Bulgaria’s 2013 elections: President tells politicians to get to the issues and stop smear campaigns
Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has expressed frustration at the preoccupation with the eavesdropping controversy and urged politicians to debate issues relevant to the reasonable demands of people.
Plevneliev made the call in an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio on April 27, with two weeks to go to the May 12 2013 national parliamentary elections.
He called on the relevant authorities to get to the bottom of the eavesdropping controversy.
The controversy began with Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev approaching Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov about alleged widespread illegal electronic surveillance of state leaders, politicians and business people.
An initial two-week investigation found shortcomings in rules on the use of eavesdropping and led to criminal charges against four officials at the Interior Ministry surveillance department, three for dereliction of duty, one for allegedly obstructing the prosecutors’ investigation.
The particular target for rival politicians in the controversy has been Tsvetan Tsvetanov, formerly interior minister in Boiko Borissov’s centre-right government and current election campaign chief for Borissov’s GERB party. Tsvetanov has denied wrongdoing.
Matters deepened when one of Borissov’s former ministers, Miroslav Naidenov, alleged that illegal wiretapping of all members of the cabinet, including Borissov, had been conducted, and that Tsvetanov was behind it.
And matters deepened further still when several Bulgarian media went an audio recording of a conversation purported to be between Borissov, Naidenov and Sofia city prosecutor Nikolai Kokinov. The release of the conversation led to Kokinov’s resignation and reports that Borissov, Naidenov and Kokinov would be called in by prosecutors for questioning.
A special news conference by prosecutors is expected to be held on April 29.
Against this background of headlines dominated by the controversy, Plevneliev said that Bulgarian citizens had reasonable demands and he found it unacceptable to see that with the parliamentary elections two weeks away, Bulgaria’s political class instead were offering them a controversy on eavesdropping.
The caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Marin Raykov had made it clear that the prosecution and all authorities had a free hand to do their jobs, Plevneliev said.
The President issued a reminder that it had been nationwide protests that had precipitated Bulgaria’s political crisis and early elections.
People had taken to the streets because of electricity bills, because they wanted institutions to listen to them, because they wanted transparency in the energy sector and anti-trust legislation, he said.
“People have very reasonable demands. How do politicians respond to their demands? With bugs and special surveillance equipment. Ten days before the election, I find this unacceptable…I strongly urge, let everyone please take Bulgarian voters seriously,” Plevneliev said.
He said that by now, ordinary people when going to bars were putting their phones away. Business people were worried that they were the subject of surveillance. “Enough already, this is not a normal situation, this always happens before elections,” he said. “Rather than come up with clear commitments to the Bulgarian nation, we shuffle folders.”
Plevneliev’s comments came a day before the release of the results of a poll saying that the eavesdropping controversy had had no effect on how people intended voting on May 12.