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Maxim Behar for NOVA TV (Day 4): Attitudes Toward the Upcoming Presidential Debates in Bulgaria

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, election campaigns, mistakes by candidates, and the right approaches to the formation of a successful government.

Host: Hello Bulgaria, wherever you are. The "Intersection Point" program begins, where the news receives its first comment. And the week is full of so much political news that the need for comment and interpretation is great. We are looking for the common and the differences in the flow of events with political scientist Teodora Yovcheva, the PR expert Maxim Behar and the colleague and TV presenter Ivo Tanev. Two days before the runoff, we will finally see the direct clash between the two presidential candidates. The Radev-Gerdjikov presidential debate, which media analysts and voters have been waiting for more than a month, will still take place.

What will we hear? Do they both have hidden weapons? Did they miss opportunities to raise their personal rating by delaying the dialogue? Maxim Behar will be the first to comment on the topic.

Maxim Behar: My comment is this: it is still something. A very tortured debate, very lightly, under pressure, during all these months, including here in this studio on Monday, we talked about this topic without it being certain whether there will be a debate or not. And we were sure that there should be, and I insisted on that, I've been doing it in different studios for months. Everything seemed to be very broken, all this communication exchange of different opinions. Suddenly, presidential candidate Gerdjikov said: "I am waiting for Rumen Radev at 3:00 in the afternoon in Haskovo. Haskovo is a wonderful city and I love going there.” Now suddenly at 3:00 in the afternoon we will have a debate in Haskovo. So instead of hiring TVs, instead of hiring teams, studios, and everything as it should be. In my opinion, the debate tonight will affect those who have not yet decided whether to vote, and they are the vast majority. Those who voted for President Radev in the first round are unlikely to hesitate, those who voted for Anastas Gerdjikov are unlikely to hesitate. But there is a huge number of people who did not vote, and if the presidential candidates manage to send their messages to the debate, I repeat in the debate, in a way that will interest their supporters, then good for them, because the debate was lacking. Today, if someone bothers to log in to my Facebook profile, they will see that I posted a video from exactly 27 years ago - December 15, 1994, at the first parliamentary election debates in Bulgaria with the participation of the then Prime Minister Filip Dimitrov. Filip Dimitrov was not the prime minister at the time, he was the chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the prime minister was Lyuben Berov, may he rest in peace, the then chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Jean Videnov and the then chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) Ahmed Dogan. All three to be well and healthy, to be well and healthy for a long time. The fourth, Chairman of the Union for the Fatherland party Ginyo Ganev, but he was a bit like the support of the BSP. He used their time because there was very strict legislation. The first question I asked then was this: do you think that a broad coalition can be formed in Bulgaria to rule the country 27 years ago. Three out of three said no and no one agreed. Today, that answer is yes. And I think both presidential candidates tonight must answer yes, and they must give their vision of how they will help this coalition. It is very important that we really hear their views in the debate. It is very important to hear their point of view on how they would help Bulgaria to be governed better. And I hope to hear meaningful positions, meaningful remarks. To your question Misho if there are hidden weapons, I want to tell you that who tried several such cases in Bulgarian history, one of them was President Stoyanov and then-presidential candidate Bogomil Bonev and then-presidential candidate Georgi Parvanov when they allowed themselves to take out compromising materials and hidden weapons and so on and so forth. Not only did they play a very bad service, but they also did a very bad service in the then elections. If someone today allows himself to make compromising statements, to speak with malice, to speak negatively, from now on I tell you that he has lost the game.

Host: Okay, interesting analysis and we had a nice parallel to the debate you were leading.

Maxim Behar: Yes, it was super interesting, at the time there was only one TV station. Then there was only one television, and then this debate had reached if I'm not mistaken, 3.5 or 4 million viewers because no one had seen such a miracle. Suddenly to see Filip Dimitrov, Jean Videnov, Ahmed Dogan live, arguing and quarreling with each other to expose their concepts. I also think if you allow me one bracket, that a debate on the presidential election is not enough. There should have been 4-5 debates on various topics. Healthcare, education, foreign policy, economics. There had to be several debates both before the first round and now this debate had to be Tito's point, it had to be the final one. But this is what it is at the moment and that is why I say - it is still something, we will still see these people present their concepts. Hopefully, their election headquarters and all future election headquarters will learn a great lesson for the next elections. Let’s hope that they are parliamentary in four years and presidential in five years.

This debate is very much needed. In recent years, we have seen one-way communication. They take pictures of people with their phones, talk on social media, and think big politics has been made. After each of your opinions, there must be three opinions of another who refute them so that you can defend your arguments. And today we will see, I hope, to see such a picture and I hope that both contenders and the two presidential candidates will be combative, strong with arguments, not to be defensive and not to hate, to be positive, but also not to mutter, to be careful not to miss a word. They need to have energy in this debate. I hope it goes well.

Host: Well, you must have been impressed by the requests we saw in the introductory video. Request to comment on issues that are not within the powers of the head of state in Bulgaria under the constitution.

Maxim Behar: You are wrong, all these people, as we have an opinion on many issues of public life, we need to hear their opinion. They may not have the power, but let's hear their opinion, let's see what they think.

Host: Our second topic today, six senior officials already charged with espionage. The case for passing information in favor of Russia is already in court. When breaking up the group, the Russian embassy in Bulgaria came up with a position in it, saying that they are obvious, I quote "attempts to drive a wedge into the Russian-Bulgarian dialogue." Eight months later, the spy scandal was forgotten, but today it is again at the forefront of the information flow. How will this affect our relations with Moscow? Now let us add another topic that is also relevant from the day, namely the statement of the caretaker Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov that Turkey interferes in our election process and there were even meetings at the diplomatic level between the ambassador to Bulgaria.

Maxim Behar: I strongly disagree without being aware of any services at all, that we can only judge from this case that we are hardly infiltrated by the services, that they are bitten by foreign agents. There are such cases in America, there are in Germany, there are in Sweden, there are everywhere, and it is not only with Russian spies residents. This is normal in the modern world: people make intelligence by catching it, catching it, or not catching it, then evaluating it, then returning it. That is, we cannot talk about our security services in general, judging by this fact alone. This is my opinion. However, we have been stretching this gum for 8 months now with some people being caught, prosecuted, imprisoned, and some not and now they will be charged. It seems a bit funny to me nowadays in 2021 with all these social media platforms, with all this transparency, with all this communication where everyone knows everything and suddenly some people, they had given them even pictures they had taken when it happened in March-April. These were some absolute amateurs that were visible, at least. Let him go to court after being charged, of course, the one who made a mistake must bear the consequences, but in modern times, espionage is probably no longer what it was in those years when there was no information and no information from a newspaper read. It has such legends, I have read books about a Bulgarian spy - he reads three newspapers in the morning - German, writes a report, goes on a typewriter, sends it .... And then everything is written in the newspapers, but no one has a clue in Bulgaria or anywhere, mainly Bulgaria, which was a super, super closed country. I am surprised that someone in Bulgaria, in their home country, can spy in this way, if so, there is a court, to say things, but then - what the court said and the reasons, the arguments must be public property. We all need to know who, why, for what reasons, and the relevant administrative bodies should take measures in the ministry.

Host: The other option is whether it was done on purpose, theatrically?

Maxim Behar: I can't judge. I am surprised that it is happening two days before the elections, and we are wondering what the connection is with the elections. I can't find a common point anywhere and I can't find an intersection, but I am surprised that this thing should excite the media and the Bulgarian society, maybe there is a reason.

Host: We don't have such a case every day.

Maxim Behar: Yes, true. That is why there should be more transparency and it should be said who did what after the court proceedings, of course. I did not know that espionage was the second smallest profession. I will quote my beloved US President Ronald Reagan. So beloved, because there are an incredible amount of jokes and gambles, he used to be an actor, of course, and in his first speech, after being president for a year, in January, the so-called address to the nation, which every president has- he begins with the words: "I knew that politics is the second smallest profession, but after a year as president, I don't think it's the second, it's the first."

Host: Well, a few sentences-commentary on the Sofia-Ankara axis, about the history?

Maxim Behar: This sounds super strange to me because there really has to be a lot of independence in every election. It is true that I do not know how many, but 200-250 thousand of our compatriots live in Turkey.

Host: 350,000

Maxim Behar: Okay, but still there should be so much respect for the institutions in Bulgaria and the neighboring country. On the other hand, there is nothing to hide, the MRF took a position after this exchange of sharp remarks with the president, took a very clear position, and although Mustafa Karadayi when he called yesterday or the day before, for his party members and supporters to vote for president, he did not mention a name. It was more than clear what he meant. It is normal that a very large part of these people, especially the younger generation, do not yet know Bulgarian, have Bulgarian passports, are Bulgarian citizens, but do not know Bulgarian. It is normal for them to put up their posters and all the propaganda in Turkish.

Host: Yes, but the protest of our Foreign Ministry, as far as we understand from the meeting with the Turkish Ambassador today, is that official institutions in the Republic of Turkey tampered in the elections.

Maxim Behar: This is unacceptable, just as it would not have occurred to us to interfere in the elections in Northern Macedonia or Greece, or anywhere else. Absolutely unacceptable, but before elections, such sparks can fly and I understand them.

Host: It is not necessary to agree on different topics. Thank you. After the commercials, we go to Mars.
It is time for the third topic in "Intersection Point" a step forward towards the great goal - space transport. SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced that a test flight to Mars could take place in January. Great opportunity and great risk. Whether the experiment will become a real step forward for humanity, maybe too early to say. We don't mind, however, asking my guests in the studio. If it were up to you which 100 people, would you board on a ship bound for Mars.


Maxim Behar: I will recall what Henry Ford said, who invented the first car, the so-called petrol carriage, introduced it and they said to him, ‘Why don't you ask people? Why doesn't he ask? 'He says,' Why should I ask people if I had asked them, they would have said they would want faster horses. ' Of course, Elon Musk is a great visionary, I enjoy him a lot. I follow everything around him in the same way that I followed everything around Steve Jobs and what he did, and he did it in such a way that five, seven, eight years after passed, more, maybe even a dozen years since he passed, but no one can ruin it, only develop it. And in the same way, Musk is a great innovator, and I think what he’s going to do is very interesting. I don't know at all if you remember fifteen years ago Japan was the number one in the world in technology, innovation.  All this is forgotten. America is part of that thanks to social media and this whole English-speaking world, but America has gone into technology and even space, and from these studies, it's very simple. In my opinion, both for business and for science, because in the end, you can't do business without science and without new horizons. Okay, we're not going to Mars, we're going to eat and drink that money away, we're going to waste it or give it away for good causes, probably not going to Mars. But one day someone will go, one day, if it's not this Elon Musk, it will be Musk 2, Mars 3 or 4, someone will go. It is better to do it now and this is a big breakthrough and very important for science.

Host: Okay, here's the crossroads in opinions.

Maxim Behar: We are commenting here on a society that is very different from ours, we are talking about America. And since I mentioned my favorite President Ronald Reagan, let me tell you for ten seconds a joke he tells Mikhail Gorbachev. At one of his meetings a man goes to Russia, then the Soviet Union, to buy a car, he likes a car, and he is told that he must prepay. He makes the prepayment at the counter and says when to get it and they tell him in 10 years. And he asks, "In the morning or in the afternoon?" This country, which can even afford to tell this joke at a press conference with the president of the then Soviet Union, is light years ahead. We because that was Bulgaria. I don't remember if we waited 10 years, but I waited 2 or 3 years for my Trabant, and it was quite painful.

Host: However, now let's say that there are many Bulgarians in Musk's team, as well as among the candidates for "Mars tourists", so we are not at the end.

Maxim Behar: I take my hat off to the whole Musk team and everything they do. We watch it with interest and hopefully, it succeeds because it pulls all humanity forward. There won't be again, maybe Teddy, with great regret I'm a big fan of Africa, maybe there are a lot of hungry people there, maybe not, but there are a lot of hungry people, maybe they suffer. However, there must be someone to pull us all forward.

Host: Thank you! Thank you! Tomorrow we can continue the comments on this topic.

Watch the full video here.

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