BULGARIA POLITICS

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THE CASE OF VIKTORIA MARINOVA

The brutal rape and murder of an young, attractive woman has exposed this country's deep problems with government, public trust in institutions, media freedoms, racism and gender issues, and the blurred line between journalism and political activism.

What happened?

On a Sunday, while the Facebook quarrels on the quality of Central Sofia's renovation works were losing momentum, a piece of disturbing news spread over. A young woman was raped and murdered in the northern city of Ruse, in broad daylight.

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 14:54
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RETURN OF RADIO FREE EUROPE

About 10 years after it gained membership of the EU and nine since Boyko Borisov's GERB came to power this country has made huge progress in spending EU money. However, it has plummeted in many measurable aspects of life: from life expectancy to emigration, from the fight against corruption to the fight against organised crime, and from median incomes to media freedoms. The latter has prompted the US Congress to resume funding for a news outlet to disseminate objective, balanced and non-partisan news and analysis, and facilitate unbiased debate.

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 14:53
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WHAT'S IN A HORO?

In August, at approximately the same time when the Trade Register went dead and commercial transactions, including property sales, ground to a standstill for about a week, a group of folk dance enthusiasts identifying themselves as "patriots" made an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records. They climbed up the Rila Mountain Range and danced what they thought would go down in history as the "longest highland Horo in the world." Some of them got so excited that they stepped into one of the Seven Rila Lakes and danced in the water.

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 10:08
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WHAT'S IN A (TURKISH) WORD?

In many ways Bulgarians don't care about words. Fed up with partial truths, half-lies and plain nonsense for 45 years of Communism they have come to realise that words don't really mean what they are supposed to. There are many and varied examples from all areas of life to illustrate this. Often Bulgarians would see a sign announcing a shop is "open" whereas the shop is actually very closed.

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 11:41
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EUROPE'S LAGGARD

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who has ruled Bulgaria almost uninterruptedly since 2009, may appear sprightly when he holds the hands of Angela Merkel or endearing when he tries to speak French with Emanuel Macron, but under his GERB-manship Bulgaria has collapsed to the rock bottom of almost every possible area that can be measured statistically.

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 14:21
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WAS JULIA KRISTEVA A COMMUNIST 'AGENT'?

Bulgaria has had an uneasy transition from Communism to democracy as a result of which it continues to experience painful pangs related to its recent past. Unlike other nations in the former Warsaw Pact  Bulgaria never made a proper de-Communisation effort. Top Communist-era officials and thousands of apparatchiks continued, and some still continue, to hold public offices.

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 13:33
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REBIRTH OF BULGARIAN FASCISM

Who was Gen Lukov? A First World War hero, he was war minister in the 1930s but fell out with the king and retired just prior to the beginning of the Second World War. In 1942 he became the leader of the Bulgarian National Legions Union. He was assassinated by a hit squad of Communists the following year. Under Communism, Hristo Lukov was a non-person. His name was rarely mentioned in the history books because the Communists feared he might be glorified as a symbol of anti-Communism.

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 15:25
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WITH BULGARIA AT THE HELM

The government in Sofia takes this very seriously. On 1 January 2018 Bulgaria will become the rotating president of the EU for the first time since it was accepted as a member in 2007. Boyko Borisov appointed a special minister for the EU presidency, creating a government post foredoomed to be rather short-lived. Millions of leva were spent on a variety of infrastructure projects, Borisov's favourite, ranging from renovations of the Communist-era NDK, where most of the EU meetings and events will be held, to making Sofia's central roads narrower in order to make way for bicycle paths.

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 15:05
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BULGARIA INCREASINGLY SLIDES INTO AUTOCRACY

What has been in the offing ever since Boyko Borisov's GERB's ascend to power in 2009 is now beginning to assume sinister proportions more befitting the years just after the Second World War, when the Bulgarian Communist Party consolidated its hold to power, than an EU member state in 2017.

According to Prof (Oxon) Evgeniy Daynov, a political scientist, the central issue no longer is the replay of the means and methods of "Mature Socialism," with its stagnated economy and police state. It is when GERB will turn their almost 10-year rule into an open, full-fledged dictatorship.

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 14:40
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CASE OF NDK

Here are the facts. Former Construction Minister Lilyana Pavlova, who is now Minister for Bulgaria's Presidency of the EU, fired the general manager of the National Palace of Culture, or NDK, Miroslav Borshosh. Pavlova, who used to belong to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's inner circle but is now seen as being demoted to what in effect will be just a temporary ministry, cited massive wrongdoing for her decision. She said the planned reconstruction works to modernise the huge building in central Sofia lagged behind.

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 13:04
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'GREAT WALL OF BULGARIA'

The barbed-wire fence supposed to prevent refugees from entering the EU's poorest member state, Bulgaria, is almost ready. After about four years of construction work, the roughly 240-kilometre fence now proudly stands in the middle of the Strandzha forest, in what is supposed to be a nature park. Its usefulness is disputable and there are ongoing allegations of misappropriation and wrongdoing.

The Fence, as it has become known in Bulgarian daily language, has a long and controversial history spanning almost six decades.

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 13:02
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SENSE OF DEADENDS

For obvious reasons, Bulgarian domestic politics is not readily understandable to outsiders especially those who don't speak Bulgarian. How could you explain the setup in the new Bulgarian parliament to an outsider who knows about Europe and the United States, but who is unable to understand who and what stands behind names such as GERB, Ataka, United Patriots and Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation?

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 14:43
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5 CONCLUSIONS ABOUT PRE- AND POST-ELECTION BULGARIA

The result is known: Boyko Borisov won the 26 March snap election which he himself had called in late in 2016, causing a political crisis, prolonged and acrimonious public debate, and increased expenditure for taxpayers. His party, GERB, garnered over 33 percent of the vote, thus becoming the largest party in parliament. Second is Borisov’s "arch enemy," the BSP, or Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 13:25
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WHEN WILL WE CATCH UP WITH THE AMERICANS...?

Loosely picking on the tune of The Beatles's Let It Be, Kolev set it to Bulgarian verse. Its refrain ran like this: "When will we catch up with the Americans?"

Concert venues and town squares cheered on when Todor Kolev made his appearance. Audiences jumped up and intoned: "When shall we catch up with the Americans?" "When? When? When?..."

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 15:58
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A FEW MORE WEEKS OF BOYKO

Like so many other things in Bulgaria since 2009, it all started with the inimitable mixture of populism and demagoguery of this country's outgoing prime minister, Boyko Borisov. The current political crisis has its roots in Borisov's threat to resign in case his handpicked nominee for president, Tsetska Tsacheva, failed to win. Which she did in the November ballot, by an unprecedented margin in Bulgaria's presidential elections since the fall of Communism.

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 13:54
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IN AFTERMATH OF PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT

While he was in his heyday, Bulgaria's prime minister, Boyko Borisov, used to deride learned men and women by calling them "the guys wearing spectacles." Notoriously, he used to boast that in his lifetime he had read only one book, a Western story entitled Winnetou and written by a 19th century German writer, Karl May. He also used to woo workers protesting over their unpaid wages by assuring them that they were "simple folk" and because he himself was a "simple man" they would get together well.

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 16:07
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MYTHS TRIUMPH OVER COMMON SENSE

If Jung and Freud were to meet in Bulgaria and hold one of their notorious disputes, Jung would probably win: mythology would get the upper hand over analysis.

Notwithstanding the sometimes very complicated details of the daily twists and turns of Bulgarian politics under GERB, they can be summed up with what some Western commentators describe as Post-Truth Politics: a strongman leader at the top tells myths to his audiences and is then able to get away with it for a long, long time because voters are led by emotions rather than facts.

Thu, 10/27/2016 - 13:22
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