NEED A CONSPIRACY THEORY?

by Stamen Manolov

General has bucketfuls

general atanas atanasov.jpg

Atanas Atanasov is a general. He was the head of the Bulgarian security service under Ivan Kostov, the Bulgarian prime minister in 1997-2001, who inimitably prompted just two reactions: love or hate. There are still people who swear by him because they think he was resolute in dismantling the Communist system, and other people who swear at him because they consider all evils to have befallen Bulgaria since 1989 to be directly or indirectly attributable to him.

Kostov has been history for many years, but the small, rightwing party he set up before he retired, the DSB – or Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, is still around. In fact, it was a partner in the outgoing ruling coalition of the PP-DB, or Changes Continued-Democratic Bulgaria. It is headed by none lesser than Atanasov Atanasov. The general was one of the big losers in the "non-rotation" of the government. He had been promised the position of speaker of parliament, which he had craved. Sadly for him, the parliament fell through before he could attain it.

Having a background in the security services, Gen Atanasov in some odd way epitomises the state of the security services themselves. He propagates, often without any evidence, conspiracy theories. As one conspiracy theory fades away (usually a couple days, sometimes just a couple of hours later), the general is quick to come up with another. His audience must be kept in a state of captivation, and the general knows that nothing can keep the attention of Bulgarians better than spy affairs and alleged high-level behind-the-scenes deals.

One of the recent conspiracy theories propagated by Gen Atanasov is that the ongoing scandals involving senior Interior Ministry and customs officials was a "poly-functional active operation." Using the language of the Communist-era State Security, which he says he abhors, the general is telling his supporters that Boyko Borisov's GERB and the Turkish-dominated DPS, or Movement for Rights and Freedoms, were in a "coalition" to discredit the PP-DB, with whom they have ruled in an alliance for the past nine months.

Previously the general complained that military intelligence had started a "probe" against him. Military intelligence denied the existence of any such probe.

Senior Bulgarian intelligence officials are in touch with senior Russian intelligence officials, is one of Gen Atanasov's favourite adages. Again, the general produces no evidence, but insists his sources are "reliable."

And of course the chief culprit to blame is the Communist-era State Security, which was disbanded in 1990, but which, according to the security services general, continues to pull the strings in all spheres of Bulgarian public life.

It is difficult to say how many supporters the party Gen Atanasov leads, the DSB, has. Gen Atanasov has been its boss since 2007. It takes part in elections in an alliance with the PP of Kiril Petkov and Asen Vasilev and the DB, or Yes Bulgaria, of Hristo Ivanov. In the 2023 general election that PP-DB alliance garnered about a quarter of the vote.

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