Bulgaria's PRime MinisterEditorial |Author: Milena Hristova | February 11, 2010, Thursday // 10:07| views
Boyko Borisov rolled up his sleeves to combat organized crime and corruption right after his official inauguration as prime minister six months ago. At the end of last year police arrested more than 25 people suspected of specializing in kidnapping the rich and famous. Apart from a few brows raised at the detailed media coverage, this fitted nicely with his spotless image. Of a man of action.
The same scenario repeated this week when the police arrested 13 members of a powerful crime gang suspected of more than a decade of money laundering, racketeering, drug trafficking, bribery and tax fraud. This time, however, there were even more brows raised.
Borisov was elected on promises to put an end to a climate of impunity and true, he has taken a harder line to combat crime and corruption than his predecessor. But will crime gang bosses and high-level corrupt officials be actually sent to jail?
I personally remain skeptical.
Borissov dismisses the widely held notion that his main problems arise from a penchant to command, rather than persuade. His intimidating manner, during media appearances as well, has turned into a model that his PR machine deliberately imposes and Bulgarians seem to applaud.
The fawning media joins the applause. The arrests of the two crime gangs over the last two months came nothing short of media events, planned and covered as evidence of the government's success in the combat against organized crime.
The trouble with this model is that it is very much mafia-like - it is all about personal charisma, force, ties and can't work out when it comes to managing huge and complex system, such as the state. This model also leaves the impression that the coverage in the media is more important than sending the criminals to jail. Yet it is the detailed coverage of those events that quite successfully convinces the electorate that “something happens”.
The propaganda in the media is very helpful in the building up of a parallel reality. In each media appearance, Borisov and his closest aide, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, cite figures of the number of people arrested and swoops made. And that again quite successfully convinces the electorate that “something happens”.
Borissov has always basked in the media spotlight and has become notorious for being too outspoken on such acute issues as crime and corruption. It is that part that secured him the unchallenged image of a star, capable to win any competition.
But what are the real facts?
Of the 25 people arrested in December, only nine remain in custody on charges of kidnapping, while the others have been released on bail or because of lack of evidence. Not a single senior official has been convicted of corruption and only one crime boss has been jailed.
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