parliamentary group. He told bTV: "The vote on my expulsion was held under unprecedented pressure, with aggression, strong-arm methods. The meeting of the parliamentary group proceeded in an absurd way." The so-called new BSP leadership, represented by Borislav Gutsanov and Atanas Zafirov, literally barged into the meeting accompanied by a few others, "aggressive, with retaliation apparently on their mind". "They tried to prevent a vote on whether I should remain in the group. They did not say why they wanted me out," Metodiev said.

According to him, the Continue the Change (CC) party was created by Kiril Dobrev and Georgi Gergov, former high-ranking members of the left wing. "You cannot make a party out of nothing," Metodiev said, noting that Gergov and Dobrev built up the CC structures.

He said there are people in the BSP who are willing to support a cabinet of GERB and MRF. He accused acting BSP leader Zafirov of having plotted to oust Kornelia Ninova, who announced her resignation from the top post in the party on June 11.

* * *

The 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Vazrazhdane party has occasioned a signed analysis published on SegaBG.com. It says that the 296,000 votes won by Vazrazhdane at the June 9 early parliamentary elections were a downright flop compared to the 358,000 votes garnered in April 2023, considering that in the meantime the party acted as virulent opposition to a widely disliked government coalition and continued to monopolize the pro-Russia sector as the war in Ukraine raged on.

The outcome of the latest Bulgarian elections shows that Vazrazhdane has an electoral ceiling which it cannot exceed. The extreme rhetoric of its leader Kostadin Kostadinov limits his influence within a certain group of people, who are not loyal to him as they get bored of the show and look for other actors. Velichie, the smallest of seven political forces which entered the new National Assembly, stole votes from Vazrazhdane. Immediately after the elections, however, Velichie abandoned its pro-Kremlin stance, which had drawn supporters to it, and embraced the slogan: "Foreign policy is not an issue, EU and NATO membership is not an issue either." Whatever the reason for Velichie's U-turn, it is clear that moods and ideas against NATO and the EU have no break-through potential, the story goes.

Kostadinov is neither the Putin fan he poses to be, nor a real champion of anti-Westernism, but without these images he would have been unable to fill the niche which turned Vazrazhdane into what it is. The big question remains, how can he come to power? The only way for Vazrazhdane to rise to power is if the West and the Western project (NATO, EU, integration...) fall apart and if a time vacuum, or a power vacuum, sets in amid the ruins. History offers many such examples.

Kostadinov dreams of uniting Bulgaria and Macedonia, which would be potentially feasible in a general state of collapse of the world as we know it, the analyst says. Many Bulgarians nowadays, whether they like Kostadinov or not, dream of a new world order, a collapse of the Western world. But they should be clear about the cost. This is how things stand with Vazrazhdane. Remember how everyone was saying that Russia could not invade Ukraine. "It's fantasy, impossible, no way," everyone thought - until the evening of February 23, 2022. The next morning, it happened.

* * *

An explanation of the political situation in Bulgaria is offered on Dnevnik.bg, in a comment originally published on Medium.com. In the comment, blogger Georgi Kamov uses British theorist Stafford Beer's statement, "The purpose of a system is what it does", to explain the current situation in Bulgaria. Kamov says: "This means that the fact that we have had six elections in three years and constant changes of government not leading Bulgaria to function and develop better than before, is not a symptom of a problem with the political system, but a basic function of that system."

ECONOMY & HEALTH

In 2023, gambling companies operating legally on the Bulgarian market paid local natural persons BGN 5.79 billion in cash and in-kind earnings exceeding BGN 5,000 each. This implies a huge increase by 147% compared with 2022, MediaPool.bg reports, citing National Revenue Agency data provided to the website under the rules for access to public information. The website estimates that a sum of about BGN 6 billion is 3.1% of Bulgaria's GDP, which is more than public spending on defence.

Tihomir Bezlov of the Center for the Study of Democracy comments: "The data is very surprising and shows how much the games-of-luck market has expanded." According to Bezlov, the data will probably lead people to say that Bulgaria again ranks first in the EU for gambling-generated GDP per capita. He urges public institutions to come up with a comment on what he described as "the incredible growth" of the Bulgarian gambling market since 2021, whose product, he notes, creates psychological dependencies.

* * *

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revised down its inflation forecast for Bulgaria to 3.2% in 2024 from an earlier projection of 3.4%, published a few months ago, but still, IMF experts share the expectation that Bulgaria cannot join the euro area on January 1, 2025, because average annual inflation in the country remains notably higher than in Western Europe. The IMF report on Bulgaria is discussed in an analysis by Open Society Institute Sofia senior economist Georgi Angelov, published in 24 Chasa.

Angelov writes that, according to the IMF, Bulgaria should not count on one-off revenues and should certainly not cut down on investment expenditures, because they are important for the long-term potential of the economy. The Fund sees a viable source of sustainable revenues in a recommended removal of the preferential VAT rates introduced during the coronavirus pandemic, and a reduction of subsidies.

While this is generally accepted, the IMF has also put forward a controversial idea about raising income tax, the analyst says. He comments: "Given the low efficiency of the state and the large share of the shadow economy, increasing the burden on compliant taxpayers is not the fairest and most efficient thing to do. There are still many possibilities to boost public revenues by increasing tax compliance, and we should utilize them instead of jumping at the 'easy' solution of raising taxes."

* * *

Overweight goes with a number of accompanying disorders which drain the public purse of an estimated BGN 500 million every year, Trud says in its main story, covering a conference organized by the Alliance Against Obesity. Related in-patient and out-patient medical services cost more than BGN 100 million. Total annual expenses incurred by the National Health Insurance Fund on four groups of obesity patients amount to BGN 240 million. Endocrinologist Lachezar Lozanov tells Trud that six out of every 10 adults in Bulgaria are overweight or obese. The same conditions affect 200,000 Bulgarian children of school age. Worldwide, the situation is the same and is getting even worse with every passing year despite efforts to control it. Therefore, it is fair to speak of an obesity pandemic, Lozanov says.

/VE/

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By 05:35 on 18.07.2024 Today`s news

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