Do you remember Boyko Borissov? Time seems to move in leaps and bounds this year.
It now seems ages ago that he was in power, when in fact, it was only seven months ago. Bulgaria's ruler for most of the last 12 years, now seems bitter, vengeful, and to be honest, rather scared.
This week's election marks yet another of his attempts to return to the driving seat. Yet the configuration of powers and the rise of the new We Continue the Change Party (WCC) makes it even harder for Borissov to regain his hold over the country.
It might seem like a simple election battle, yet Borissov knows it's much more.
The past decade saw the control mechanisms of the state disabled and the mass looting of resources. The caretaker government made sure to drag some of that into the light, yet the former PM has remained removed from the allegations.
He has much to lose from a change to the status quo.
This week reminded us why. Yet more photos were released, claiming to show Borissov in "his Lair" - the state-owned PM residence - sleeping during the day, purportedly after having sex. The focus was on the night-locker filled with 500-euro notes and gold (which we chose as a picture also, instead of showing you the half-naked sleeping man).
This is, of course, a sequel from the same author, who sent the first scandalous photos of the infamous locker (many people speculate it is the gambling boss in exile - Vassil Bozhkov). The first became a rallying cry for last year's protests and "locker" became synonymous in Bulgaria with corruption. This link directly destroys Borissov's reputation.
For now, what's holding back the floodgates is the Prosecutor-General, who's proved unwilling to investigate the former ruling party. Yet if a new government and Parliament finally manage to switch back on the defense mechanisms of the state, Borissov might stand to lose more than just face.
This newsletter was helped by
Martin Dimitrov and Anina Santova
POLITICS THIS WEEK
So, where do we stand before the vote?The long-awaited 2 in 1 parliamentary and presidential elections are knocking on the door. There are some last-minute surveys by Trend and Alpha Research agencies from Thursday, showing WCC gathering strength but GERB still in the lead.
The whole election drama has been summarized for you in Kapital Insights's Wednesday analysis of the elections, the main contenders, the stakes involved likely election outcomes.To sum it up:
- GERB will win, but looks unlikely to be able to form a cabinet;
- Expect another fragmented parliament with at least six parties, but with a new big player - WCC of ex-caretaker ministers Assen Vassilev and Kiril Petkov;
- They are much more reasonable than the previous "new" winner, Slavi Trifonov's TISP, but this does not mean they will certainly be able to form a working coalition;
- Oh, and President Radev will likely win a second mandate, but not in round 1.
And If that's not enough(or you've forgotten parts of the background), we've compiled an "Elections Panopticon" for you - an article listing all our most interesting pre-election coverage. Check it out here and revisit any of the pieces you might have missed.
And expect our traditional election updates on Twitter on Sunday.
To close the topic, here is a quote to explain GERB, elections and vote-buying. It comes from a local Roma leader from Isperih, talking anonymously to Capital about the mechanisms of vote-control.
"The GERB people, they don't give money, they give procurement. You receive it, and then they suck you dry. You think you've won some funds, but you have to deliver - votes. The guy that represents GERB here, he's become a millionaire, doing nothing. There is no asphalt on the street where I live. What century is this? I've bought a toy car for my granddaughter; she doesn't have a place to drive it so she hasn't used it once."
Covid got so bad we had to seek aid
We don't want to update you with more grim statistics about the Covid situation here in Bulgaria (they can be easily found anywhere), but it's fair to say it's no better than last week. The Ministry of Health seems to be coming to terms with it and has requested activating the EU Civil Protection Mechanism a few weeks after Romania, which has also struggled with the new Covid wave of the unvaccinated.
Sofia can expect to receive medical oxygen, oxygen treatment equipment, respirators, resuscitation beds for intensive care units, patient monitors and, most importantly, additional medical manpower to assist in the treatment of Covid patients.
It's all preventative, the Health Ministry reassured the public: "So far, our medics are coping with the epidemic wave and no additional equipment needs to be supplied."
New, local, certificates
Also, the Health Ministry decided to give out "Green Certificates" on the basis of antibodies. They will be accepted only in Bulgaria for a 90-day period. Read more here.
Sofia needs to clean its air, court rules
The good news this week comes from Sofia, where the City Court ruled that the Municipality has been "inactive" in finding solutions to the worsening air quality problem in Bulgaria's capital. The decision comes just three months after Plovdiv activists won a similar court struggle against their municipality on the same topic and was again brought about by the civic sector, including organizations such as "Save Sofia" and the Green Movement.
The court called on the municipal authorities to implement a Clean Air Program that should include establishing a full-blown bicycle lanes' network, creating buffer parking spaces, and revamping its program for modernization of old hard fuel heaters in low-income households.
New heaters were purchased since the program started 3 years ago. 20 000 were promised, says Save Sofia collective.
Bulgaria's recovery is slowing, says the EC
The Commission forecasts that growth for this year will be 3.8% which is almost a percent lower than the summer prognosis. The reason most likely has to do with investments and services export - both are weaker than expected. The forecast for next year, however, remains at 4.1%.
The government barely succeeded in selling another 500 mln levs of 5-year T-bonds
On the last auction held on November 8, the Bulgarian government sold 500 million levs (255 mln euro) worth of five-year Treasury bonds due in February 2026. The received orders amounted to only 517.9 mln levs, which corresponds to a coverage ratio of 1.04%. At the same time, the required profitability of the market is rising - the achieved average level is 0.53%. With this issue, the debt placed by Bulgaria since the beginning of 2021 reaches 2.3 billion levs, of which 1.5 billion levs were placed in the last two months.
Wage growth in 2022 and 7.9% in 2023 is what the EC projects.
building permits issued in the third quarter of 2021
1.5 bln levs
is the total amount of benefits paid to employers under the scheme 60/40 from its introduction on March 30, 2020, to the end of September this year, according to an analysis published by the NSSI.
The organic food producer enters the top 20 companies by capitalization on the Bulgaria stock exchange, after having its IPO oversubscribed. All 310 thousand shares offered were sold at the highest announced price - 18.9 million levs.
Is on the market! The state-owned, but leased-out port management company is being sold by its concessionaire - Advance properties. The owners are the Domuschievi brothers and the company operates Burgas-East 2 and Burgas-west. It has declared a rather hefty profit in recent years: 51.8 million leva for 2020 and 35 million dividend.
Is the new investment of Eleven venture fund. The Bulgarian-British company, founded a year ago by Dimitar Yankov, Gergana Vulova, Key Chong and Steven Bauman, gets a 500 thousand euro investment. MetaSim operates a system for virtual reality-trainings for managers.
The battery maker significantly increased its results for the first nine months of 2021, both compared to the same period last year and compared to its forecasts for this one. For Jan-Sept the company reported an increase in the number of sold batteries by 18% and an outpacing increase in sales revenue in the division (21%), which reached nearly 117 million euro. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) are just under 18 million euro, up 27% from the same period last year and 26% above the pre-pandemic 2019 result.
WATCH OUT FOR
the speaker of the Central Electoral Commission (CIK) has had a rough week, with several hundred new (and supposedly - unordered) voting machines appearing out of the blue, imported by the company that delivers the devices for the elections, Ciela Norma. The way he and the rest of the CIK members deal with the crisis will be key to the legitimacy of the upcoming vote.
the date of the second round of the Presidential vote - unless Mr Radev manages to win outright in round 1, which is very unlikely. He will most likely face off against GERB-nominated academic Anastas Gerdjikov in round 2.
WORDS OF THE WEEK
The homeless person (kloshar in Bulgarian) appears to be the most active part of the criminal contingent in Bulgaria these days. Wherever there is a suspicious crime that might be linked to somebody with money and/or power, expect a kloshar to appear and take the blame.
They have been involved in various crimes such as withdrawing large sums of money from banks under false aliases, like in the case of Investbank, or inheriting highly indebted firms, like in the case of National Revenue Agency director Rumen Spetsov.
It appears, however, that the kloshar gang tends to favor arson - they have been charged with setting fire to various landmarks owned by wealthy, shady individuals who don't feel like investing in their restoration but likely have other plans for the plots (usually to build a mall or a hotel). A kloshar supposedly set fire to the Plovdiv "Tobacco Warehouses," the Sofia "King's Stables" and, most recently - the Vazrazhdane cinema in Sofia this week.