Maxim Behar for NOVA TV (Day 5): Emotions and Strong Messages are Needed in the Presidential Debate

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. On the last working day of the week, you are with "Intersection Point" - the show in which the news receives its first comment. And this is happening through the eyes of our weekly guests, political scientist Teodora Yovcheva, PR expert Maxim Behar and TV presenter Ivo Tanev. However, Friday does not close the door to an emotional palette full of ups and downs. In two days, we will know the sixth president of Bulgaria. And yesterday the two contenders for the post Rumen Radev and Anastas Gerdjikov clashed positions in a debate - we heard them and saw them. Was that enough?

The goal of any election debate is to persuade more people to vote for a particular candidate. Did the two contenders for the presidency achieve it and can we say which of the two is the winner?

Maxim Behar: We talked a lot about the potential debate here in the studio this week. In my opinion, this could have been done without this debate. So done at the last moment, quickly... This is a super-serious job, you need very good preparation, you need very good attention to detail. Personally, the debate was super boring because there was no emotion, there were two people talking and sharing the same stories. They teased gently if I may say so. They remembered things from their past, they agreed much more. At one point, I even said to myself, "And why isn’t one president and the other vice president?" There were no emotions in this debate, which disappointed me. Stretched scenarios - the fact that they only had two minutes to answer suggested a little more emotion and a little fewer explanations, long sentences, and jokes. There was also no vice-presidential debate. This is something that must have occurred the day before or at least prior to the presidential debate.

The most important thing is that in the end, we did not understand what Rumen Radev or Anastas Gerdjikov will do if elected president, what will happen in the next five years. This whole debate was about the past. This whole debate was about who is in which drawers, who flew in the clouds, but who came down to earth, full of metaphors. This is a debate on the election of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, if anyone has an idea of what he will do in the next five years, within his powers - one, and number two as his personal opinion on what should happen in the country, we should have heard it very clearly and precisely. We had to listen to interesting ideas on how Bulgaria will move forward, and of course, if I participated in such a debate, no one would touch on the topic of Crimea, which is super sensitive, and I think it could cause some damage. We must be very careful, especially since Bulgaria is a member of the European Union. There is a position of the European Union, there is a position of NATO - how is it possible for someone to think about this topic with an opinion that is radically different from the European Union. In addition, Ukraine reacted very nervously. Today there are also statements by spokesmen of the European Commission, that is, there must be much more political tact and thought, and I would say on both sides. And here I am not referring to one candidate or the other candidate. We have not heard what each of the two candidates will do if elected president. However, we heard a wagon of stories about who loves poetry, who loves theater, who can recite what, and what happened during their previous position or service.

Host: Do you think there is a winner?

Maxim Behar: I can't say a winner, because the elections are in two days, and I would not like to take a stance... I have a small winner I will keep that to myself.

Host: Good.

Maxim Behar: I agree here that whoever has decided to vote for a candidate will vote for that candidate. Maybe a number of people who had decided not to vote, suddenly decided to support one or the other and said to themselves 'And how nice is Gerdjikov to me' or 'Ah, how come I’ve never seen Radev in such a light’. However, low probability. Again, there were no emotions, no strong messages, everyone was in his comfort zone.

Host: So, we have, of course, our next topic, we will continue with an analysis of the debate on foreign policy, and we will address issues with Ukraine and the European Union, and neighboring Turkey.

Maxim Behar: For me, there was no big difference in attitude. Of course, Radev is more laid back, more experienced, this is not the debate in which Donald Trump is sitting opposite Hillary Clinton and the two participated in 1,600 or 5,700 live broadcasts. Or Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump - all super experienced. While here it was obvious that Radev, who is speaking live daily or having live broadcast every day somewhere and Professor Gerdjikov, who was standing in the academic hall and did not speak publicly as much. This difference was very subtle. He was a little stiffer, Professor Gerdjikov himself was stiffer. Radev had prepared a little more purposefully. But I have not seen big differences, except for Crimea, which no one in Bulgaria is interested in and will not affect any person whether they vote against or for. Indeed, the topic of the prosecution, which was very slightly touched upon by Professor Gerdjikov, and he tried to take a turn, but it is a very hot topic in Bulgarian society. There were no other differences. You know, they looked a little like people who got together on Tuesday to discuss a meet for a beer on Thursday. Speaking of the image at the moment, it means so much, in November 2021 the Bulgarian reality absolutely needs new ideas and new visions in politics.

Host: You say you haven't heard them; you haven't even seen them.

Maxim Behar: I have not heard or seen any of this. Just a note about emotions. It wasn't about that ... it's not an emotion to get into a fight in the studio. Or, as they said in TV studios, throw a glass of water. Emotion is rather to be able to structure your messages well, to be clear, accurate, specific and again these messages like ... for example when I look at the camera here at the moment - number two, I try not to see the camera, I try to I see people watching me, I try to get into their shoes, I try to figure out what they would like to hear and what would interest them most. I didn't see that last night.

Host: If I must remind Mr. Behar about yesterday's comment on what we expect from the debate, you said that the two should not try secret blows and hooks. Well, that didn't happen.

Maxim Behar: Well, they tried a little on the surface.

Host: There were no attacks, no tears, people were expecting different things.

Maxim Behar: There were no such things and again we are more mature, more experienced, but also the people who vote, we Bulgarians are all more mature and experienced, not just our candidates. We sit for an hour and a half in front of the TV, pour ourselves a beer or a glass of wine, watch, and expect to hear what will happen in the next five years in Bulgaria. How these people will cope with such a complex and important presidential institution in our super important crisis, for example, the topic of coronavirus, the green certificates; but what do you offer, but I do not offer anything, because I am not an expert. There should have been a lot more in-depth ideas and suggestions, this is our hot topic in Bulgaria, all over the world.

Host: Okay, thank you for now, but we will continue to comment on the debate, of course. We will also go into the various topics, and in particular foreign policy, of course, because this gave an international response to the comments yesterday, but after the advertisements.

"Intersection Point" with the latest comments on hot topics. Protest in front of the Turkish embassy in Sofia clashes with the police, summoning of the diplomatic representative here and ours in Ankara. This came after allegations by Bulgarian authorities about Turkish officials interfering in the vote.

And just to add that yesterday we commented on the tension between the axis Sofia - Moscow, Sofia - Ankara, and from yesterday's debate Sofia - Kyiv.
Maxim Behar: I could not understand yesterday all day, after we are so experienced in politics, in foreign policy, but we are so experienced, but we are such diplomats that in one day we managed to ruin relations with two super important countries for Bulgaria- Turkey, and Ukraine. In one day. And I have no explanation for how it is possible for this thing to happen, to call the Bulgarian ambassador to Ankara at midnight, this is what I have seen in the movies, only during war. God forbid that there should be any greater escalation, no more tension. I believe that it is inadmissible for Turkish state institutions to interfere in Bulgarian elections and anything in Bulgaria that does not concern Turkish citizens. We are not talking about a minority here at all. Of course, people of the Muslim faith in Bulgaria are Bulgarian citizens, of course, there are many - 350 yesterday we said thousands of Bulgarian citizens in Turkey, who also have Turkish passports, but are a mixed population. However, state institutions should not interfere in any way. On the other hand, however, it is even more inadmissible to target the Turkish embassy in Sofia with eggs, tomatoes, or whatever it is, to shout, to make demonstrations. These demonstrations, this protest last night was organized by someone, and the job of the police and the relevant authorities is to find out who. Who organized them? No way, spare me the fairy tales that someone suddenly thought of it and would go out and would start throwing eggs and tomatoes in an organized way, but whatever it is, so spontaneous it will come from Mladost or Lyulin (neighborhoods in Sofia). No, it was an organized protest by someone, and it must be clear who it is, and it must be very well known. We can't perform such acts because of some presidential elections in Bulgaria, which on top of everything are almost a sin - given the results of the first round and the very big difference. Suddenly to quarrel with two super important countries and as Teddy told me ‘Well we have big minorities there’ in both Ukraine and Turkey. But more importantly, we are part of NATO together with Turkey, part of the European Union, and we must have a very balanced and very intelligent policy. I can’t remember, except for 1985, if I'm not mistaken, the great renaming and resettlement, when our relations with Turkey were very, very hot, so many Bulgarians emigrated. Since then, I do not remember Bulgaria having had bad relations with Turkey. I never remember Bulgaria having bad relations with Ukraine. Yes, we had a little misunderstanding with Russia in the early 1990s, because there were people in power who were extremely emotional, I would say against Russia, not so well-argued, but it was a difficult time for Russia itself. We must be very careful and in no case the price of someone becoming president or another not becoming president or to be elected somewhere, not to worsen our relations with friendly and important fellow countries.

Host: I want to ask you if we can comment on the axis Sofia - Moscow, Sofia - Kyiv, Sofia - Ankara. Which of the three axes would weigh heavily on Sunday's runoff vote?

Maxim Behar: Each of these is risky, please don't confuse foreign policy and foreign countries with what is happening in Bulgaria. All these things are resolved through diplomacy and political means. How can people go to demonstrate, shout in front of the Turkish embassy - this is a friendly country.

On the one hand, our relations with Turkey are great, an extremely important priority. On the other hand, what happened to Ukraine has a small risk, I hope it will not happen - there is a chance to quarrel with the European Union, which is an even higher priority. So, it seems to me that yesterday was a bad day for Bulgarian foreign policy, this thing should not have happened.
I often quote the Dalai Lama who says if you lose, you don't lose your lessons. However, it still seems to me that we have super experienced diplomats, great experts in the Balkans, in the former Soviet Union or whatever these countries are called, and it should not have been allowed. We cannot quarrel with Turkey, with countries like Ukraine at any cost, no elections can compensate for what is happening.

Host: Well, just a brief look at yesterday's events, commenting, of course, on the topics covered in the debate between the two presidential candidates - can we say that foreign policy is for domestic use?

Maxim Behar: In this case, yes, but it should not be so.

Host: "Intersection point" continues after the commercials. Don't miss us.
You are with "Intersection Point". Last minutes of the last broadcast in the company of political scientist Teodora Yovcheva, PR expert Maxim Behar and colleague Ivo Tanev. And one last question to each of you, 'What was this week like for you?

Maxim Behar: As a person who has spent more, much more than half of his life in the media, I think this week was a dream week for every television station in the world. Because it was a week between two elections, one election, a second election, tension, interesting things, interesting topics, we expected a lot more, we got less. However, we managed to comment on it here in the studio. It was a very interesting week, I don't know if there will be another week in Bulgaria full of so many different events, different stories. First, we talked all week about Bulgaria which way, what will happen to Bulgaria. This is super important and, in this studio, here you will continue to talk from now on constantly on this topic. We went through Ukraine, through Turkey, we went all the way to Mars because one of the topics we discussed was the idea of Elon Musk’s Mars mission, scheduled to start in January, February next year. And we came to today's news, which I read a while ago, that vaccines are becoming mandatory in Austria, I think it was from February 19 next year. I know a lot of people will jump in, say they're going to chip us, sell the databases, Bill Gates will track us. Austria is the first country in the European Union, but there is no other way out. If there are other opinions or other ways to get out of this mess. I will remind you again that we are in last place in terms of vaccination in Europe - a great shame. I will remind you again that we are in the first place in the world in terms of mortality from Covid-19 - an even greater shame. And this news may awaken other countries little by little with communication, with conviction, with facts, with people of science, to really succeed in convincing a large part of society that this is necessary.

Host: Okay, thank you!

Maxim Behar: I want to tell our viewers to be happy, to be smiling, to be calm, and to do their job. Everything in Bulgaria will be fine because we are a great country.

Host: And I have nothing more to add. Until Monday!

Watch the full video here.

»All articles