100 Days of Solitude: Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and the GERB Government

Special Report |Author: Ivan Dikov | November 3, 2009, Tuesday // 23:41|  views

By Ivan Dikov with Phil Davies

 

“The organized crime in Bulgaria is “countered” by the criminal disorganization of the Bulgarian state.”

This quote is dated back to November 2001. It belongs to Colonel Boyko Borisov, the newly appointed Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry. Former Tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg has just won the parliamentary elections in a landslide after promising to “fix” Bulgaria in just 800 days.

These words are a handy summary of the first period of Bulgaria’s post-communist transition – the tumultuous 1990s. Borisov, a former fire brigade and police officer, who just came to the government from the security business, is said to have uttered them after getting a report from the then director of the Unit for Combating Organized Crime. The report of only two pages covered the director’s activities for 9 months.

Boyko Borisov (middle) as Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry (2001-2005) together with former Tsar and PM Simeon Saxe-Coburg (left) and former Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov (right). Photo by Dnevnik Daily

Eight years later, Boyko Borisov is not just marking his first 100 days in office as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria. He is the most popular Bulgarian politician, enjoying the trust and support of the overwhelming Bulgarian population – an unprecedented 77%, according a recent poll. In just eight years, this previously unknown man went from Interior Ministry Secretary, through Sofia Mayor and a founder and leader of a powerful political party to head of government. All eyes are on Borisov in a Bulgaria plagued, in the words of the EC, by corruption and organized crime and hit hard by the global economic crisis.

One of the crucial things here is that after attracting an unexpectedly large voter turnout and carrying the July Parliamentary Elections in a landslide, Borisov’s popularity has actually grown from 40-50% to almost 80%. Charismatic, and outspoken, though sometimes a little rough, might be he doing something right?

The Starting Point

When looking at the 100 Days record of Boyko Borisov and the government of his GERB party, one must keep several things in mind. As history has shown, 100 days are just enough for a Waterloo, an impressive rise and staggering defeat. But when it comes to trying to fix really grave issues such as those of an Eastern European, Balkan country which saw Nazism, Bolshevism, and a “transition” (best characterized by Borisov’s above quote) over the last 70 years, 100 days are really not that much. They can be more of an indicator of what is to come rather than a conclusive period of clear-cut achievements.

Then, there is the question of the heritage from those who were just in office. While Borisov’s constant complains after assuming office about the huge deficits and blatant violations of the former government might seem redundant and sometimes annoying, being fair would require keeping in mind the character of the previous government – a coalition of three parties who had divided the spoils of government positions and agencies in the notorious 8:5:3 ratio, plagued by corruption, in the words of the EC, and who spent heavily on all sorts of “welfare” programs in the months before the 2009 EU and Parliamentary Elections.

The next crucial thing about how Borisov started off is the way he selected his Ministers. Borisov’s government seems to be the most technocratic one Bulgaria has seen after 1989. People such as Djankov, Plevneliev, Traikov, Nanev, Karadzhova, to name only a few.

Finally, Borisov took a risk – with only 116 MPs he does not have a majority in the 240-seat Parliament. After tangled negotiations in July, he got the support of three other minor right-wing formations – the nationalist Ataka (21 MPs), the rightist Blue Coalition (15 MPs), and the conservative RZS (10 MPs). Of those three, only the first one has declared its unwavering support for Borisov.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov explains in an angry and agitated voice the violations of the previous government, October 2009. Photo by BGNES

The Bulgarian Economy, the Crisis, and the State Budget

After growing at the rate of over 6% in the last few years based largely on investments in real estate and construction, the boom of the Bulgarian economy came to a halt as a result of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. For a number of reasons, including purely objective factors, the crisis in Bulgaria kicked in about six months after it did in the West, which allowed the former government to claim their policies were top-notch, and actually increased the state spending in the months before the elections in outright pork barreling. The real proportions of the crisis’ effects on the Bulgarian economy only became clearly visible in the late spring and the summer of 2009.

By July 2009, the much talked-of budget surplus of the previous years had evaporated, and a threatening deficit had started to loom on the horizon. Some 120 000 people mainly in construction and manufacturing had lost their jobs, and the country’s export and consumption dropped tremendously as orders from Western trading partners disappeared.

The response of the GERB government spearheaded by Finance Minister Simeon Djankov has been fast, and seemingly an effective one, since as Borisov announced on his 100th day in office, there was no more monthly deficit in October, and a somewhat balanced budget had been achieved. The balanced budget has been proclaimed as the No.1 priority of the second 100-day period.

Borisov (left) and his Deputy, Finance Minister Djankov, boast reigning in Bulgaria's emerging deficit and achieving a balanced budget in 100 days.

The Finance Minister estimated that the state budget deficit would surpass BGN 2,5 B at the end of 2009 unless emergency measures were adopted. In October, the GERB Ministers revealed the staggering deficits that each of their institutions was facing blaming them on the violations and unsound policies of their predecessors.

The most notorious cases have been the State Railway Companies with a total deficit of almost BGN 500 M, and the Defense Ministry which was left with only BGN 1 000 in its account at a moment when it had to pay for international arms deliveries. The GERB government canceled the deal for the purchase of two French corvettes as a result.

Instead of amending the 2009 State Budget, Djankov instituted measures to cut state expenditures by BGN 1,150 B, and to curb economic crimes such as contraband and tax evasion (see below) in order to raise more state revenue.

“The investors are extremely important for us; they are welcome, we will create maximum good conditions for them. Now is the time for them to invest,” Boyko Borisov said in his interview for Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) on June 6, the day before the 2009 EU Elections, long before it was certain that he was going to assume power in Bulgaria.

In order to stimulate the economy – including to attract foreign investments – the Borisov government has focused on some measures which are not purely economic, and whose efficiency will have to be evaluated in several hundred days.

In addition to curbing corruption in order to improve the business environment, the GERB cabinet is relying big time on finally securing the much expected flow of EU funds (see below) in order to use them for public investments in a time when Bulgaria’s previous budget surplus is no more.

The several billion euros are to be used for large infrastructure projects such as highways (three are promised to be completed by the end of the four-year term), railway improvements, port terminals, and waste processing plants. For the time being, the Borisov government has resisted seeking a large international bailout loan from institutions such as the IMF, and is looking forward to EU funds instead.

Bulgaria has some of the lowest taxes in EU and the world, and the cabinet has made it clear it would remain that way. The only tax to be increased is the cigarette excise but the justification for it largely came from the all-out public smoking ban to come in 2010.

Starting January 1, 2010, the GERB government is going to reduce the social security payments by 2% (at one point the reduction grew to 5% but that was not confirmed). Also, Bulgaria’s Finance Minister has made clear his wish to cut the value-added tax from 20% down to 18% or even 16% but towards the end of the four-year term.

The early days of the GERB government saw a whole saga over the position of the Central Bank Governor, Ivan Iskrov, whose re-appointment was sealed ahead of schedule by the lame duck government of Stanishev. Eventually, despite his statements to the contrary, Borisov acquiesced to Iskrov staying in office even though one of his deputies was replaced.

The BNB saga had an interesting continuation in the week just before the cabinet turned 100 days, as Djankov announced his predecessor Oresharski and Iskrov had made a secret deal in May 2008 to deposit 14% of the fiscal reserve into commercial banks, or up to BGN 1 B. This revelation came a couple of weeks after Djankov himself floated the same idea which was quickly withdrawn.

The BNB has responded by saying that Oresharski and Iskrov had prepared for using part of the fiscal reserve as bailout aid for the banking system should the need arise. Even though the “secret deal” had not been clarified 100% publicly, on the government’s 100th day Iskrov proclaimed the soundness and stability of the Bulgarian banking system.

The government and the National Bank have declared their intention to stick firmly to the currency peg. Finance Minister Djankov has made it clear Bulgaria was going to apply to join the Eurozone waiting room, ERM 2 after January 2010. The macroeconomic stability has been seen as the road to adopting the common European currency.

Shortly before its 100th day into office, the government tabled to the Parliament the draft 2010 State Budget, which has been slammed by trade unions and the leftist opposition over cuts in the money for health care and social programs. The budget is likely to be passed with little modification by GERB and its rightist allies.

However, latest forecasts have said that Bulgaria will see the worst of the crisis in the spring of 2010 rather than the fall of 2009. The Finance Ministry forecast envisages an economic decline of 6,5% in 2009, 2% in 2010, and a positive economic growth in 2011. Bulgaria is expected to end 2009 and 2010 with minor budget deficits of 0,7%, and 2011 with a deficit of 0,4%. In 2010, the unemployment is expected to grow to by about 11%.

 

Fighting Corruption and Organized Crime

Various foreign reports - of the EC and US State Department, for example – have pointed to Bulgaria’s extremely serious issues with organized crime and corruption. And it has probably more often been the case that those reports understate Bulgaria’s issues - think back to Borisov’s quote above.

“I think that people in Bulgaria have always been voting for me as a policeman, because they see me as a policeman. The people expect a little justice. And because they know that the others are only talking, and cannot realize what they promise, but they also know that I can do that,” Borisov put it himself in his interview for Novinite.com.

To start with corruption, first and foremost, the Borisov government put a moratorium on the notorious land swap deals – exchanging top location public plots along the Black Sea and mountain resorts for rocky wastelands in the interior of the country – a favorite way of taking advantage of state property for the past few Bulgarian governments and their sponsors.

What is more, for the first time after 1989, a Bulgarian Minister was charged over alleged abuses – former Agriculture Minister, Valeri Tsvetanov, from the ethnic Turkish DPS party. His subordinate former head of the State Forestry Agency, where some of the worst swap deals were carried out, Stefan Yurukov, was also charged shortly after that.

Just before the end of its first 100-day period, the Borisov government moved to demand back all 16 000 decares of forests located in the Rila Mountain which had been restituted to former Tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg during his term as Prime Minister (2001-2005) because they were allegedly property of the royal family before 1944.

Based on imprecise documentation, the State Forestry Agency head said Saxe-Coburg would be placed in a position to prove to the state his claims on the lands instead of the other way around. This development is an interesting turn of events as Borisov first entered politics in 2001 as part of the team of Saxe-Coburg’s government, and is known to have been close to the former Tsar. Yet, the case with the so called “Tsar’s estates” has clearly generated public resentment over recent years.

Large-scale abuses have allegedly been uncovered in several of the Ministries – such as Defense, Transport, Regional Development, Labor – and the evidence for those have been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office. Even though no specific results have been produced yet, Bulgaria’s Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, recently said more former Ministers would soon be faced with charges such as criminal breach of trust and abuse of power.

The GERB government has replaced the heads of several key state agencies such as the State Agriculture Fund and the National Road Infrastructure Agency, which have been known for blatant violations (many exposed in EC and OLAF reports).

Some of the employees of the State Company "Information Services" have been exposed to get salaries of over BGN 100 000 per year which is a lot more than that of the Prime Minister. Those moves have been labeled “witch hunt” by the Socialist leader and ex PM Sergey Stanishev.

In addition, Borisov has slashed the number of Deputy Ministers and Deputy District Governors – positions that the former ruling coalition often created specially for party functionaries.

Former top anti-mafia cop General Vanyo Tanov has been appointed head of the Customs Agency, which is a cornerstone of Finance Minster Djankov’s program for cracking down on smuggling and thus raising more state revenue.

Within a couple of weeks of taking office, the new government created a joint information system of the Customs Agency and the National Revenue Agency in order to boost their cooperation on enforcing tax legislation.

Bulgaria’s Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov asked all heads of regional police directorates around the country to resign, and has accepted the resignations of a number of them over their failure to crack down on criminal groups.

The police have achieved certain successes in investigations including the arrests of corrupt policemen, and the solving of the assassination of Burgas businessman Stoyan Stoyanov, which turned to have been ordered by a former judge and a former top civil servant.

Despite the increased activeness of the Interior Ministry, however, no major “mafia bosses” or corrupt officials have been sentenced during the first 100 days of the GERB government. While 100 days is a rather short period for complex cases, and flaws with the prosecutors’ work and the judicial system might be to blame, the fact of the matter is that - as Borisov himself knows well - this is what the majority of the Bulgarians expect from his term.

The GERB government has been faced with a difficult situation at the State National Security Agency DANS. According to Borisov, DANS was set up by his predecessor by pooling together several intelligence services as a counterbalance to the Interior Ministry formerly dominated by Stanishev’s intra-party adversary, Rumen Petkov.

DANS became notorious with the Galeria case in which special agents spied on leading Bulgarian journalists in 2008. The dealings of the DANS agents are still investigated.

An even greater scandal appeared over the alleged leak of classified information. At the end of October, Borisov announced a former DANS agent, Aleksey Petrov, had brought to him in person a top secret intelligence report from October 2008 which former PM allegedly hid because it incriminated top officials. Several days later the top secret report was published online.

After that Borisov and Tsvetanov revealed that between 9 and 11 secret intelligence reports were missing since 2005, including one on contraband, and another one on abuses with the UN Oil for Foods Program for Iraq. Exactly on the 100th day of the government, the Chief Prosecutor has demanded that former Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev be stripped of his MP immunity in order to be investigated for leaking classified information, and Stanishev himself has given up his immunity voluntarily.

The Borisov government is faced with one case of a blatant abduction when the 22-year-old son of businessman Rumen Guninski Sr. was kidnapped in public in Sofia in October. The case has not be resolved but Borisov has moved to initiate Penal Code changes to punish violent abductions by a life sentence.

 

EU funds, the EU and Beyond

“Fixing” Bulgaria’s relations with the EU, and restoring the trust of the EU institutions in the Bulgarian leadership has been declared a cornerstone of the GERB policies. A logical move as ever since it joined the Union in 2007, Bulgaria has been getting the most negative monitoring reports in the organization’s entire history. The violations and corruption in Bulgaria identified by those reports were the reason the EC froze over EUR 800 M of EU funding to Bulgaria in the summer of 2008.

This was mostly cash from the “small”, pre-accession programs but has also been viewed as an indicator of the problems Bulgaria is to have with absorbing the several billion euros it is entitled to receive by 2013 under the operational programs.

During his first visit to Brussels as Prime Minister in September 2009, Borisov met with EC President Barroso. It was then that the Commission announced the unfreezing of SAPARD program cash for Bulgaria, which has been hailed as a great success by GERB. Even though the new Bulgarian government enjoys more trust of the EU institutions, Bulgaria is still going to lose EU money as the pre-accession programs are about to expire.

In addition, after the EC rejected Bulgaria’s compliance assessments under the operational programs, which were prepared by the Stanishev government, the GERB government has had to start crafting new assessment, which brings further delays. Borisov’s party is yet to prove that it can provide the administrative capacity to absorb several billion euros by 2013.

Within the EU, Borisov and his GERB party have enjoyed the firm backing of the European People’s Party. Borisov himself has been endorsed by top right-wing EU leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarcozy, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was also the first foreign leader to visit Sofia after Borisov took over.

One of the major EU successes of the Borisov government is believed to be the EUR 300 M of additional compensations that Bulgaria got during the latest EU Council summit in Brussels for the early closure of units 3 and 4 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. In addition, Bulgaria, together with eight other Eastern European member states got its way in Brussels regarding contributions to fighting climate change.

Even though outgoing Bulgarian EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Meglena Kuneva, is believed to have been very successful, Boyko Borisov has refused to nominate her for a second term saying she had been related to the NMSP party of former Tsar and former PM Saxe-Coburg. Instead, Borisov has nominated Foreign Minister and former MEP Rumiana Jeleva as the new Bulgarian EU Commissioner. The Prime Minister announced Bulgaria was trying for the position of Energy Commissioner but was most likely going to get the EU Commissioner for Enlargement.

Borisov has refused to nominate any Bulgarian candidates for the positions of President of the EU and High Representative on Foreign Police, which are introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. He has rejected the nomination of former Tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg for EU President put forth by former Foreign Minister Solomon Passy. Borisov has stated that Bulgaria was in good relations with each of the top bidders for EU President.

Borisov’s first large international forum was the remembrance of the 70th Year since the start of World War II which took place in Gdansk, Poland, on September 1, 2009. This is where Borisov had meetings with a number of EU government heads, as well as his first meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

In September 2009, Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Paris Irina Bokova got elected UNESCO Director-General. Her bid had been put forth by the Stanishev government but Borisov has hailed her success.

The Borisov government has also moved to improve ties with Bulgarian minorities and immigrant communities abroad. The central figure here has been the Minister for Bulgarians Abroad Bozhidar Dimitrov, whose appointment became controversial as he is known to have been a collaborator with the intelligence services of the former communist regime. Dimitrov has announced plans for faster and easier procedures for granting Bulgarian citizenship.

The Bulgarian government has also put a lot of efforts into relieving Spaska Mitrova, a young Macedonian mother with a Bulgarian passport, who was jailed in Macedonia, allegedly as an effort to scare off other Macedonians from becoming Bulgarian citizens. Mitrova was welcomed in Sofia by Borisov and the government after her release.

The reaction of the Borisov government during the Ohrid tragedy in which 15 Bulgarian tourists drowned in the Ohrid Lake in Macedonia in September 2009 has been welcomed by most Bulgarians as timely and adequate with Borisov sending a special military plane to bring home the survivors as well as the bodies of the casualties. Borisov also personally ordered the picking of a sick Bulgarian sailor from Iran with a military plane, and bringing the sailor for treatment in Sofia.

Boyko Borisov's meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Gdansk, Poland, September 1, 2009.

Energy and the Russian Projects

Upon assuming power in July 2009, Borisov and his key Ministers, such as Traicho Traikov, expressed their concerns and insecurity regarding the potential benefits that Bulgaria was going to reap from its participation in the three Russian-sponsored large-scale energy projects: the South Stream gas transit pipeline, the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, and the Belene Nuclear Power Plant.

According to their position expressed at the time, it was unclear how much those projects favored by Bulgaria’s Socialist President Georgi Parvanov and former PM Sergey Stanishev, actually benefited Bulgaria, or rather, served the Russian interests, and if Bulgaria was able to afford sponsoring their construction in a time of raging economic crisis and depleted state budget.

These issues were discussed by Borisov and Putin during their meeting in Gdansk where the Bulgarian PM asked for three months in order to allow his team to get familiarized with exact clauses of the international contracts which are kept secret. This dialogue continued with meetings of Bulgaria’s Economy and Energy Minister Traikov with Russian Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko in Sofia and Moscow in order to prepare a meeting of a joint energy committee to decide the fate of the three projects in December 2009.

More specifically, Borisov has expressed Bulgaria’s readiness to go ahead with the construction of South Stream, seen by some as competitor to the EU-sponsored pipeline Nabucco. The major issue yet to be discussed on South Stream is the Russian idea to use part of the existing Bulgarian gas transport network instead of building a brand new pipe on Bulgarian territory. This has generally been opposed by the GERB government.

The Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline is a lot more controversial project, as Borisov himself told Vladimir Putin in Gdansk because of the potentially destructive impact an oil spill could have on the environment and tourism business along Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast.

Its construction has been rejected by the residents of the three Black Sea municipalities – Burgas, Sozopol, and Pomorie – in local referendums that have no binding power.

The Trans Balkan Pipeline company, which is the Russian-Bulgarian-Greek venture to realize the project, made a presentation of it in Sofia in October 2009, after which Minister Traikov said Bulgaria was going to go ahead with Burgas-Alexandoupolis for the time being. At about the same time, the Mayor of Burgas, Dimitar Nikolov, who is from Borisov’s GERB party made it clear his administration and the local people were firmly opposed to the project.

The Belene Nuclear Power Plant has been extremely contentious because of its very high price. While the Stanishev government estimated its construction to cost EUR 4 B – and the Russian government even agreed to provide a state loan of that amount for the project – Borisov’s Ministers of Economy and Finance have cited data saying because of the crisis the Belene NPP might end up costing EUR 10-12 B. Doubts have also been raised about the economic feasibility of the electricity production there.

In October 2009, the GERB government decided that the plant could be built but only if a private investor was interested, and that it would thus reduce the state-owned share of 51% to maybe 20%. At the end of October, however, the German energy giant RWE, which was supposed to provide about EUR 2 B for the plant in exchange for a 49% share, pulled out of the project over the economic crisis, while confirming that the Belene NPP and the Russian technology to build it were totally safe. After this blow, the Bulgarian government has set off to select a consultant in order to prepare a tender for picking a new private investor.

The fate of the Bulgarian Energy Holding – the megastructure set up by the Socialist-led government in 2008 to unite several state-owned energy companies – has been another key issue of the first 100 days of the GERB government.

Not unlike the Central Bank head, Ivan Iskrov, and the National Revenue Agency head, Krasimir Stefanov, the Director of the Bulgarian Energy Hoding, Galina Tosheva, has kept her position under the cabinet. Even though in September 2009 Borisov himself said the BEH would be shut down because it was totally unnecessary, on Day 100th, Minister Traikov said the giant would be kept alive.

Statements by leading Russian and Ukrainian politicians at the end of October 2009 have admitted the possibility a new gas war between the two countries. As Bulgaria still has no gas pipeline connections with its neighbors, and is only linked to Russia, a new gas crisis in the winter of 2009-2010 – a repetition of the January 2009 situation – could prove a severe test for the GERB government.

 

Borisov's Political Enemies and Friends

Borisov was pitted against ex PM Stanishev before the July Elections, and his GERB party is seen as the new rightist antipode of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. Even though he was badly beaten by the new Prime Minister in the Elections, Stanishev got reelected as the BSP Chair during an emergency congress in October 2009.

Yet, Borisov himself has stated several times he did not consider his predecessor and the Socialists as his top opponents. Rather, he has described Ahmed Dogan, the leader of the ethnic Turkish party DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) as his archenemy because of Dogan’s “slyness” and wit.

Even though he choose not to form a formal coalition with any other rightist party, Borisov has the support of the Blue Coalition, the “Order, Law, Justice” (RZS) party, and “Ataka”, which in the first 100 days has amounted to a comfortable two-thirds, or “constitutional” majority of over 160 MPs out of 240.

The conservative party RZS has pledged unconditional support for the GERB government for six months. Its leader Yane Yanev has become the head of the Parliamentary Anti-Corruption Committee.

The rightist Blue Coalition is made up of the UDF and the DSB – the other two Bulgarian members of the European People’s Party – and their cooperation with GERB has been based largely on this fact. The Blue Coalition Co-Chair, former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, who is also the head of the Parliamentary Committee for controlling DANS, has largely praised Boyko Borisov for his first 100 days in office, while giving some recommendations. However, the support of the Blue Coalition for GERB could come into question over serious disagreements in the future.

The staunchest ally of Boyko Borisov appears to be the nationalist Ataka party, with its 21 MPs. In order to make this informal alliance easier to swallow for GERB’s EU partners, GERB has differentiated itself from the sharp nationalism of Ataka, whereas Ataka and its leader Volen Siderov have toned down their earlier fiery rhetoric to the extent of becoming almost invisible.

At least during its first 100 days, the Borisov government has enjoyed a firm parliamentary majority, and is very likely to continue to do so in the coming couple of years unless some major issue causes a rift with its right-wing allies. Borisov himself has recently admitted that the situation of the three minor rightist parties supporting him was delicate since they risked losing their identity and voters.

Other than Parliamentary Chair Tsetska Tsacheva, the GERB parliamentary group has failed to produce any especially distinguished political figures in the first 100 days of its government. GERB has been criticized by the opposition for its very low rate of Parliamentary activity, and the adopting of controversial laws connected with lobby groups such as the Cultural Heritage Act (antiques collectors) and the Notaries Public Act.

 

Does Borisov Lack a Grand Strategy?

Perhaps as a result of his training as an officer, Borisov’s moves during his first 100 days in office are more tactical, operational, and reactional, rather than a part of a wholesome grand strategy. Even though his party GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) is emerging a center-right political party of a Gaullist type, united behind a strong leader, it is not very assertive in terms of an ideological vision.

The GERB cabinet, which has termed itself “Government of the European Development” has no visionary manifesto even though many have deemed Borisov himself a messiah of a sort or a superhero. The Borisov administration seems to be more focused on resolving current issues and reacting to crises, and perhaps a grand strategy of a sort is going to emerge, or a secret one will be made public once the party gets gains control over the economic situation and cracks down on crime and corruption in a more tangible way.

 

100 Days of Solitude. Plus How Many More?

“Unfortunately, I have already realized my dream, and there is no way I can go back to it. My dream was to be a policeman, a fireman, to be in the police services, and to lead them; every officer dreams of that. And my dream had come true for almost five years. Unfortunately, I had to resign. I would still be serving in the Interior Ministry,” Borisov told Novinite.com when asked what he dreamt of.

“I became a politician out of necessity, I was forced to. I had never thought I would be a politician, that I would have a political party, and would be doing that sort of activity. Never. But when Rumen Petkov (Bulgaria's former Interior Minister (2005-2008) from the Socialist Party - editor's note) came to head the Interior Ministry, I realized that no matter how good, or hardworking, or diligent you are, there are those guys, those "uncles", the so called politicians, who decide your fate, they decide what will become of you. I.e. they can destroy your dreams, or they can realize them. I don't like anyone else pushing my buttons,” Borisov stated for Novinite.com a month before it was clear that he would be the new government leader of Bulgaria.

Borisov playing during a charity match in September 2009. Borisov says he has given up his favorite sports games with friends after he became the Prime Minister.

In a recent interview for a Bulgarian paper, the Prime Minister reiterated his words that he had no friends after assuming the top job. He had even stopped playing soccer, tennis, and cards with close friends in order to protect them, and prevent the emergence of any rumors about a “circle” around him – a rather tough self-imposed rule.

Boyko Borisov seems to have handled his first “100 Days of Solitude”, or in power, rather well: he continues to be all over the place even still appearing in his old role of a Sofia Mayor by opening the occasional newly-built kindergarten.

One more proof his popularity is greater than ever is the fact that his nominee to succeed him as a Sofia Mayor – the timid-looking Education Minister Yordanka Fandakova – is considered to be without any competition for the spot during the partial elections in Sofia on November 15. Even the Harvard degree of Fandakova’s chief opponent, the “red yuppie” Georgi Kadiev, is not going to help him against Borisov’s charisma which is putting forth the Education Minister.

And one more thing to note about all the “kindergarten opening” fun of the Bulgarian Prime Minister. He claims the new kindergartens, together will all other good stuff now happening in Sofia are the result of his hard work through which he put the mess at the Sofia Municipality in order.

“The exact same way I am going to get Bulgaria out of the crisis in two years! (general crisis, not just economic – editor’s note),” Borisov stated recently in a televised interview.

To put it briefly, the first 100 days in office of his largely technocratic government have shown promise – certainly more than any one of the recent governments – and have given the Bulgarian people grounds to be cautiously optimistic. So if Borisov’s undertakings start producing at least some tangible results in the months to come, he might have to prepare for a lot more days of solitude.

 

Detailed Information on Boyko Borisov's Biography before becoming Bulgaria's Prime Minister is available HERE


Tags: GERB government, GERB, Boyko Borisov, 100 days, Sergey Stanishev, Prime Minister, DANS, budget deficit, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Simeon Djankov, energy projects

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