Viewers of public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television voted the July suicide bombing terrorist attack on a group of Israeli tourists at Bourgas Airport the “event of 2012”, the broadcaster said.
The attack, in which five Israelis, a Bulgarian and the bomber died, was the first act of terrorism in Bulgaria in decades. Israel has named Hezbollah and Iran as having been behind the bombing but Bulgaria has been cautious about apportioning blame pending the outcome of the investigation. Alleged accomplices in the bombing are being sought with the help of Interpol.
The Bourgas Airport attack got 18.3 per cent of viewers’ votes in an online poll, and was followed, with 17.3 per cent, by the floods in the village of Biser in January and the 5.8 Richter scale earthquake that caused widespread property destruction in the town of Pernik in May.
The Biser floods, the result of a reservoir wall breaching, led to widespread checks into the state of dams around Bulgaria and exposed official confusion about the ownership and control of various dams and reservoirs. Like the earthquake that hit Pernik hard, it resulted in large-scale public charity drives to assist those affected by the damage. The Government came under fire from residents of Pernik, a mining town not far from Sofia, over alleged tardiness in the official response to assist those left homeless. A Cabinet minister was appointed to oversee the work of an interdepartmental commission and large sums were voted to assist residents, while a fundraising campaign led by the Bulgarian Red Cross resulted in prefabricated accommodation being provided.
Felix Baumgartner’s record high-altitude jump got the vote of 14.5 per cent of viewers, beating into fourth place the controversy about the full ban that came into effect in Bulgaria in June on smoking in enclosed public places such as restaurants and bars. This controversy, which got 11.1 per cent of votes, acquired new life towards the end of 2012 with failed attempts to amend the legislation to revert to the system of separate smoking and non-smoking areas in restaurants and bars.
The death in November 2012 of Patriarch Maxim, who had headed the Bulgarian Orthodox Church since 1971, got 9.2 per cent of votes. An initial very public battle among rival factions in the Holy Synod, the church’s governing body, went behind closed doors by the end of the year while Varna Metropolitan Kiril temporarily presided over the Holy Synod. On February 24 2013, an electoral college made up overwhelmingly of clergy with minor representation of laity will meet in Sofia to elect a new Patriarch, who also will be enthroned the same day in the landmark St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the Bulgarian capital city.
The saga of Belene nuclear power station rated eight per cent of votes to come in at sixth place. The Cabinet, in March, said that it was scuttling the long-delayed project but the emergence of a mystery investor revived debate about the nuclear power station plan. After a petition campaign initiated by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, it was agreed to hold a referendum on the overall principle of further developing Bulgaria’s nuclear power plant capacity. This referendum will be held on January 27 2013.