Bulgaria’s 2017 elections: The view from abroad

Written by on March 24, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria’s 2017 elections: The view from abroad

The press in foreign countries does not always know what is really going on in Bulgaria, depending on the publication. Several newspapers, even within in the European Union, thought President Radev was the new head of government, when he was elected in November. To some editors abroad, Bulgaria is exotic, small and far away. Therefore, the country many of us live in or at least know very well, becomes some kind of a blurry object to some. When they need to write about Bulgaria, the facts suffer to a certain extent.

On the other hand, many publications in Europe know exactly what they are talking about. In these cases, it is sometimes refreshing to read about their point of view, from abroad.

Two days before the polling stations are scheduled to open for Bulgarian voters, both in Bulgaria and in cities abroad, with large numbers of Bulgarian expats, many newspapers have noticed elections are coming up, yet again. So they started writing about and analyzing the situation. This is an overview of what media in the three German-speaking countries are saying:

The Austrian daily “Der Standard” writes, Ankara and Moscow were “irritating Bulgarian voters”. The publication continues saying that when the Turkish Social Minister recommended voting for DOST, a new pro-Turkish party, to Bulgaria, enough was enough. “Der Standard” also says, since the “red general”, Roumen Radev, had won the presidential elections, the Socialists (BSP) were feeling a tailwind. BSP’s leader Kornelia Ninova had started sounding like a nationalist, in part.

Another daily, “Wiener Zeitung” is being written and printed in the same country, Austria. This daily took a broader approach in writing about the Bulgarian elections. Its latest article starts with a moment in 2013, at which Bulgarians were shocked to hear that Delyan Peevski, an MP from the MRF, one of the Turkish minority parties, a man with “murky relations within the economy and to the shadow world”, was announced as head of SANS, the State Agency for National Security. “Wiener Zeitung” says, the fact that Peevski, who also controlled lots of media, was promoted into this position was not too unusual for Bulgaria, but the outcry within the population was. Since then, Bulgaria had changed to some extent.

Before getting into the details for the upcoming elections, this daily quotes the German-Bulgarian author Iliya Troyanov: “Other states have a mafia. In Bulgaria, the mafia has a state”. The publication indirectly says Troyanov was right: “There are no convictions of big mafia figures. The legal system is deemed to be politically dependent.” It also says, Bulgaria was in a “constant election campaign”, due to all of those parliamentary and presidential elections.

Yet another Austrian paper, “Die Presse”, says, “a former bodyguard wants to be back in power”. Of course this is about Boiko Borissov, who indeed was a bodyguard for communist dictator Todor Zhivkov. “As a Prime Minister in Bulgaria, he failed twice. But after the elections, he should have the best hand in the coalition poker.”

In Switzerland, the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” (NZZ) says, patriotism was the word of the moment in Bulgaria. But the country depended on two big neighbours. There were fears among Bulgarians because of Erdogan’s “nationalistic demeanour”. And those fears were easy to exploit. But, the NZZ writes, the political and economical influence Turkey had on Bulgaria was pale in comparison. Russia influenced Bulgaria a lot more. Companies from there controlled almost one fourth of the economy. “Pro-Russian oligarchs play an important role in the area of the media”.

“This election might lead to a change of course in Sofia, in the fight between the E.U. and Russia for influence at the Black Sea”, says “Süddeutsche Zeitung” from Germany. These developments were happening just nine months before it was Bulgaria’s turn to take over the E.U. chair. Neither President Radev nor BSP boss Ninova liked the sanctions against Russia. Moscow’s influence was already huge.

 

 

 

 

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at) gmail.com