The Speaker of Bulgaria’s Parliament, Mihail Mikov, has fired Lidia Yordanova, the director of the National Centre for the Study of Public Opinion (NCSPO), the Parliament’s public opinion polling agency, Nova Televizia channel reported on August 21.
Earlier in August, Mikov said that Parliament would shut down NCSPO because it was unnecessary. Instead of a public opinion polling agency, the National Assembly needed a unit that would assess the impact of new legislation and “light a red lamp” when a law was not having the desired effect, Mikov was quoted as saying.
He also said that an audit at NCSPO found wide-spread instances of nepotism, with relatives of the polling agency’s employees hired to carry out interviews for NCSPO’s surveys. According to reports in Bulgarian media, the polling agency spent more than 210 000 leva (about 108 000 euro) on fees to outside contractors, but had no contracts to show for it. Additionally, Mikov said, NCSPO were paid twice for their work.
The audit’s findings have been sent to prosecutors, who will decide whether to start a pre-trial investigation, Nova Televizia said.
NCSPO was set up by Parliament decree in December 1989, only a month after the palace coup that deposed long-time communist party leader Todor Zhivkov, making it the oldest polling agency in the country. Despite competition from private public opinion research firms, it has remained one of Bulgaria’s more trusted polling agencies (although not without accusations that it tended to favour whichever party was in government at the time.)
Critics of the current Government and ruling coalition interpreted Mikov’s announcement that the agency would be shut down as an act of reprisal against an institution that proved too independent.
In its latest public opinion poll last month, NCSPO said that its survey showed that the current Parliament had the lowest public approval rating (and highest public disapproval) of any National Assembly since 1997. The same applied to the man sitting in the prime minister chair, Plamen Oresharski.
At the same time, the survey showed that 58 per cent of respondents approved of the ongoing anti-government protests, now into their third month (albeit with significantly lower turnout in August), while 47 per cent were in favour of snap elections.
(Parliament Speaker Mihail Mikov. Screengrab from Bulgarian National Television)