The World Today for July 09, 2021



New Normal

Bulgaria could be at a turning point.

Voters are scheduled to go to the polls on July 11 to elect a new parliament after Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and his Gerb political party failed to form a coalition despite three attempts since parliamentary elections in April. The ex-bodyguard of communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, Borissov was seeking a fourth stint as premier.

Other parties have declined to join a Gerb coalition because of graft scandals, Bloomberg reported. They appear ready to fight hard to ensure that someone else wins a clear mandate. The stakes are high. Whoever wins will disperse billions of euros in European Union coronavirus pandemic aid and oversee Bulgaria’s transition to the euro in 2024.

Gerb and talk-show host Stanislav Trifonov’s anti-establishment There is Such a Nation party – also known as There is Such a People party – are vying for first place, Reuters reported. Gerb is maintaining a slim lead in spite of a plunge in support after the US slapped sanctions on two Bulgarian oligarchs and former and current officials over corruption allegations in early June.

The oligarchs are Vassil Kroumov Bojkov and Delyan Slavchev Peevski. A gambling magnate known as “the Skull,” Bojkov allegedly bribed government officials and now is evading extradition in the United Arab Emirates, a US Treasury press release wrote. Meanwhile, the appointment of media mogul Peevski to the powerful State Agency for National Security kicked off street protests in 2013. Known as “Potbelly” due to his ample girth, he appears to have receded from the limelight in recent months, Radio Free Europe reported.

Many Bulgarians are sick of characters like the Skull and Potbelly and the undue influence they exert over state institutions and the economy. As Politico explained, many see this election as their best chance to capitalize on widespread frustration with corruption and install reform-minded leaders in the cabinet.

Kiril Petkov, the economic minister who is now in the Balkan country’s caretaker government is the sort of leader they might want. He recently told Euractiv that a state economic development fund of more than $570 million had given tens of millions of dollars to only eight companies because of their contacts to reputed mobsters. The money could have helped almost 1,000 smaller businesses, he said.

“I studied economics at Harvard,” Petkov said. “My dream is to bring in the positive programs that can make Bulgaria wealthy. Unfortunately, a lot of my time has been spent fighting some institutions that should be working quite normally.”

Looks like it’s time for a new normal.

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