by Anthony Georgieff

Nope. Whitewashing of Boyko Borisov instead

boyko borisov rosen plevneliev.jpg

If anyone believed that the CC-DB, or Changes Continued-Democratic Bulgaria alliance, who lost the April election and are now the second largest party in the Bulgarian National Assembly, were serious in their declared and oft-repeated pledges they wanted to dismantle what they called Boyko Borisov's "mafia state" must have been in for a a bit of a surprise. According to a twelfth-hour agreement, GERB and the CC-DB announced they would actually become friends (!) in the name of "civilisational choices" and "geopolitical orientation" instead. In plain language this means that Gen Atanas Atanasov, Hristo Ivanov, Asen Vasilev and Kiril Petkov will quietly forget their election mantras... in order to get a piece of the cake.

What led to the abrupt turnaround? As with everything else in Bulgarian politics, to understand why the CC-DB backtracked and let their voters down, one needs to look at the background.

... That question does not stand in the case of Maria Gabriel, Borisov's personal nominee for prime minister, in 2023

In the month of May, a roadside bomb thought to be meant to intimidate or kill Bulgaria's chief prosecutor, Ivan Geshev, produced an unexpected fallout. The man himself was unharmed, and so was his car. A mysterious Israeli expert, who'd come to this country shortly before the blast, declared the bomb was a shoot-to-kill device, not an amateurish contraption. Only pure chance had saved the life of the prosecutor, who likes to portray himself as a Bulgarian Giovanni Falcone (after the Italian prosecuting magistrate, assassinated by the Mafia, who has come to symbolise one man's determination to fight organised crime). Yet others disagreed. One of them was Lena Borislavova of the CC, or Changes Continued, political party that won the 2021 general election and then lost the 2023 snap ballot most likely because it allied itself with the compromised DB, or Democratic Bulgaria. Borislavova stated the roadside bomb was nothing but a ploy, a publicity stunt designed to boost Ivan Geshev's standing as a fearless champion of justice.

Geshev's appointment as this country's attorney general, in 2019, prompted unprecedented street rallies. Some, like the DB (Changes Continued did not exist at the time), took to the streets to protest against Geshev whom they saw as a pawn in the hands of Borisov. Others took to the streets to protest against the anti-Geshev protestors whom they considered impotent to go ahead and run the country.

The real trouble, however, is not Ivan Geshev's as a person. All of Bulgaria's chief prosecutors since 1989, with the possible exception of Boris Velchev, who served in 2006-2012, have been controversial. All of them have been accused by various political parties and individuals of various crimes and misdemeanours. The real trouble is a legislative faux pas by the founding fathers of post-Communist Bulgaria who hammered out the Bulgarian Constitution and omitted to impose a sufficient amount of checks and balances on what has turned out to be one of the most important jobs in the country.

Consequently, there are few powers (except perhaps God, whom Ivan Geshev sometimes invokes in his public speeches) that can sack him. And if the perseverance and obstinacy he has manifested so far are anything to go by, he is unlikely to relinquish his powers on his own volition.

Among the misdeeds attributed to Geshev is his reluctance to properly investigate major events, including Boyko Borisov's alleged corruption activities and the collapse of the Corporate Commerical Bank, where the Bulgarian state kept most of its accounts.

The novel thing, however, is that Boyko Borisov, generally thought of as Geshev's chief champion, suddenly and unexpectedly backed down. He no longer seems to support Geshev and his methods. How come? What caused the turnaround?

In the murky world of Bulgarian politics things can be either very simple or extremely complicated. Many people, including some political parties, always prefer to go for the complicated explanations that more often than not touch on conspiracy theories. However, in most cases things are, in actual fact, plain and simple.

In his desperate attempt to remain in power by forming some kind of a coalition or "expert" government (which Borisov's genuine critics see as nothing but a sleigh-of-hand designed to keep Borisov immune from justice) Boyko Borisov installed Maria Gabriel, a GERB functionary who had worked as an EU commissioner in Brussels, as would-be prime minister. Gabriel is young and speaks foreign languages. Notwithstanding the fact that she was reportedly the protege of the now disgraced Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Borisov's former righthand-man, Gabriel might be perceived as being a professional, one unencumbered by GERB's backstage deals.

In her first appearance as a prime minister-designate Gabriel said the removal of Geshev would be one of her priorities.

Whether the relatively young and inexperienced Maria Gabriel made this statement on her own will, whether it had been premeditated and perhaps coordinated with her boss, or whether it was just a slip of the tongue – possibly meant to appease GERB's former foes, the CC-DB, will probably remain a mystery for good. The important thing is that both politicians and the media were instantly up in arms.

Predictably, no one payed any attention to the fact that it is not the job of a prime minister-designate – not in a democracy – to dictate who is to be or not to be chief prosecutor. Everyone trumpeted: a "war" between the agencies of the state was in the offing! This was the beginning of the end of the "Mafia state."

Will it be? It is highly unlikely. If the uneasy alliance between Boyko Borisov (who his critics claim is the sole reason for turning Bulgaria into a state where organised crime reigns supreme) and the CC-DB, who portray themselves as morally pristine, hold Borisov will in fact remain in power. Ivan Geshev (who was seen as Borisov's legal protector) is unlikely to give himself in without a fight. He has threatened he would be making "serious disclosures" about political games in the judicial system that will cause "great shame" to many people. Yet, with Borisov and the CC-DB commanding a first-past-the-post majority in the National Assembly Geshev might easily be sacrificed in the name of the "civilizational choices" and the "geopolitical orientation." The big losers will be those who trusted the CC-DB to go ahead and make a genuinely meaningful effort to dismantle the captured state.

Against this background – and regardless of the proclaimed alliance between David and Goliath (in their modern Bulgarian reincarnation of GERB and the CC-DB) – Bulgaria will be in for a difficult autumn once everyone returns from their well-deserved summer holidays.


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