The richest Bulgarian, gambling boss Vassil Bozhkov outplayed PM Borissov and his cohort – slowly and systematically upping the ante by publishing striking revelations. His opponents blinked.
Dubbed “The Spider” – the mastermind behind the scenes – media mogul Peevsky prefers to remain in the shadows, happy with the outcome of a weakened, i.e., more vulnerable and more dependent Prime Minister.
My reading of the ongoing saga goes in several directions.
The incumbents at the top of the government are drunk with power and have lost their basic instincts and sense of decency. Their political obesity and recent authoritarian tilt have become too obvious to conceal and ignore, their oligarchic model too exclusive to accommodate every member of the cohort.
Exceptional skills are required to align right-wing, centrist, and left-wing opponents’ criticism and actions. And this is a fact.
The men at the political top were never ingenious, visionary, or inspiring, but also demonstrated their extraordinarily pragmatic and cunning ways. Still, most of their actions remained one-dimensional, failing to adapt to changing circumstances, clinging to rigid talking points such as – we do not respond to indicted persons (!?), which, like any other defense, has an expiry date.
The ‘junta’ as Bozhkov refers to them, thought that as a cabal, they share control over the judiciary, which guarantees them collective immunity, sparing the need to account for their deeds. The media mogul Peevsky proved, however, that, if push comes to shove, his grip on the Prosecutor’s office is more robust than Borissov’s. The answers were due to the public, not the indicted oligarch. No one has ever elected Vasil Bozhkov, while public vote made Borissov, Goranov, Stoyanova, and the rest famous, hence accountable on how they manage their own, i.e., the public money.
Corruption is so pervasive and so apparent that the parable that it is manageable, a mitigated risk, that the ‘pros’ in the bigger picture overshadow the cons in the corruption fragment, are starting to ring hollow.
The arrogant claims by ministers that a hotel-type four-floor superstructure on the beach of the Black sea bay of Allepu is just a shore-protecting project, destroyed the few remaining traces of fading credibility in their denials of the Bozhkov’s story. The comic strip which Bozhkov is using to tell the story, are judged against a blatant lie, an epitome of the disintegration of the ruling elite’s morality and decency.
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People are not idiots to be asked not to trust their eyes or ears. The same holds for Borissov’s pathetic “swear on my life and grandkids” act as if people are naive enough to believe that the PM has himself carried the bags with the cash.
The stories of rampant corruption, implicating the prime minister, are all over the place. The fact that the Prosecutor General has chosen not to notice them does not mean that society is blind. As Abraham Lincoln once said – “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Whatever the mainstream government-controlled media – Nova TV, PIK, Blitz, and the rest of the Peevski media entourage state, Borissov and Peevski have lost the battle for the Bulgarians’ hearts and minds. Attempts to mute the leading TV station, BTV, by launching an antitrust investigation amplifies the message of arrogance and panic at the top.
The story has grown legs now, moving up to the international scene, not just at the media level, but also at the political one. There is little room for speculation as the corruption story at the highest level in Bulgaria is a juicy one for the international media.
With these devastating revelations involving banks, senior politicians and oligarchs, Borissov will soon find that his “friends” among the EU leaders will not feel overjoyed and will quickly distance themselves.
Hell will break loose upon Bulgaria’s top statesmen as the Eurozone finance ministers decide on the request of their “corrupt’ Bulgarian colleague for admission to the ERM-2, or the allocation of the funds from the European Fund for Economic Recovery from Covid-19?
The corruption scandals will reverberate across the Atlantic, as officials in Washington who bet on Borissov to fight corruption and malign Russian influence, find out he has been implicated in shady deals with oligarchs and Russian proxy schemes.
Prosecutor General Geshev is of little help with his ostentatious actions against petty crime and verbal assaults on new oligarchs, such as the one closest to Borissov – Valentin Zlatev. Neither will be pouring money into football clubs to keep fans from protesting and propping up the government with populist legislative actions and friendly media fireworks on the ‘Borisosv the Savior’ theme. The more time the Prime Minister spends live or taped in TV prime time, the greater the damage, as the audience interprets this as a desperate attempt to exonerate himself. The adage “we protect you against the communists” sounds even worse.
The clear winners – Delyan Peevski and the MRF, are quietly watching on the sidelines, after having stirred up the trouble.
Borissov fell in the MRF trap the Socialists, and the right-wing UDF fell into in the past, relying on teamwork. Now he is finding himself fighting for survival in a street brawl he did not start. His arrangement with Vasil Bozhkov seemed to work smoothly, the unhappy third party was Peevsky, for not getting his fair share, and ‘the kid [Peevski]’ forced the Prosecutor’s move.
The same pattern applies to the investigations against the Bobokov brothers on the import of waste, which are supporting GERB’s leading coalition partner, while deliberately ignoring the leader in the shady business Kovachki, just because he enjoys Ahmed Dogan’s protection. The warning shots against Lukoil’s Valentin Zlatev, who is closest to the PM and holds more secrets on him than anyone else, falls in the same category. If Zlatev feels cornered and the PM is unable to protect him, he might have no option but to start talking, as Peevsky and Geshev will undoubtedly play the tune of ‘malign Russian influence.’
Vasil Bozhkov succeeded in luring them out of the trench of the prepared talking points and set phrases. The Prime Minister was forced to appear in person on TV to try to defuse the information bomb. He did not get much aid from the Head of the Press Department of the Council of Minister, Sevdelina Arnaudova. Her rescue attempt dealt a heavy blow to Borissov’s defense strategy, opening up new lines of investigation and turning Mrs. Arnaudova into a prime target of public scrutiny. The initial ‘benign neglect’ tactic fell into total disarray.
From now on, it is only a matter of time before Borissov throws in the towel and calls early elections.
He will not be able to endure the pressure from all sides but mostly from the Movement of Rights and Freedoms.
The longer he procrastinates, the higher the odds he will arrive at the end of his term with a defeated army.
The Corporate Commercial Bank model for a hostile takeover of businesses was never meant to serve the Prime Minister, but rather his patrons Peevski and Dogan. Borissov never held the upper hand in the behind-the-scenes turf war. He was allowed to play the King and profit until the time arrived for the real masters to come to the fore.
Borissov believes he can still call the shots and win most votes in fresh elections. The corruption scandals, however, will take their toll. Even in a scenario where GERB ends up with the largest group in Parliament in snap elections, Borissov will have less power and will be perceived as a figurehead and a liability.
Judge for yourself.
Where are Dogan and Peevski – the Spider, who initiated the attack against Bozhkov, in the scandal?
Where is Borissov?
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