At post-election conference, Borissov’s GERB lashes out at political opponents

A conference called by GERB leader and Prime Minister Boiko Borissov to evaluate the party’s performance in the autumn 2019 local elections saw bitter criticism of its political rivals, particularly acerbic in the case of Democratic Bulgaria.

Not only did Borissov deal out swingeing criticism of the other parties, but also so did former President Rossen Plevneliev, in a first very public political appearance since leaving office as head of state at the beginning of 2017.

Borissov hit out at Democratic Bulgaria for the alliance it effectively formed ahead of the second round of the mayoral elections in Sofia, which were a contest between socialist-backed Maya Manolova and GERB’s Yordanka Fandukova.

His criticism came a few days after reports that within the Bulgarian Socialist Party, there is sharp criticism of the BSP having made a deal with Democratic Bulgaria. The BSP in Sofia is expected to return to the controversy at a meeting on November 8.

Borissov said of Democratic Bulgaria: “We have to stop calling them right-wing. These are the children, the grandchildren of the red nomenklatura,” the latter a reference to the privileged elite of the communist era.

The GERB leader, clearly still stung by the damage done to his party on the eve of the 2013 elections by the “Kostinbrod affair” (which involved allegations, that eventually remained unproven, that GERB was attempting ballot-stuffing), hit out at those who claimed that GERB had sought advantage in the 2019 local elections through vote manipulation.

He said that GERB had its differences with the UDF – with which it formed electoral alliances in the local elections as it had in the European Parliament vote in May – but the principle of being right-wing brought them together.

Borissov said that he had called the national conference to show clearly what the “fractured GERB”, as his opponents called it after the local elections, looked like.

“As they say, if we go outside now, that must be a big protest,” he said, referring to the large number of mayors from across the company who had been elected on the GERB ticket and who were sharing the stage with him.

Borissov admonished the mayors to improve the quality of their work and show a proper attitude.

“When you see a piece of paper, you will bend over to pick it up. When you see a fallen tree, you will throw it on your back. If there is a dangerous shaft, you stand by it until they fix it,” he said.

Responding to the statement by BSP leader Kornelia Ninova that the socialist candidates were “repressed” after the local elections – a matter that the BSP said earlier in the day that it was referring to “the European institutions” – Borissov called on Ninova to send him a list of those who repressed.

“If it turns out to be true, I will personally apologise to them on Tuesday and whoever has allowed it, let them see what happens,” he said.

Responding to opposition criticism that GERB won the vote of Roma people – in Sofia, the Manolova camp alleged that GERB bought Fandukova’s victory by buying Roma votes – Borissov said that Roma people had reason to vote for his party, but in the November 2016 run-off presidential elections, had voted for socialist-backed Roumen Radev, at a rate to two to one votes for the GERB candidate, Tsetska Tsacheva.

Former President Plevneliev, who in 2011 won election as head of state on a GERB ticket, told the conference that he was deeply disappointed with the right-wingers in the capital city and their behaviour ahead of the run-off vote.

Plevneliev blamed Democratic Bulgaria leaders Hristo Ivanov and Atanas Atanassov for splitting the right-wing vote. This made him feel embarrassed as a right-wing voter, he said.

They should go ahead and choose Manolova as their leader, Plevneliev said.

He said that he was hurt by GERB’s loss to the BSP in Blagoevgrad, where Plevneliev comes from, saying that the real reason was not an embarrassing video of GERB’s candidate, the now-former mayor, but that “unfortunately, no well-paid job has been created in Blagoevgrad in the past four years.

“Today, Blagoevgrad and Vidin (where GERB lost to a local UDF coalition) are the two cities with the lowest income per person and are at the bottom of the ranking in Bulgaria and the EU”, Plevneliev said.

He also spared no criticism of the BSP and President Radev.

“There were many who said that there were huge electoral manipulations, and it was just those who did not say a word when the largest electoral manipulation took place – the Kostinbrod affair,” Plevneliev said.

“Radev, Ninova, Manolova, (TV showman turned politician Slavi) Trifonov are silent and have not said a word about what happened in Kostinbrod, but have the audacity to speak about fair elections. There was talk of fighting corruption, but none of these people made an operative decision.

“The President of Bulgaria (Radev) thunders in the National Assembly, at the government, but on (fighting) corruption has not come up with a single idea how,” Plevneliev said, adding at the time of the caretaker government appointed by Radev, the prime minister said that there had been a lot of pressure for behind-the-scenes appointments.

“The hardest battle in 2021 awaits us – all these heroes Ninova, Manolova, Radev, Slavi, will put before us a battle between generals, between the General president and the General Prime Minister,” Plevneliev said, referring to the rank Radev, a former Air Force commander, held, and the rank conferred on Borissov when he headed the Interior Ministry.

“The real battle will be not a battle of generals, but a fight of values, a battle between democrats and populists,” Plevneliev said.



The Sofia Globe staff

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