BULGARIA POLITICS

LIBERAL DEMOCRACY SUSTAINS FURTHER BLOWS IN BOYKO BORISOV'S BULGARIA

Yet few expected something as dramatic as that: iPhone snaps of a half-naked prime minister sleeping across his bed, a bedside cupboard full of wads of 500-euro bills. Plus several gold ingots. Plus his favourite gun positioned on top. The images, anonymously sent to several media and subsequently widely circulated to the general public, might have befitted an underworld boss after an orgy of booze, sex and gambling rather than the prime minister of an EU member state. But photos do not lie. Welcome to the bedroom of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 12:04
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BULGARIA, IN THE MEANTIME

Predictably, the coronavirus emergency has made all other events in what remains the EU's poorest and least free state look like insubstantial tidbits. With very few exceptions all media have focused exclusively on the alarmist press conferences of Gen Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, the military doctor who heads the emergency staff, and on the lifts Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has given to his ministers in his private jeep to inspect unfinished stretches of road.

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 18:53
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BULGARIA'S RESPONSE TO COVID-19

Since 13 March 2020 Bulgaria has been run by three generals and a sheriff. First and foremost comes General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski. A surgeon installed to manage the Military Medical Academy in Sofia, Mutafchiyski rose to prominence when he was appointed the head of the emergency National Operative Headquarters. Neither a virologist, nor a psychologist he is seen at daily news briefings where he utilises his military schooling to give out what is in essence increasingly restrictive commands to ban citizens from moving about and gathering together.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 09:42
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BALANCING OUT IN CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

Political science students all over the world are being taught in the early stages of their studies that the best way for an authoritarian government – any authoritarian government – to enhance its own powers is to use a crisis – any crisis – as a justification. The bigger the crisis, the bigger the opportunity. At a time of a huge crisis it becomes easier to take away citizens freedoms and rights not only with a couple of decrees, but also with the general public applauding from the sidelines.

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 08:43
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BULGARIA'S 'DEMOCRATORSHIP'

For a few weeks last autumn Central Sofia was paralysed by mass protests. Nothing like the huge outpour of public energy that had kept the city dysfunctional for months in 2013 and resulted in bringing back Boyko Borisov to power, but still a manifestation of people's will that kept the media – and public consciousness – busy and working. The reason? The proposed appointment of Ivan Geshev for the position of chief prosecutor, the Bulgarian equivalent of the US attorney general.

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 09:01
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WHY BULGARIANS ARE LEAVING BULGARIA

You don't have to be in the construction business, or in any other sort of business for that matter, to see that Bulgaria over the past decade has increasingly experienced workforce shortages in anything from service personnel in the restaurants and the hotels to qualified doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, web designers and software engineers. A trip through the Bulgarian countryside will reveal some unpleasant sites. Many villages that once thrived have been deserted, with their population in many cases numbering just a couple of elderly folk.

Wed, 11/27/2019 - 15:49
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FOOTBALL PITCH OUTRAGE HIGHLIGHTS DEEPER PROBLEMS

Those Bulgarians old enough to remember 1994 are now appalled because in 2019 Bulgaria marked its worst ever loss, 0-6. To add insult to injury, the loss happened in Sofia, at the Stalin-era national stadium called Vasil Levski.

What Europe and the world will remember of that warm October evening when Bulgaria lost 0-6 to England, however, is not the outrageous score. Europe and the world will remember what The Guardian billed a miserable occasion… in a miserable stadium against a miserable opposition played out to a miserable backdrop of recrimination and bad blood.

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 14:16
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WHO BROKE INTO NATIONAL REVENUE'S COMPUTERS?

The latest scandal to grip Bulgaria has affected about 6 million Bulgarians. Someone, a computer hacker or a group of hackers, had successfully penetrated the National Revenue databases and stolen bits of the personal details of practically everyone of working age in Bulgaria. Of the 6 million, about 4.66 million are alive and 1.38 million are deceased. The hacked data covered a period of about 10 years. The leak was announced with an email sent from a Russia-based server and written in broken English.

Tue, 09/03/2019 - 10:42
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WHO ARE THE MAIN PLAYERS IN BULGARIAN MEDIA?

Under Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria, ostensibly, has all the trappings of a democracy. Elections, generally pronounced by international observers to be free and fair, are being held once in a while. Freedom-of-speech is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Arbitrary arrests of dissenters are supposedly a thing of the Communist past. Everyone, in theory, has access to justice. There are televised debates, policy platforms, endorsements.

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 12:08
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HISTORY BY PETITION

History school textbooks in Bulgaria, to a lot greater extent than, say, geography or biology textbooks, are regularly the stuff that hacks build their conspiracy theories on. This usually happens at the beginning of the summer for three reasons. The Bulgarian publishers start rolling out new textbooks for the next school year. Politics are usually low key as Bulgarians head to the Greek seaside, leaving their TV sets unattended.

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 10:31
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BULGARIA'S ELECTIONS BOGEYMEN

What will probably go down in history as the dullest election campaign in Bulgaria post-1989 was marked with a single trait. Politicians vying to get into the European Parliament (with all the goodies this entails, including salaries of about 8,700 euros per month plus copious allowances plus good pension plans, and so on and so forth – unthinkable for ordinary Bulgarians or for Bulgarian national MPs) resorted to a tried-and-tested technique to woo voters: scaremongering.

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 14:15
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TO BREXIT OR NOT

I have to confess that I am addicted to Brexit, but in the remote Bulgarian village where I live I am not the only one. Even here, everybody is glued to the BBC news. The future for the hundred or so Brits is uncertain and my Bulgarian neighbours are worried too. Their grandchildren are working in London and Manchester and Birmingham, and nobody really knows how Brexit will affect them. We all gather around the TV to watch the crucial votes in the House of Commons, as if it were a football match. But each time nothing is decided and the soap opera continues.

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 14:14
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NZ KILLER 'INSPIRED' BY BULGARIAN HISTORY

Though his name has been circulated thousands of times on the Internet, this journal has decided – out of respect for the victims and their families in what will go down in history as the deadliest act of terror in New Zealand – to desist using it. As Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, has stated, the main purpose of the self-proclaimed white suprematist who shot at and killed people, including children, praying in a temple was to gain notoriety. This journal will not give him that privilege.

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 18:54
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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BULGARIA'S 'RIGHT WING'?

Twenty-nine years after the fall of Communism, Bulgaria stands more disunited than ever. Bulgarians are split not only between rich and poor; between those who can afford to pay their electricity bills and those who can't; between the people in the derelict villages and the people in Sofia and the large towns; between those who speak proper, Sofianite Bulgarian and those who don't; and between those who are favoured by GERB because they pay their dues and those who are out of favour and get their businesses destroyed.

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 17:59
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BULGARIA'S CAVED-IN DEMOCRACY

An Italian writer, Roberto Saviano, who has lived for years under police protection because he was "sentenced" to death by the Neapolitan Mafia, has put it plainly: "In Italy, democracy has a mafia inside. In Bulgaria, the Mafia has democracy inside." There are of course many ways to say this, one of the most popular being the local mid-1990s adage that "every state has a mafia, in Bulgaria the mafia has a state."

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 11:25
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MY FREEDOM VS YOUR FREEDOM

Freedom of speech suffered yet another serious blow in the EU's poorest member state when the Office of the Chief Prosecutor accused Elena Yoncheva, a TV journalist and now the floor spokesperson for the opposition BSP, of "money laundering." Yoncheva's alleged crime was that she received funding from the bankrupted KTB, or Corporate Merchant Bank, run by Tsvetan Vasilev. Her real crime, however, is that she has been critical – uncompromisingly critical – of Boyko Borisov, his GERB and their extreme nationalist allies.

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 09:04
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THE CASE OF VIKTORIA MARINOVA

The brutal rape and murder of an young, attractive woman has exposed this country's deep problems with government, public trust in institutions, media freedoms, racism and gender issues, and the blurred line between journalism and political activism.

What happened?

On a Sunday, while the Facebook quarrels on the quality of Central Sofia's renovation works were losing momentum, a piece of disturbing news spread over. A young woman was raped and murdered in the northern city of Ruse, in broad daylight.

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 14:54
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RETURN OF RADIO FREE EUROPE

About 10 years after it gained membership of the EU and nine since Boyko Borisov's GERB came to power this country has made huge progress in spending EU money. However, it has plummeted in many measurable aspects of life: from life expectancy to emigration, from the fight against corruption to the fight against organised crime, and from median incomes to media freedoms. The latter has prompted the US Congress to resume funding for a news outlet to disseminate objective, balanced and non-partisan news and analysis, and facilitate unbiased debate.

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 14:53
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WHAT'S IN A HORO?

In August, at approximately the same time when the Trade Register went dead and commercial transactions, including property sales, ground to a standstill for about a week, a group of folk dance enthusiasts identifying themselves as "patriots" made an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records. They climbed up the Rila Mountain Range and danced what they thought would go down in history as the "longest highland Horo in the world." Some of them got so excited that they stepped into one of the Seven Rila Lakes and danced in the water.

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 10:08
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