PRIME MINISTER WITHOUT A SMOKED SAUSAGE IN HIS HAND

by Stamen Manolov

Life in the warped reality of life in GERB's Bulgaria can sometimes assume surreal dimensions.

Each outrage committed by the top GERB functionaries is almost immediately followed by something totally unexpected – and even more outrageous than before – in order to distract the attention of the general public from the really important issues such as the failed judiciary reforms, the unwillingness or the inability of the police to solve even street crimes (whose number increases by the day) and the plummeting standards of democracy in the EU's poorest and most corrupt member state.

Consider this. Zhivko Martinov, a GERB MP for Dobrich in northeastern Bulgaria, was accused of… extorting a local businessman for 4,000 kilograms of sausages plus 60 kilos of jerked beef and some Elena fillets. The businessman, who is a local meat producer, was told that the sausages were to go directly to… Prime Minister Boyko Borisov for his own perusal – so they should be the best available.

The man complied. Perhaps he really loved the idea of presenting his produce directly to the prime minister. Perhaps he feared if he refused bad things might start happening to him… His motivation will probably remain a mystery forever.

Then the MP transported the sausages in his own van – 4 times, 1,000 kilos on each ride – to a special room he had prepared for drying up the foodstuff.

Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, who made the announcement and called to have the GERB MP immunity lifted, explained that "not a single sausage actually reached the prime minister."

Boyko Borisov personally stepped in. He fired the whole GERB leadership in Dobrich.

Anyone outside Bulgaria may be wondering whether the above story is not a bad joke by a sick standup comedian. But Bulgarians take a different view. To start off with, there is nothing wrong in the prime minister – or anyone else in power, even locally – being given  donations of sausages, cheese, sometimes fresh chicken and/or eggs. Maybe a piglet. This is something that has been going on in Bulgaria for a very long time and has been described by writers of different political inclinations throughout the 20th century. The scandal, if any, is that the prime minister was actually left sausage-less.

Anyone outside Bulgaria may also be wondering how the GERB leader might fire his whole team in Dobrich without at least a probe to verify that some of those GERBers might actually not have been involved in the racket. Locals, however, take a different view. They actually like to see someone as resolute as Boyko Borisov fire, without delay and with extreme prejudice, a bunch of simple mortals. Whether they really erred or not is entirely beside the point.

Boyko Borisov again emerged pristine from what some critics were quick to dub the Sausage Affair. He immediately parted with those he thought might have been complicit in the wrongdoing. But most important of all, no one ever caught him with a smoked (the pun is unintended) sausage in his hand.

Do you think that if anyone had, the outcome might have been different?

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