Maxim Behar for BG ONAIR: The 2021 Presidential Elections in Bulgaria

The PR expert Maxim Behar commented on the Bulgarian presidential election and the new candidates in the morning news show on BG ONAIR TV. Behar also shared what messages the future President should send to the citizens and whether direct debates are the only way to determine a valuable President or "Unifier of The Nation".

Host: Hello! What messages should the future President send to the citizens and who between the current President Rumen Radev, Professor Atanas Gerdjikov and Lozan Panov embodies more the figure of the Unifier of The Nation? We will now discuss this topic in the studio together with the PR expert Maxim Behar and Daniel Kiryakov from the Center for Analysis and Crisis Communications. Good morning to you two!

Maxim Behar: Good morning!

Host: Let's start with this question for the Initiative Committees: Is this the new way and has it become more fashionable to nominate presidential candidates through an initiative committee showing, in some way, independence of the candidates from the pollical parties.

Maxim Behar: This is the good news from this election, or we can say from this election campaign, which is just beginning, meaning that political parties are left in the background, and everyone is worried that, or each of the leaders is worried about declaring their political support, because to a large extent almost all have participated in the Government rule and have somehow compromised themselves. I have been telling for a long time how the system, which for some reason we still call democracy, no longer works and the political parties will remain more and more in the background. In my opinion, this is the reason why these initiative committees are being organized. On the other hand, it seems to me that we give a little more weight to the presidential elections, which are not very important in Bulgaria. The institution itself is structured in this way.

Host: Do you really think that people in these remaining days would change their decision, would make an impression on the candidates in question so that for these remaining days they would change their decision as a voter?

Maxim Behar: You know, no matter how insignificant the presidential institution has been, in the last week, it seems that this election race has started to become interesting. As in the last 25-27 years, we all said there was no one to vote for. All politicians, one on the left - the other on the right. Aleko Konstantinov, a Bulgarian writer, said once that not everyone provokes ridicule. In general, in Bulgarian literature there are many images of unsuccessful, incompetent and corrupt, greedy politicians. But now in this presidential elections, we see interesting people. We see a professor-rector of a university, we see a judge with a big authority who is an intelligent man, with an interesting candidate for Vice President. I hope that this choice will also lead to a smarter campaign, not just some messages and posts on their Facebook profiles - such long sentences that no one understands anything. I guess these intelligent people can send a little more meaningful messages to their constituents, to emphasize that neither something new will start nor something old will end if someone other is elected as a President. However, parliamentary elections are much more important, the Parliament is much more important, the Government is much more important. I hope for a good intelligent tone and communication, so that this whole absurd fight between former Prime-Minister Boyko Borissov and the President Rumen Radev in the last few years will be depersonalized and forgotten, because there is nothing to lie about, what we have seen in Bulgaria in the recent 3-5 years has nothing to do with politics. Or at least it has nothing to do with European politics. Two people fighting and exchanging words from a distance, and from their Facebook profiles, SUVs, cars or whatever. For this, I hope that the emergence of new people will introduce a new vocabulary and new arguments, a new way of behaving and more smiles when we speak about politics.

Host: On the other hand, how important is the figure of the Vice President? We see interesting personalities, as we learned from Professor Gerdjikov, this will be Colonel Nevyana Miteva. Do we see any messages there?

Maxim Behar: To a large extent, the candidates for President of Bulgaria copy what happened in Washington in the last few months. The Vice President has almost no power under the constitution except, of course, God forbids if something happens to the President, then the person takes on some functions. However, what has been said for months is that there must be a unifying person, a person who does not divide the nation, irritate people, create wrong expectations or moods. It seems to me that the Bulgarian people will be able to recognise who can be the President - Unifier by seeing the three main opponents. Leave the other candidates, the people need to see the three main ones in a political debate, in a studio for 2-5 hours, as long as it takes. Of course, with interesting anchors to ask even more interesting questions.

Host: Will it be clear then?

Maxim Behar: Then we will be able to see these people, who advocates for what, because in the last few years what we see is mainly sharing messages on social media. You all know, I'm a fan of social media communications, but it's one-way street in terms of communicating. Someone posts something, disables people from commenting under the post, and thinks that he has achieved a great thing by writing five or six sentences, that he has sent a great message. But that is not the case. Only in a direct debate, in the direct exchange of opinions and arguments, someone can judge who will be a valuable President of Bulgaria for the next 5 years.

Host: An American approach again, a debate?

Maxim Behar: Not only American, but it is also the same all over Europe. Poland and the Czech Republic can be other examples, although the Presidents there are elected differently. In Poland, it is not always direct presidential election, and the Czech Republic for the first time elected directly a President (in their last election). Not to mention presidential countries such as France and the United States. Do you know that we can be like in Bantustan – a country somewhere in distant Africa, again the people there who vote have to see the candidates for President in person and be convinced of their qualities and personality which can be achieved only in a direct discussion with opponents.

Host: We mention the three main candidates for the presidential election… Were you really surprised by Mariya Kasimova’s candidacy for Vice President, who is a runner-up to the independent presidential candidate Lozan Panov?

Maxim Behar: Probably not. Maria is a very interesting and intelligent girl. Lozan Panov is an intellectual, a lawyer who has been gravitating to the right side of Bulgarian politics for a long time. And the right pollical space do not hide their sympathy for him – it was logical. Rather, I was personally surprised by the candidacy of Professor Gerdjikov, whom I have known very well for years, because a scientist or a prominent intellectual must have a very strong argument to enter the Presidential race, into this policy, which we all know will suffer very great negatives, even if he is elected.

Host: Don't we need such an independent candidate, an independent figure as Professor Gerdjikov, to embody this unifying figure of the President?

Maxim Behar: I am not convinced that it should be. I would not like to characterize the candidates in their education or in their current activity - say a university lecturer. The candidate should be judged on his personal qualities, of course, I have great sympathy, to say for all three candidates, or at least at this stage, but I really think there should be a direct clash of ideas. Not that the future President will have the power to implement these ideas, but we need to know their opinion on important for the public topics, what they want to do, how they see the life in Bulgaria, how their views on whether we live well or badly, whether there will be an inflation, whether prices are rising, what is happening with fuels. Again, Bulgaria is not a presidential republic, and we need to know these people and what is their opinion and point of view for our beloved country Bulgaria, in order to be able to evaluate them as efficient as possible.


Watch the whole interview here.

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