Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov, co-leader of the nationalist grouping that is the minority partner in the coalition government, has lashed out at major television stations over the resignation of Health Minister Nikolai Petrov.
Petrov submitted his resignation, immediately accepted by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, on October 30 following a report by bTV about contracts he signed with a company owned by a relative while Petrov headed the Military Medical Academy.
Speaking in an interview on October 31 with a cable television channel, Simeonov said that “bTV turned out to be like an infantile fatty with certain mental abnormalities put into a porcelain shop, not knowing what he is doing”.
BTV’s report was, Simeonov said, an “unprecented contraption” posing as an investigation and had hurled Petrov’s CV into the gutter.
According to Simeonov, the attack on Petrov was motivated by economic interests that had been hurt by his actions in government. Petrov had moved to ban new training institutions and new medicines, and in this way, had affected the interests of the “pharmaceutical and medical mafia”.
Simeonov said that there were a number of inaccuracies in the bTV report. The awarding of the contract had caused no financial damage to the state, he said.
A second reason for Petrov’s resignation was that, in recent years, Bulgaria had been ruled by two television stations – bTV and Nova Televizia – that had obliterated a number of political figures. The agenda should not be dictated by television studios, Simeonov said.
Simeonov was embroiled in controversy in September 2017 when a number of Bulgarian media, including the television and radio public broadcasters, reported that he had “threatened” a Nova Televizia interviewer. Simeonov rejected this interpretation of his statements in that interview and said that he would lodge court action against the media.
Simeonov came into office in May 2017 when the third Borissov government was formed, with the United Patriots, a grouping of nationalist and far-right parties, as the minority partner. Later that same month, he was the subject of condemnation from two Bulgarian Jewish organisations from making a flippant comment about the Holocaust. The same month, Simeonov was appointed to head the government’s council against discrimination.
In October, a court found Simeonov guilty of using hate speech against Roma, in an address in Parliament in December 2014. Simeonov rejects this ruling and is appealing against the verdict.