Boiko Borissov and his centre-right GERB party, facing volleys of calls for election campaign chief and former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov to quit politics over the illicit eavesdropping scandal, have decided the best form of defence is attack.
On April 16, Tsvetanov was proceeding with GERB election campaign events in the towns of Gabrovo, Lovech and Veliko Turnovo, having said that he was available to return as interior minister after the May 12 ahead-of-term national parliamentary elections, and having hinted that he himself had been the subject of illegal eavesdropping.
Borissov defended Tsvetanov, reciting a litany of attempts to smear GERB, boasting of the former ruling party’s achievements in building infrastructure, and reciting a litany of scandals involving rival parties, especially the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement for Rights and Freedoms.
Against a background of Tsvetanov the previous week having given mixed signals about GERB’s approach to the formation of a governing coalition after the elections – polls suggest that neither GERB nor the BSP will win a sufficiently large share of votes to govern alone – Borissov said that GERB would not form a coalition with the BSP, MRF or Ataka, all of which had called for Tsvetanov to quit politics.
The call for Tsvetanov to withdraw from politics was based on a pledge that he had made to do so should evidence be found of illegal electronic surveillance while he was interior minister.
An investigation by a team of senior prosecutors, initiated after an approach by BSP leader Sergei Stanishev who alleged that a large number of senior state and political leaders and business people had been eavesdropped on illegally, found an absence of clear rules on the use of wiretapping, dereliction of duty by senior officials, and faced obstruction of its investigation, including by an official who allegedly destroyed evidence.
Two senior officials at the special department for surveillance were suspended after prosecutors announced their findings and the launch of pre-trial proceedings against four officials.
The prosecutors found that eavesdropping had been conducted solely on verbal orders without any documents being filed. The investigation also established discrepancies in the use of a specially-equipped car, finding that it had been out on the streets of Sofia when records showed it to have been garaged. This had happened on March 15, 16 and 26.
The head of the department, Sergei Katsarov, allegedly lied to prosecutors during the investigation about the capabilities of the eavesdropping system. Katsarov told them that calls could be listened in to but not recorded. It had taken experts 20 minutes to establish that this was not true, Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov told an April 15 news conference.
“I can hardly imagine that employees who were using that vehicle and specific equipment can embark on independent private missions. If we can recover the files, maybe it will become clear who was the object of these missions,” Tsatsarov said.
The Prosecutor-General said that he would ask the next Parliament to approve legislation to prevent abuse of official eavesdropping capabilities.
On April 15, Tsvetanov said that there was “no evidence” that he had been involved in wrongdoing, and challenged parties such as the BSP to say what they had done to prevent irregularities when they were in power. He said that he suspected that since the GERB government resigned, he and Borissov had been subjected to illegal electronic surveillance.
(Photo of Tsvetanov: gerb.bg)