Maxim Behar For BG On Air: Politicians Replaced with Randomly Selected People is a Leadership Failure
Maxim Behar commented on the upcoming parliamentary elections and the public figures seeking an elected seat in the Government in the "Bulgaria in the Morning" show on Bulgaria ON AIR with Miroslav Dimitrov.
Host: Show business has shifted to the candidate MP lists. Celebrities who hit the music charts, walk the runway and appear on TV have found a place in the lists of parties for the parliamentary vote. We are talking here in the studio with Maxim Behar, PR expert. Good morning!
Maxim Behar: Good morning!
Host: How do you feel about such an entry of popular personalities into politics - can it be positive, can it be negative?
Maxim Behar: Sad news! As for politics, for political parties, and for the people themselves who want to be part of the public space in some way. That’s really very sad news! First because they can't do anything. And secondly, this means that the political parties have run out of candidates to such an extent that they are forced to look for alternatives. We have had similar cases at gas stations and intersections. In general, the inclusion of random people in politics, in my opinion, damages the reputation of the National Assembly, the Bulgarian Parliament. I can understand such actions by people from show business, people who don't have a job, people who sign up for the lists out of stupidity. However, I can't understand the doctors, people with authoritative titles and significant professions, some of them great experts and friends of mine. I could never understand why they choose this, instead of doing their professional job as doctors. I believe that every professional should know his main goal and chase it, in order to grow in his career.
Host: However, we speak for this type of celebrities, compromising their ability, as if it is almost a disappointment in the electorate. Let's recall that Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, an actor who played the role of president. A little while back in history, Ronald Reagan in the Cold War, an American President who was also an actor. What if we only have delusional believes about these celebrities, as actors known only in public space, when in fact they could have additional qualities that we do not know about?
Maxim Behar: In Bulgaria that’s not the case. Even our current President Rumen Radev doesn’t have any professional experience in politics, but served as commander of the Bulgarian Air Force. I think politics should be taken seriously as a profession run by people who have something to do and something to say. I’m not saying that, for example, the Minister of Health have to be a doctor or a great leader, or an MP to head the Health Commission. However, he should have 10 more professors or prominent doctors, surgeons or immunologists as his consultants. And that's why I think that if a doctor abandons his operating room and profession for a Parliamentary seat to create and vote for agricultural laws, it would be a great insult to the nation, to his patients, to the hospital where he works. It would be also a great underestimation of the profession of politician, if any. There is another side of this case - the political system is clearly not working. Not only in Bulgaria, but all over the world. The simplest example could be if a politician fails or does not do his job right, we have to wait three-four years until the next election to vote for someone else. Let’s take for instance one corporation. If anyone from the board, as the CEO or the Chairman, makes the same blunder, he has to leave straight away on the next day. And if our current system requires to wait for elections and evaluate people based on different qualities or their appearance on TV, such as choosing famous singers to become MPs, this definitely means the system does not work properly and it should to be changed. The one we still call Democracy for no actual reason.
Host: Recently we notice a new trend in marketing campaigns where branding positioning is only part of an overall strategy. Many big brands reach out to vloggers, people who actually communicate with other people and are some sort of leaders. Can we interpret this as the main way to communicate with a large audience now in general? Since the advertising industry has developed in this direction, can we explain it as a normal action in politics?
Maxim Behar: Opinion leaders, such as vloggers and influencers, only express their opinion, but do not make decisions. Parliamentary seats are usually taken by people who already know how to makes decisions about laws, our future, about things that happen in business, in public life, and that is the huge difference. If a celebrity wants to express his opinion, he can do that every day on social media. But it’s insulting to let such person into Parliament and let him vote, without proving his understanding of politics or any matter.
Host: We often hear this thesis "I am not in politics". Very often, especially from actors who say "I do not politicize". Such a state of passivity for both the actors and the society, isn't that dangerous itself? Especially coming from public figures who enter politics. Or is it a positive sign that people who are in different industries, in different businesses, to have some relations in politics? Isn't that for admiration?
Maxim Behar: I don't think so, because they can't make a difference. The system is designed to be run by big parties, and it is more likely that this system can either be pressured in some way or influenced only by the general public. And we saw this last year in Sofia and other cities globally. I cannot accept such an easy excuse "…now I am going to express my civil position and influence." I have a very good friend here, a well-known percussionist, who is now in Parliament. We met at an airport, maybe two or three months before he entered Parliament, and he said, "I will change the culture in Bulgaria, I will influence this and that..."
Host: Kalin Veliov, yes…
Maxim Behar: Yes, Kalin, of course.
Host:… an honest person with great desire.
Maxim Behar: However, these people usually can't do anything and that’s a fact. They can invest another million or one-two hundred thousand Bulgarian levs in theaters, but that doesn't change anything. It seems to me that politics really needs to be taken seriously and those people who are running for seventh, eighth, or even fifteenth place to enter Parliament, cannot change anything but rather gain more presence on national TV. A friend called me the other day and said, "Are you with me? Are you with me?" And I said "Where?". He said "I am standing for Parliament". I asked more aggressively, "Okay, why? Will they show you on TV?" And he said to me, "Hopefully they will." This is the Bulgarian dream in general.
Host: Which party has the most professional politicians, if we can look at things that way?
Maxim Behar: There is something else. I am referring to alienation or the fact that people need to be motivated just because they are involved in politics. Well, there are better ways to express your opinion these days… we all have social media. In Parliament no one cares what you have to say. But if you have an interesting proposal, a concept, a vision, just enter social media and four or five million Bulgarians, and potentially billions worldwide will hear your brilliant opinion. In Parliament you can only meet 200 people who won’t hear a word of what you have to say. I still think this is some form of stupidity and snobbery. I had a friend of mine, who was an MP years ago. He said to me one day, "Well, I want to tell my grandson that his grandfather was an MP." These are exactly typical Bulgarian aspirations. Now people have millions of platforms where they can share their ingenious opinions. Even a taxi driver with a social media account can be a hundred times more popular than the most popular politician, if he has something to say. The usual excuse "I'm going to Parliament now so my voice and my civic conscience can be heard" belongs to number of unqualified members of political parties that even the most uneducated voters will not take seriously. We need to have serious politicians, and these politicians need to have visions, proposals, strategies and ideas, not just popular names we can read about in the newspapers.
Host: Now I will tell you the popular names in politics nowadays. Evgeni Budinov, an actor and a member of this National Assembly, we already mentioned Kalin Veliov, Prof. Kostadin Angelov, Minister of Health, in fact also a surgeon. Lyuben Dilov for a constituency Bourgas and Lyuba Pashova for Kyustendil. From the political party There Is Such A Nation - Andrey Chorbanov, the cardiologist Dr. Ivaylo Hristov, the former director of Alexandrovska Hospital Nikolai Dragnev, Slavi Kirilov. From the political party BSP - Nona Yotova. Alexander Simidchiev from Democratic Bulgaria. From ABV - Assoc. Prof. Atanas Mangarov. These are the recognizable personalities. Who do you think can be considered as professional politicians - people with vision and suggestions for a positive change? Which party has the most visionaries, people who have the necessary qualifications to be called professional politicians in the present?
Maxim Behar: In general, I would say maybe the political party IMRO, because this is a formation first with a great history and second of people who know what they want and how to achieve it. They have their patriotic desires, they know how to move within their borders and that haven’t changed for a hundred and a half years. Maybe this is something, rather hereditary. There are literate people in GERB, there are literate people in BSP. You can always find a person, almost anywhere, who can express an opinion. However, if these people who are now standing for Parliament – doctors, showmen, popular names with no experience in politics - had a vision, they should already have said it, have written it, have declared it, or have fought for it. With the utmost respect for doctors and their profession, I have not heard any of them say what has to happen in healthcare, agriculture, or in business. And I'm almost sure that their vote will disappear among the many other votes in Parliament and most of them will leave in years just as a regular former MP that hasn’t made any difference in politics. On the other hand, as a doctor, a professional could experience much more interesting things and most importantly - save lives.
Host: We will see sooner or later.