Maxim Behar for NOVA TV (Day 3): Covid-19 for Political Abuse

Maxim Behar is one of the weekly commentators on the show "Intersection Point" on NOVA TV with host Mihail Dyuzev, in which he will comment on the twists and turns in the double elections for President and Parliament in Bulgaria, election campaigns, mistakes by candidates, and the right approaches to the formation of a successful government.

Host: Hello Bulgaria, wherever you are. We begin "Intersection Point" - the show in which the news gets its first comment. And this week we are doing it with the political scientist Teodora Yovcheva, the PR expert Maxim Behar and the TV presenter Ivan Tanev. Today’s first topic is the elections and what follows from now on. The final results are already clear - 7 formations will enter the next Parliament. And with such a fragmented 47th National Assembly, there is more and more talk of a coalition, following the German model.

A broad coalition of at least three or even four parties has been talked about since the July elections, but is it possible to bring together left, right and centrist parties under one hat? In Germany, negotiations have been going on for a long time and every detail of the future government is being clarified. We do not have time for long negotiations, but the big difference is that in Germany the agreement is between parties with leaders and experts in all areas. In our country, "We continue the change" is not a party, but only a project without it being clear whether it will become a party, and two of the potential partner formations have serious internal problems after the vote. The leaders of Democratic Bulgaria and BSP have resigned. So the question is still relevant, is a German-style coalition possible in our country? The other thing that is clear is that there is no time.

Maxim Behar: A German model cannot happen in Bulgaria, we must also import Germans, the German federal structure, and all the peculiarities and traditions. I believe that everything that has been in Bulgaria so far, everything that has happened should be put on one table and demolished, removed and this table should be cleaned. We need a completely new vision and great pragmatism. We have no time. Bulgaria is in crisis, every possible crisis - health, medical, political, economic. A whole new vision is needed, a whole new outlook, and that's why I'm going back to my theory or my proposal for the idea of a round table. They can call it whatever they want. First of all, I welcome what Kiril Petkov and Asen Vassilev (leaders of "We continue the change") said yesterday, that whatever they do will be broadcast on the Internet. Well, of course - 2021. People, all the people who voted must know what is happening. Such agreements are no longer possible under the table, above the table, in the hotel lobbies. And we really have to approach the situation with great pragmatism, there must be a fast government in Bulgaria, consisting of experts, and as few politicians as possible, of people who have proven themselves in their professions, be it medicine, culture, economics. Especially the social territory is very important, and it seems to me that President Radev, who, if elected, understands this thing, will also help. We all remember the previous President Parvanov, who was the godfather of this coalition, which we have called the "triple coalition" for a long time. That is, he was very active in it. President Radev remained distanced in the last elections - he did not cooperate much, and they failed, of course, twice in a row. Now it seems to me that he should be a little more active and really act so that Bulgaria has a government of people who smile, are not gloomy, do not pour any gloomy forecasts, and from people who want to work for Bulgaria without any conflict of interest, without any scams, and without any nepotism and such things as using the money for their own needs and purposes or making friends. And in Bulgaria, there are these people, and you will see very soon that Bulgaria will have a government of such people.

There is a formula for those people who will negotiate, whether they are parties, coalitions, associations, or formations. By the way, experts should be involved in such negotiations. There is a very important approach and I think it is crucial - who enters this hall, wherever these negotiations take place, to enter with positive feelings, to enter with a smile, and to say to themselves: "We are here to solve this problem and let's form a government for Bulgaria to become an even better country, as it deserves to be.” But to forget all their malice, because there is so much malice in politics and it is dumped on the people who follow politics. So much negativity, so many messages. When they forget these things and when they enter the hall with a smile and say: "Now we want to make a government," things are half done.

Host: Now that the show is over, some of you may be sitting in a taxi, and taxi drivers are the people who solve all the problems in the country, as you know very well. They always have a solution. What they want we can speculate. We know two things - Kiril Petkov will be prime minister, and Asen Vassilev will be finance minister, or so they insist. However, how will the other important positions in the country be distributed?

Maxim Behar: There were so many losers in this election.

Host: I see that you do not dare to mention any names, but to remind you yesterday, Maxim himself proposed former Bulgarian footballer Mitko Berbatov as Minister of Sports.

Maxim Behar: Yes, I will offer it again tomorrow. But Misho, we can't suggest names. Rather, we can give our vision for the approach because the names are the work of those people who will be there at these meetings. It is more important to know that what has been common practice in Bulgaria so far no longer works. We need a completely new vision and a new approach. Such meetings in secret, to negotiate, "I will give you a minister, and you give me two deputy ministers," which has been occurring oft times so far, this thing does not work. We need a whole new approach. I am very optimistic. I'm sure this can happen this time.

Host: Doesn't logic show, by the way, as the caretaker government was formed, that "Democratic Bulgaria" (political party) is good in judicial reform, and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) is more suited for social issues? Couldn't they just orient themselves in a natural way in building a future government?

Maxim Behar: We should not label who is what expert. I am sure that the BSP are great experts in social policy, so far, I have not seen so many party members prove themselves. They have to be experts, experts, experts - people who have never been involved in politics, but have dealt with specific cases, know how to solve them, and when they become ministers, are able to solve them even more successfully. Otherwise, the one from the BSP - the great expert in social policy, or "Democratic Bulgaria" - experts in justice… we should not stick to such labels. It starts clean, they negotiate, the experts are judged, and they are offered what they need.

Host: Let me interrupt you because we have another big problem, and it is the Covid-19 pandemic. Today we have called the topic a "virus for political use" and I will start off with a quote from the Facebook profile of the former Minister of Health Kostadin Angelov. He said: "The election is over, the second round of the presidential election will be over, but Covid-19 remains. Political talk on the subject calmed down after the election, leaving only doctors on the battlefield. Do we expect the new cabinet to introduce new ones or extend the old ones? Will the uncertainty about whether there will be a stable majority prevent the introduction of various measures? Don't we risk too much?

Maxim Behar: This is my favorite topic of the last two or three months. You set it up as Covid-19 for political use, but I won't agree with you. The topic should be Covid-19 for political abuse because what is happening in Bulgaria is a great failure, with a capital "F". Maybe all the letters should be capital for two reasons. First, a total devaluation of institutions. No one trusts a minister, an expert, a researcher anymore. Even during all these years, we have a reflex, if a minister says something to you, then it is not true, and you have to do the exact opposite. He has something on his mind, something is lying to you, something he/she is doing. The reason is really very important - the total failure of the institutions. And the second reason - no communication, no communication campaign. Nothing. Here and there the Ministry of Health made efforts, made some videos that are just, to put it frankly, a disaster. But they just aren't worth anything. I believe that the new government must appear very honestly and fairly in front of the people, start a campaign, tell them, not oblige them, about what is happening. Especially with the green certificates, it was also super outrageous to introduce green certificates with no prior notice, just out of the blue, one day- green certificates required. Nobody knows what it is, how to get it nor does anyone know how to check it. I was returning from Germany two weeks ago, and this guy was so torn up at the airport and told me to pass. And I said, "Wait, check my certificate," and he said, "I know you; you have to be vaccinated, come on." Outrageous. Of course, they have neither the preparation, nor the relevant applications to check, nor are they instructed. And it was outrageous to introduce this out of the blue, because it set a large part of the people in Bulgaria against the government, against the people who did this thing. I am convinced that there are many intelligent people in Bulgaria. I saw this video with PM Sasho Simidchiev and many others like him, who understand things and can sit down and propose a program to the future government, without any obligations, although in many countries similar ideas have already been introduced. You know, in Austria there is a curfew hour for the unvaccinated, in Germany there are many restrictions, in Great Britain as well.

Host: There is also a lot of civil resistance against these measures.

Maxim Behar: Of course. The point here is that our compatriots have access to information from people who are people of science, not from just anyone – someone who said something in the hair salon, the taxi driver, and here and there, and everyone immediately believes him. There are people who have been doing this for years, we have Bulgarians abroad - a few super famous doctors like Peter Markov in Oxford or Asparuh Iliev in Bern, and many others who understand these things. How can we understand viruses? This is not possible. From pulmonology or virology, and all that. That is, we are very bad, we are in a very bad situation, Bulgaria ranks last in Europe in terms of vaccinated and first in terms of mortality in the world. If you see the chart that the Financial Times published yesterday, compared to other countries, which are somehow a bit up and down, but Bulgaria is only up (in terms of cases). That is why the most important issue, more important than all coalitions, governments, elections, and everything else, is the health of our nation. And I end by saying that no pandemic, not one in human history, has been overcome without a vaccine. There is no such case. And this will be overcome with a vaccine, but it must be done in a natural, normal, logical, intelligent way. Shame on all politicians in Bulgaria for distancing themselves from the Covid-19 issue, God forbid they lose voters because this is a very sensitive topic at the moment. Opinions are very polarizing, and it is a real shame that during the whole election campaign, with very few exceptions, a politician called here and there, but very shyly.

Not to mention that I have not seen a single minister or the president go to the hospital to talk to doctors, to consult with them, to gather capacity at a round table, to call all Bulgarians from abroad who talk about it and know things. Why? Because they were afraid of the elections, and this was a fatal coincidence in the Bulgarian reality. When I travel to Africa, look on the site what are the conditions to go to Nigeria or any other country, I write what vaccines I need, I go and get vaccinated. And we all respect that thing. Against the background of all this carelessness that was on the part of the people who had to make decisions in Bulgaria. A group of students - Viktor Velchev (son of Bulgarian politician) and people around him gathered and I meet with them from time to time and talk, and I am very pleased. They have a concept of how to make a communication campaign, how to try to involve the largest capacities in this campaign. Nobody paid attention to them. I am a big fan of them, and I think that they, the students, understand much more how scary it is not to go to school, to study remotely, to get infected, to transmit infections. And with great respect to Victor and his friends, I'm sure they will succeed.

Host: Yes, unfortunately, the vaccination percentage is not high in any part of society, including universities, where there are young people who should believe and rely on science.
As far as we hear from the leaders of "We Continue the Change", measures in this form will continue. Do you think that the situation could get worse?

Maxim Behar: It depends on what you mean by saying more strictly.

Host: Closing in different areas, so to speak.

Maxim Behar: Yes, if there are more cases, of course, it should be closed. If there are no more cases, then the measures will be more relaxed, that is, they will be removed. The question is if we now have a fast government or the people who are responsible or the deputies to go to the districts, to the hospitals, to meet with doctors, or with the so-called influencers. See what Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, or Paul McCartney have to say about vaccines on the BBC. In Bulgaria, very few people have engaged in this topic. Okay, that's their decision, but they need to be convened or met and convinced that if they believe in vaccines, they need to have their say. Communication, communication, communication, and nothing more.

Host: I suggest we end this topic because we missed it the most in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic and enlargement measures. And we will talk about another epidemic, but a shopping epidemic. Our third topic will be for the coming Black Friday. It's usually the last week of November, but this year many brands and distributors are already starting sales today, even though it's not even Friday. For the second year in a row, however, they will take place in a pandemic, and of course, there are restrictions on entering large shopping centers only with a green certificate. Therefore, experts expect a boom in online shopping, which, however, hides its risks, because there are many deceptive offers. It is only a matter of psychology to have a passion for shopping, because in hypermarkets even if one product is reduced by 10 or 20 stotinki, it is still looted.

Psychologists are unanimous that shopping and the feeling that you are taking something into account brings you satisfaction. We are now more and more online in terms of shopping.

Maxim Behar: There are two points that are very important. First of all, this is a super positive topic, congratulations on the choice. The first point is that really everything is online and there can be not only Black Friday, but Black Moon, Black Year, or as traders invent. That is, you can buy the product very quickly and have it delivered to you immediately. And the second point is actually the first that you can compare the second. Otherwise, you go to the mall, something says that it is, for example, with a 5 percent discount or a 10 percent discount and you buy it immediately because this is the reflex, the scam. You know, in Bulgaria people are protected from two things: not to pass and not to catch a cold. But it's a human reflex, and I've done it many times. However, now it is really possible to raise prices in advance, to imitate a reduction. But you immediately enter a search engine, the phones already have such an application that can tell you where a product costs and how much, and this leads to a drastic giant change in the way of trading in general. That is, it makes traders far more responsible because you can't speculate, you can't do things that aren't accurate and fair, and it puts them in a completely different competition. I believe that only we, the customers, the buyers, will benefit from this.

I'll tell you what the ratio is - 90 percent online, 10 percent in stores as a last resort.

Host: Now we are in a situation of men talking about shopping. But let me tell you, it is not easy for traders in these circumstances here - rents, closures…

Maxim Behar: Focus on online commerce. Costs are falling dramatically. It can happen much faster; courier companies benefit from it. The courier market has started to become very competitive, very good, very fresh; they are in a hurry to fulfill the new order. This is a new world with a new type of trade, and we must take that into account.


Watch the full video here.

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