Bulgaria’s caretaker Interior Minister says people more willing to report vote-buying

Bulgaria’s caretaker Interior Minister Boiko Rashkov said on July 9 that the number of reports from the public about vote-buying was six times higher ahead of this coming Sunday’s vote than it had been ahead of the April parliamentary election.

He attributed this to the public feeling more confident about reporting vote-buying, saying that before now, “people did not see the point in approaching the Interior Ministry”.

Rashkov said that Mladen Mladenov and Hristo Terziiski, successive Interior Ministers in Boiko Borissov’s GERB government, were candidates for Borissov’s party in the July elections.

According to Rashkov, this showed why the police had not acted against vote-buying in previous elections.

On July 5, Rashkov infuriated GERB by alleging that Borissov’s party was involved in vote-buying ahead of the July 11 elections, an allegation that Borissov has denied publicly every day in recent days, while challenging Rashkov to provide proof.

Borissov has claimed that Rashkov is acting against GERB as a proxy for Borissov’s political nemesis, President Roumen Radev.

Addressing a July 9 briefing, Rashkov alleged that Tsveta Karayancheva, a GERB candidate in Kurdzhali and formerly a Speaker of Parliament, had made a phone call threatening the head of the regional directorate of the Interior Ministry with dismissal regarding an investigation into alleged trading of votes in return for firewood.

Rashkov described the alleged incident as “something outrageous”.

Karayancheva responded by describing Rashkov’s allegation as a “monstrous lie” and “Goebbels-like”.

He said that the practice of buying and selling votes during elections in Bulgaria had long since become established. Inaction by the relevant authorities had allowed political corruption to develop undisturbed.

“We are surprised by the number of people involved in this activity,” he said.

Vote-buyers use different approaches, not only offering money – from 30 to 50 leva a vote – but also bread, wood, flour, lentils and other items, Rashkov said.

Borissov’s GERB held protests in a number of cities on July 8, claiming that the caretaker government was repressing the party and alleging arbitrariness in police actions.

National Police Chief Commissioner Stanimir Stanev told the briefing that between July 1 and 8, a total of 72 pre-trial proceedings had been initiated.

He said that 9588 people from the “criminal contingent” had been checked and 938 people taken into custody. Nationwide arrest warrants had been issued for 155 people, Stanev said.

(Photo of Rashkov: government.bg)

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