Parliamentary elections in Bulgaria: Borissov’s party GERB is a magnet for young politicians

Written by on March 20, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Parliamentary elections in Bulgaria: Borissov’s party GERB is a magnet for young politicians

A new generation of politicians is in the process of elbowing its way to the top. At least more and more young Bulgarians have the courage and will to try. One of them is Stefan Cerovski. The casualty surgeon and orthopaedist, who is part of a family of doctors and only 26, consciously decided to join GERB, “the only party interested in the opinions of young people”, he says in excellent German. He mainly intends to work on two areas, which are youth and health policies. “There are not enough jobs for young doctors. GERB wants to create more.”

Even though he went into politics very recently, Stefan Cerovski is already part of one of GERB’s candidate lists for the National Assembly, on the 18th place. This position at least gives him a chance to become an MP, although the likelihood for a second round of elections, a few months later, is high. Poll results suggest that forming a government this time around might become a mission impossible.

Stefan Cerovski is convinced the head of his party, former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, has always fought for the good of the Bulgarian people, during his reign: “Bulgaria is the most secure island on the Balkans, since Borissov has always made sure our communication with Turkey was good. This is the kind of policy he wants to resume.” That may very well be, but, at this stage, the leadership in Ankara does not really seem to care too much about which European government makes what statements.

Also, Bulgaria has quite a few domestic problems, which are serious. Those would be the wide-spread poverty, corruption, nepotism, pollution, the discrimination of minorities and refugees, as well as a crumbling infrastructure. “GERB was strong in the area of poverty reduction”, Cerovski says. “When we look at the statistics, we will see that the number of Bulgarians who live below the poverty level has decreased while GERB was in power.”

Stefan Cerovski’s party does have a powerful chairman. The 57-year-old Boyko Borissov was in the security business in communist Bulgaria, as a bodyguard for dictator Todor Zhivkov. After the collapse of communism, he moved to the private sector. He was the mayor of Sofia, chief secretary at the Interior Ministry, and he founded GERB eleven years ago. Today, GERB is one of the two strongest parties in Bulgaria. Twice so far, he has headed governments as Prime Minister. Over the years, there have been lots of accusations against Borissov: Being part of organized crime, being a racist, a money launderer and that he had threatened journalists. But none of these accusations were ever substantiated.

The doctor and politician Stefan Cerovski at work. Photo by Stefan Cerovski.

Borissov is good at crisis management. Even his critics say so. Some of the latter believe he is a narcissist, but that allegation does sound ridiculous during the Trump era.

His fans see him as the action man, the only politician who would roll up his sleeves and actually do something, the only one who wants to know what the youth thinks. “Boyko Borissov has always listened to the ideas and opinions expressed by young people”, says Stefan Cerovski. “On top of that, a large percentage of GERB candidates are young people, lots of GERB MPs in the last National Assembly were young too, so are quite a few members in Sofia’s City Council.”

There is one big question all GERB candidates might have to answer: Why are there early parliamentary elections in the first place? Was Borissov’s resignation in November of 2016 really necessary, when his rather pale candidate lost the presidential elections? Cerovski rejects this kind of criticism: “To my opinion, this was a moral decision. The voters will have to say whether it was right or not. We will see whether at the end of this month, the Bulgarian people will vote for a government which stands for security. That would be one headed by Boyko Borissov.” The young politician Stefan Cerovski is definitely a fan.

Two weeks ago, Borissov announced, he would only try to form a government if GERB became the strongest party. According to poll results at hand, chances are good. But the part about forming a government might prove to be hard, since the winner will most likely need at least one coalition partner. Both the Socialists and Borissov have mentioned the United Patriots as possible partners. They are a group of ultra-nationalist parties on the far right of the spectrum, who are xenophobic and homophobic. To Stefan Cerovski’s opinion, it is too early to identify potential coalition partners: “From the perspective of GERB, having a stable country and a nation which sticks together, are the most important aspects.”

Stefan Cerovski intends to work in the area of healthy policy. According to him, GERB already improved the situation in this field. And indeed, some Sofia hospitals do look somewhat better than they did 15 years ago. But there is a lack of medical devices and many hospital buildings are still falling apart. Also, there is not enough medication, e.g. for cancer patients. As if all of that wasn’t more than enough already, the brain drain phenomenon does its part to make things very challenging in the field of healthcare. Many good doctors, who speak foreign languages, go abroad, where they can earn eight to ten times as much as in Bulgaria. That is exactly why Cerovski wants to improve the situation. He wants to make sure young doctors do get attractive jobs in their home country and that they will be able to treat their patients using the latest technology.

Photo at top of page by Imanuel Marcus

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Imanuel Marcus, the founder of foreignersandfriends.com, is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe.