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Maxim Behar for NOVA TV (Day 1): Surprising Elections with Low Voter Turnout in Bulgaria

Maxim Behar is one of the weekly commentators on the show "Intersection Point" on NOVA TV with host Mihail Dyuzev and will address the twists and turns of the double elections for President and Parliament in Bulgaria. Included in his commentary are the election campaigns themselves, mistakes on the part of candidates and the best approaches for the formation of a successful governing body.

Host: Hello Bulgaria, wherever you are. You are with "Intersection Point" - the show in which breaking news receives its first comment. The elections are over, but the repercussions are great, as this election cycle marked a historical record low turnout. In April it was about 51 percent, in July about 42, now according to preliminary data, it is about 26 percent. While in the presidential election things seemed predictable, more or less clear, the parliamentary ones brought a lot of surprises. What happened yesterday and what will be the response from the two voting cycles? Is a reversal of the run-off in next week's presidential election possible? These are some of the topics we will discuss with my new weekly commentators: Teodora Yovcheva, Ivo Tanev, and Maxim Behar.

Host: Hello, Mr. Behar. I am glad that you have accepted our invitation.

Maxim Behar: It is a pleasure. We will be together all week.

Host: Where are you coming from and where are you heading after “Intersection Point”?

Maxim Behar: I was supposed to be in London yesterday, but I postponed the trip because of the program. Two weeks ago, I was in Germany, where I was elected a member of the Board of one of the largest European universities. The intersection is between Germany and England.

Host: Thank you, we look forward to your comments.
Here we go. First, if you want to focus on the parliamentary elections, because they were really interesting, the surprises are not one or two, opinion polls showed a victory for the Bulgarian political party GERB and the battle for second place between "We continue the change" and Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). However, "We continue the change" party turns out to be the leader in this election cycle for now, GERB remains second, and DSP overtook BSP for third place, again according to preliminary data in the vote count. "Democratic Bulgaria" party has shrunk a lot of its electoral weight and is in sixth place. Surprisingly, the nationalist political party “Revival” (romanized: Vazrazhdane) entered parliament with about 5 percent, the seventh party crossing the 4 percent barrier. Apart from the winners, who are running in the elections for the first time, only Vazrazhdane and the MRF are rolling out. The other parties are losing voters. What do you think is the biggest surprise for this parliamentary vote? And let's add that until the beginning of the show, a series of resignations happened - something that is also worth commenting on because such a wave has not happened so far after an election cycle.

Maxim Behar: For me, the first place for "We Continue the Change" is not a surprise, and the low turnout is also not a surprise, because it was very easy to predict. The biggest surprise is that the political parties that were in the last parliament with the same means, with the same approaches, hoped to get different results. They got them in the different minus sign. But all the political forces were waging a bland, boring, expressionless campaign without any definite messages. They were moving on the tangent to the hot topic of Covid-19. And they all expected to have higher results. On top of what?
Host: Well, if you really want, we can talk party-by-party in the next segment, but now it's worth commenting on what's happening at the moment. Hristo Ivanov resigned from the leadership of the political party "Yes! Bulgaria ” as well as the entire executive council of this formation. The entire leadership of the IMRO party resigned. Mr. Vigenin resigned as head of the BSP's election headquarters, and with justice for all those who nominated Lozan Panov (currently the chairman of the Supreme Court) for President, but said they apologized for nominating him. What is happening?

Maxim Behar: When I drove my little electric smart car around the ring road, I was very careful everywhere, because it is a small stroller and it is plastic so that I don't get hit with a resignation. When I leave, I will protect myself again. I'm not very fond of all these exclamations "Ah, what an honor, what a dignity, they resigned." What can be worthwhile in bringing a party to the bottom, or a political force, or any project, even in business, and resigning afterward.
This is super unworthy. Exactly the opposite. It is worth it when you take a project to know if you can do it, to develop it, if you have the strength, the vision, if you can invest enough energy and enough creativity in this project. And if you can't, say, "I resign, next please." Now that everything will fall apart and suddenly someone will say, "I resign" and everyone will start shouting how worthy it is - I do not agree. Before taking on a project, a person needs to know if they can finish it. If they can't finish it, please leave and someone else will. And I started with this, that these people thought that with the same means and the same approaches they would achieve different results. There is no such case in history.

Host: Okay, thank you.
We continue to comment on the results of yesterday's parliamentary vote. Let's start with the analysis of the individual formations and just mark the winners “We Continue the Change". How do you explain their leap, only four months after the victory in the July election cycle of "There is such a people" party, also a new political player at the time? And to add another resignation from the last few minutes of Atanas Atanasov, chairman of the DSB political party.

Host: Mr. Behar, it is obviously easier to communicate a persona, rather than a concept or idea.

Maxim Behar: Not a political party, maybe. This is normal. I find the success of "We Continue the Change" absolutely logical because the parties are dying, the system itself is not working. Everything we still call "democracy" for a strange reason, no longer works. And this is seen all over the world. Now in Bulgaria, where the same parties are doing the same thing, and as we talked about a while ago, they are expected to achieve something different. Who won? Even Kiril Petkov and Asen Vassilev, the former caretaker ministers and leaders of “We Continue the Change", won personally, because if it were not for them, but completely unknown people without charisma and good and accurate messages, they would not have been able to achieve this result. And who lost? Now I will surprise you. Sociology lost in Bulgaria. I don't want to offend many of my sociological friends, but if this poor woman ate her receipt… I don't know if some of my colleagues shouldn't do the same with their diplomas. I'm sorry to say so directly, but sociology has lost. And here no one knew. Now I've read a million different explanations, "but we predicted a higher turnout, but it was low," "that's a statistical error." Nothing like that. This shows that all these relatives of ours are wonderful, wonderful sociological agencies, I repeat that some of them are great friends of mine, they have somehow tried to suggest something that was not the case and this is very bad for the whole communication environment, because we, as experts in the PR business, also work with sociology, we also work with statistics. It is very important that from now on, from 15 November 2021, sociology must be a truly accurate science, independent, transparent, and offer its users the facts as they are. If not, there is no need for this science.

This is not even a modification of democracy, but a completely different system. Because one of the foundations of democracy is free voting every 4 or 5 years, depending on the different laws. However, in a company or corporation, if a manager makes a mistake, he leaves the next day because he has done harm. If a politician - prime minister, president, minister - makes a mistake in politics, he can always come up with an excuse or a thesis, "in 4 years the next elections will come, then let's vote and see." This can no longer happen because this person can cause a lot of damage, or political force. On social media - this is my favorite topic, we will talk about it later, politicians already have total control over society. They have to control every day what they do, whether they do it right, whether they are wrong, and then they can tell this politician to leave. Then it is a completely different system.
Unfortunately, business and politics are two different areas, because they are getting closer and the business is gaining ground. This is called pragmatics.
 
Host: I would like to return the conversation to a more short-term perspective. What will happen to the government? Will there be a government?

Maxim Behar: There will be a government, that's for sure. I believe that a very creative and carefully crafted formula must be devised to form this government.

Host: Give them some advice.

Maxim Behar: In April, after the April elections, I wrote a large article for the Bulgarian daily newspaper 24 Chasa, in which I proposed that a round table be held in Bulgaria and that all political parties sit around this round table and come up with a formula for a government of experts. Maybe they are party representatives, but that doesn't mean they are people who are leaders. Usually, for the most part, parties are run by people who don't even have a day's work experience in a relevant field, somewhere where they could encounter similar problems. I understand your concerns about merging parties with business, but I meant something completely different - the way decisions are made. But if now someone really manages, and I think that these guys Kiril Petkov and Asen Vassilev can do it, make a round table to be broadcast live on any television, or on all televisions, and to be able to have an honest, fair, objective discussion. Well, there are winners, losers, some have resigned, others have jumped off the bridge into the river, or whatever they want to do, but all must sit down and say, "Bulgaria is super important."

Host: And we are contemporaries of the round table, I also watched shows.

Maxim Behar: I'm sorry, I don't mean this round table. When I was writing this article, my friend Solomon Passy called me and said, "Max, you want to take us back to the early '90s." Not so. We want to invent the best formula for Bulgaria in the new conditions, with the new people. If that happens, it was worth voting on November 14, albeit with a 30 percent turnout. The round table represents people who care about Bulgaria and who are in parliament, who must come up with a new formula for what to broadcast, what majority to broadcast so that it is best for Bulgaria. And this is not difficult at all, by the way.
Host: I suggest you transfer the comments a little on the presidential vote. According to preliminary data from the presidential vote, the Rumen Radev, current Bulgarian President, and Iliana Yotova, current Bulgarian Vice-President, duo have nearly twice the votes when compared to their opponents prof. Anastas Gerdjikov and Nevyana Miteva. Even if the current president receives more than 50 percent in the final count, there will be a runoff because the turnout is not more than 50 percent, as provided by the Constitution. Are the predictions coming true and what are your expectations for next Sunday, at least with regard to the presidential vote, if they did not come true in the parliamentary elections?

Maxim Behar: It is clear there is no place for forecasting or sociology. We see the results of the first round. If the result was 60 to 40, then there could have been intriguing, but now it is more than clear. There were three main elements that were missing in the presidential election campaign over the past month. The first - there was definitely no debate, and I said this many times that it is insulting for voters to go and vote for a candidate without actually knowing what concept he has, what they share. And not only to hear words but to hear them in a debate, to have an opponent or opponents against him.

I would have a debate with three or four of the candidates who have in fact turned out to be leaders now. The Covid topic was totally avoided. To this day, we don't know if the president is vaccinated. And I think it is absolutely unacceptable, with the utmost respect for Mr. Radev, that no one knows whether he has ever been vaccinated, with whom, with what vaccine. This is public information. And the third topic was international politics. No one mentioned a word about international politics in such a tense and turbulent world, especially on the topic of these delicate relations we have with our neighbor Macedonia.

I hope that these three elements will be corrected in the next 5 days, and we will hear the opinion of the two main candidates. The mistake that most politicians make is one-way talking. And here we speak through the prism of my business - Public Relations. This is done by Boyko Borisov, current Bulgarian Prime Minister, Slavi Trifonov, leader of the "There is such a people" party, and many other people, some on Facebook, others on his television or on a website. They talk to themselves and think this is big politics, and they create messages that make them think people will follow them. This is over. There is no time for one-way talking. When you say something, you need to have three opponents who will kill you immediately, challenge you and you will fight them. This is the real argument of a politician.

Host: As far as I remember, there was a gentleman's arrangement for a debate between this election and the runoff, but we'll see.

Maxim Behar: Yes, Radev said last night that there will be a debate.

Host: Is it possible for something to happen in the runoff that is different from what everyone expects?

Maxim Behar: Bulgarians need young, charismatic, modern politicians who say things that they can do afterward, and when they don't finish, they say why they don't finish.

Host: If we look at where the vote came from because the agencies did it - they showed which parties people voted for Rumen Radev, we can see that the percentage of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and "We continue the change" is very high. That is, people who have now voted for 'We Continue the Change'. Should we expect these people now in the runoff? With this low turnout now, how much lower can the runoff be?

Maxim Behar: I think that the only candidate who made a good campaign was Rumen Radev and he continues to do it, because he started it when he had to, he did it with all the peaks, with all the elements he had to have. And the others announced their candidates at literally 11:55 p.m.

Host: They did not have their own candidates but supported other candidates.

Maxim Behar: I do not expect big surprises, but there is another point of view. A good debate can potentially reverse the results because many of those who did not vote or many of those who were hesitant about whom to vote for now shift to the other party with a good debate performance. This is not about those who voted for Radev or Gerdjikov anyway, but for those who did not. To motivate them to go to the polls. It is hard to imagine that this will happen in five days, but it is possible.

Host: Will the results be identical, or will there be a difference?

Maxim Behar: There will be a difference.
I hope this round table happens and the politicians agree to form a credible government.

Host: We may comment on this with you this week. Thank you.

Watch the whole video here.

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