“Was President Georgi Parvanov at the DiMario Hotel in the Simitli Region on 1 March?”
“The president was not at the hotel. Someone is trying to make himself look good at someone else's expense.”
“But did the president join a hunting party in the region on 1 March?”
“That is our answer.”
No, this isn't an absurdist play, but a conversation between journalists from the weekly Kapital and the president's press centre. An article in the regional newspaper Struma reported that the day after the train fire which killed nine people, Parvanov was in Simitli on a hush-hush hunting trip. The quarry? Wolves - never mind that it is illegal to hunt them at this time of year. The president, however, cannot be accused of poaching - he killed a fox instead.
Two weeks after the train tragedy Parvanov did confirm that he had been in Simitli on 1 March - but denied that he went hunting. The hunting story was “black PR”. “I would like to remind you that within 24 hours of the Danube floods I had visited the whole length of the river, giving concrete instructions to the military to help save the population in many places,” said the president. He then recounted more cases in which he had “shared” the people's pain.
Parvanov has some interesting history of being at least economical with the truth. In 2007 he denied having being a stooge for the former Communist State Security. The files declassification panel, however, released info that he had signed a declaration of allegiance with the repressive services a few days prior to the downfall of Todor Zhivkov. Then Parvanov said he had just been defending “national interests”. At that time many people started calling him by the nickname State Security had assigned him with: “Gotse.”
After the Simitli incident, he gained a new nickname: “Dancer With the Wolves.”
Think that's the end of it? Think again. Simitli Mayor Apostol Apostolov is planning to turn the natural rock formation known as the Elephant's Head in the Kumatinski Cliffs into the Bulgarian version of Mt. Rushmore. At least he won't have much trouble choosing the presidents who deserve this honour. The cliff has more than enough room for all Bulgarian presidents who have served since the fall of Communism (all three of them).