Patriotic Front MP Slavi Binev, the subject of a barrage of complaints and protests about his election as head of the Bulgarian Parliament’s committee on culture and the media, told a news conference on December 2 that he had no intention of stepping down.
He added that he would resign as chairperson of the committee, a post he was handed as committee chairpersonships were handed out among various parties last week, if his PF coalition co-leader told him to or if Orhan Ismailov quit as deputy defence minister and Vesselin Penev quit as Sofia regional governor.
The PF has been demanding that Ismailov and Penev be withdrawn from their posts because they were appointed from the quota of the centre-right Reformist Bloc, from the bloc’s constituent party the People’s Party Freedom and Dignity. That party is essentially a breakaway from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity and a particular bete noire for the PF.
The election of Binev to head the committee drew outrage among various media and prominent figures in Bulgaria’s world of art and culture. A public protest, organised on Facebook, is planned for December 3. The indignation arises from Binev’s business career, lack of background in the field of culture and his past conduct at a public protest at the public broadcaster.
“To those who say that I cannot sing, paint or weave rhymes, I will tell them, well, you are absolutely right, I have no such talents. But that makes me no different from anyone who should manage or administer a sector. My talents lie elsewhere, in the direction to give opportunities to those who can do so well,” Binev said.
He said that when people from the arts world had been turned into organisers, they had failed, and everyone had lost out.
Binev likened his function to that of the Medici, without whom Michelangelo would have been nothing more than a painter in Naples.
“A let me split in two, I will work for the freedom of the media,” Binev said, saying that he deplored that in freedom of speech indices, Bulgaria placed behind Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Albania.
“I have nothing to be ashamed of,” he said.
According to Binev, an argument in favour of him heading the committee on culture and the media was that it was precisely in this area that he had no conflict of interest, which would not have been the case had he been elected head of the committee on sport.
He said that he had been recommended for the post by PF co-leader Simeonov, and if Simeonov told him to resign, he would do so.
Earlier, there were reports that Binev’s recommendation had come from Tsvetan Tsvetanov, deputy leader of GERB, the majority partner in the coalition cabinet. These reports have been denied by GERB.
Both GERB and the Reformist Bloc have described the appointment of Binev as an uncomfortable compromise.
Binev told the news conference that his plans included that “what we need to do in the media is to free from them from all dependences, political and economic”.