Prosecutors investigating Plovdiv mayor tape controversy

Prosecutors have begun an investigation after audio tapes were posted online purported to be of Plovdiv mayor Ivan Totev talking about politically-motivated manoeuvres to benefit the GERB party that he leads in Bulgaria’s second-largest city.

The investigation is twofold, first whether there is evidence in the tapes of any wrongdoing, and second into who is behind the unlawful recordings.

The tapes include remarks about large numbers of appointments of GERB people to positions at the municipality, as well as the city council approving decisions that are deliberately invalid and which would have to be overruled by the regional governor, this move allegedly being designed to discredit the governor by portraying him as obstructing important infrastructure projects.

The governor, Ventsislav Kaymakanov, is an appointee of the Bulgarian Socialist Party-Movement for Rights and Freedoms government, and has been targeted in anti-government protests since the current government took office and replaced GERB appointees.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party has called for the resignation of Totev and reportedly, plans are being made for a special meeting of the city council on October 29 to table a formal demand for the resignation of the mayor. Totev told local media that he would attend such a meeting.

He also confirmed that the voice on the audio tapes is his, but has alleged manipulation and individual comments being taken out of context.

Totev (38) is a graduate in computer technology and in law with a specialization in public administration. A former MP and district governor, he was elected mayor of Plovdiv on a GERB ticket in October 2011.

When GERB was in power, Totev was seen as having a promising political future, but now – like other GERB prominent figures remaining in areas of government – he has been targeted by the BSP-MRF axis and its allied media which seek to bring him down.

At Parliament in Sofia on October 23, BSP MPs said that they wanted to ask the leadership of GERB whether it had ordered mayors from its party to destabilise the country.

BSP MP Krassimir Murdzhev said that GERB’s leader Boiko Borissov and his deputy Tsvetan Tsvetanov should say whether GERB was taking part in a “national plan for a coup to destroy the state” and precipitate early elections.

Totev told reporters in Plovdiv that he did not want to say who was behind the unlawful audio recordings because there was currently an investigation.

He said that it was disturbing to see that currently in politics in Bulgaria, there were frequent efforts to discredit individuals by any means.

Totev said in a media interview that there was no such approach as appointing people from GERB on a partisan basis.

He said that statements had been taken out of context. At a party meeting, a leader was the person who embodied people’s hopes, who had to give them motivation and confidence that they would not remain out on the street.

In a closed circle, “you can talk freely”, Totev said, adding that discussions had gone on for a long time at the party meeting now at the centre of the controversy.

Asked about part of the recording, in which Totev’s voice is heard saying, “we played it very well and no one understood” regarding Kaymakanov, he said that they had managed to make public the fact of the regional governor’s ties to the MRF.

Further, Totev rejected as an “illogical assertion” that the city council had approved a 30 million leva project in a way intended to be deliberate sabotage. The project was too important for the city to be sabotaged in this way, he said.

(Photo of Ivan Totev: DCXLV)




The Sofia Globe staff

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