Maxim Behar: Rather disappointment than anything positive on Bulgaria's political landscape

Maxim Behar in the "Bulgaria ON Air " studio about the political language.

Host (Maria Konstantinova): Under the weight of their words, the governance partners are ready to end the so-called coalition. The words spoken by one partner offended the other, and he asked for forgiveness.

Host (Viktor Dremsizov): There is no time for reconciliation. Another request from GERB/SDS to PP/DB expires today. We are now seeking answers from our guests, linguistics professors Assoc, regarding the power and weight of the words and whether all this is aimed at advertising and attracting new voters. Vladislav Milanov, Assoc. Dilyana Dencheva, and PR expert Maxim Behar. Hello to all three of you.

Maxim Behar: Good morning!

Host: Given everything we've heard so far, how do you assess the communication between politicians in recent days.

Maxim: I wouldn't expect anything different.

Host: Why?

Maxim: ... And I don't see much drama in what's happening, although we experience it a lot. Sunday press conferences late at night. Many people are already on their second or third drink, and suddenly, they turn on the TV and tablets, laptops... and see some people speaking incomprehensibly. You know, we are a young democracy, after all. Even though 30 years have passed already. We are not accustomed to things that Italy, Spain, Portugal, and other southern European countries have experienced for years. And now everyone is trying to find their place. I don't think the deadline will expire today, and it will be extended again. Let's see what happens. I don't see such an enormous violation here; my colleagues are better experts than me in this regard on good manners. Because in recent years, we've heard all sorts of things. And now that someone has said something, I think it should be slept on. I am only concerned that an exceptionally, in my opinion, quality politician like Maria Gabriel can be sacrificed, and I don't want that to happen. Because she has experience, and in the last few months, she has gained even more experience.

Host: Mr. Behar's harsh words were mainly directed toward Maria Gabriel. She was called "the newest and most beautiful face of the mafia in Bulgaria"...

Maxim: Well... yes. She is a new face and a beautiful one. If someone loses their temper, we'll sleep on it and move forward.

Host: Does this behavior suit politicians?

Maxim: You see, in a family, sometimes people spend their nights in the same bed and can't understand each other and exchange words improperly. This shouldn't be a big drama. In my opinion, we should look forward and try to build our little house so that firstly the people in Bulgaria, okay, of course, they need to be calm and work, but also to have a good image outside Bulgaria, so that more and more investments can come, as this is very important to us. And the fact that someone said something... We've heard much heavier words in recent years without offending anyone.

Host: Mr. Behar, do politicians know how to express themselves more clearly so that we all understand them because, as you mentioned, these press conferences, which followed one after another, then we journalists tried to get the politicians to translate for us what they said.

Maxim: I'm not sure politicians are interested in whether we understand them. They talk through television studios or press conferences, and practically, when GERB holds a press conference, it sends a message to, let's say, in this case, Continue the Change and vice versa. In my opinion, the situation is more straightforward than many scientific explanations. Now, after so many universities, I'm doing a Ph.D. at Sofia University. I see that the academic perspective is very useful and very analytical; however, quite often, it complicates the pragmatic situation or what is happening a bit more. It seems that GERB doesn't want to lose power and doesn't know how to do it, and PP wants to keep the power and knows how to do it. They try to play, and in all this mess, both sides don't know what vocabulary or phrases to use. Everyone brings some phraseology from home, which they have. Or one from companies, and they try to bring the conversation down to a slightly more, let's say, understandable level, but they descend lower. Again, I don't see a big drama. Yes, it's a drama because it's happening for the first time in Bulgaria. There has never been such an exchange of epithets, such categorization, so many offended people. If we're offended by this, Sofia must be full of offended people.

Host: Yesterday, Academician Denkov said, "I've also been insulted a lot, but I never once asked for forgiveness." But Mr. Behar, what impressed me yesterday is that the two formations weren't talking. They were sending each other emails that ended with one phrase: "You're on." And now you're on in communication. What does that tell us? We won't talk to each other; we'll write emails. It's easier to write than to talk.

Maxim: Both sides are still held together by one reason, which is not to divorce, and that's the fear of the President. And that's the only concern. Not even so much the elections, because okay, they'll go to elections, and someone will get 3 percent more, someone else 5 percent less...

Host: But why the fear of the president?

Maxim: Because the president will form a caretaker government...

Host: But it will be more difficult for him to choose the prime minister there.

Maxim: Yes, it will be a bit harder for him, but still, he will have the final say. The last word. It's unknown how long these caretaker governments will last. It could be 4 or 5; the constitution says something about that. There are no limitations. And that's the only fear, that Bulgaria might return to a time when nobody knew who was calling the shots in politics. In principle, caretaker governments are remarkably harmful institutions, and there's no point in them. The Denkov-Gabriel government could have continued to govern until, even if we held further elections, and that's... It's just that some don't know how to maintain their positions, while others know how to defend theirs without taking new ones. Somehow, strategically, that's what I think.

Host: Mr. Behar, where do the places of institutions and the respect for institutions come from? Overall, we saw that Maria Gabriel was late twice by 15 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Tuesday. Besides that, she told the president, "Here, I'm ready with the cabinet lineup," We understand that she was not ready because half of the cabinet said, "We're resigning and don't want to be part of this government." Is there respect for institutions? What does that tell us about trust in communication?

Maxim: I'll go back to phraseology. "Rural gathering" is a lovely expression, and it's a very pleasant one. I don't see anything strange, offensive, or atypical about it. I often say, "Rural parties." And I say that to serious people I talk to, and they try somehow to explain something to me.

Host: Should we consider this a breakdown of communication?

Maxim: No, it's just such slang, some native language thing, that I see no reason not to mention. Look, there's undoubtedly respect for institutions. Why was Maria Gabriel 18 minutes late? Well, there are a million reasons. Maybe even the president was late, maybe she was late, maybe they didn't understand each other, perhaps they met beforehand. It's not a big deal. We've spent 18, 20, 50 minutes in front of the television, waiting for a resolution. Now, what follows from here is very important. Because, okay, they've exchanged different phrases; one got offended, and the other was pleased. I believe there are two ways to get out of this situation. Either to find a good mediator, an intelligent mediator who knows both sides and can tell them, "Calm down. You won't get offended. Let's see what you want. Let's see how we can compromise."...

Host: Is Delyan Peevski that mediator?

Maxim: No, no, no... it must be independent. A person who knows how to communicate and has authority from both sides. And this is a practice, the most normal one, in all developed democracies. And the second option, in my opinion, in this case, is neither Maria Gabriel, with great respect, I respect her a lot. Nor Boyko Borisov can communicate well, and I wonder why Boyko Borisov didn't bring out a person in GERB who has undisputed authority and is an excellent communicator named Rosen Zhelyazkov. I don't know him personally or even spoken to him. However, I see that he stands very well. As Chairman of the National Assembly, he had an excellent vocabulary and attitude. And for me, it's a big surprise because they still haven't brought him to the forefront because he can even be an excellent manager, minister, or something that suits him better. That's what I think. Otherwise, I don't have such significant concerns about the language. Let them speak as they want; moving forward and getting the job done is essential.

Host: Ah, Mr. Behar, they constantly set ultimatums - by noon today, by the next day, giving you an additional 24 hours. What does that tell us? Continuous tension and creating such...

Maxim: No, rural gatherings, that's absolutely... That's how it happens in the village, in the village square.

Host: But is that politics in Bulgaria?

Maxim: ..."If you don't return my money by 2 o'clock tomorrow, you'll see that something will happen." And nothing happens by 2 o'clock tomorrow. No, the situation is not very politically mature. That's a fact. Both sides are trying somehow to extort each other to maintain their positions. Let's see what will happen, but this cannot last long. Not to mention that according to the constitution, it cannot continue for more than, I think, until the following Monday or Sunday.

Host: They have, after receiving the mandate, precisely seven days. Just enough to fulfill that mandate, but considering we have a proposed cabinet lineup, we'll see.

Maxim: You know, if we spend a few hours on Facebook, mainly on Facebook, but also on some other social media, the language of politicians these days will seem to us like a conversation in a well-mannered British English family. Because on social media, we see much more hate. Much less restrained language. Much stronger insults. Not to mention wholly uncensored and whatnot. And this is a result of our new life and environment. We have social media. Everyone has media in their hands, and everyone thinks they're an editor, but they're not. However, they have this media.

Host: We don't represent institutions; we're not at that high level, like Parliament or elsewhere.

Maxim: True. However, many people represent big businesses, institutions, and themselves. And at one point, we see such foolishness that what is now being exchanged among politicians may be just a faint shadow of the consequences of all this, the whole language that...

Host: Mr. Behar, tell us how to restore continuity among politicians because now someone says, "We don't want Maria Gabriel as prime minister." Others say, "Withdraw Asen Vasilev."

Maxim: This is their family drama. I think a compromise should be made, but that's my view. A compromise should be made because both are exceptionally qualified individuals. I know them personally. Both Maria Gabriel and Asen Vasilev are highly skilled individuals. They may have lost their nerves, or, because of their party decisions, who knows what's happening in their heads. So many people are involved in politics, which, nowadays, is not the healthiest occupation for a person. And it seems they need to say to each other, "Okay, let's move forward." And that's the only reasonable solution.

Host: Let's use the beautiful Bulgarian words for the finale. Will we see "wedding or divorce"

Maxim: It's better to have a joint happy coexistence.

Host: To live on family principles. More respect for the language. A wonderful finale. Thank you for this guest appearance.


You can watch the full interview here.

»All articles