Maxim Behar: The state should be governed like a business structure."

The PR expert Maxim Behar comments on the conflicts, the second term, and the elections in the “Your Day” studio on Bulgarian channel NOVA NEWS with host Lora Indzhova.


Host (Lora Indzhova): “Your day” continues with the PR experts Maxim Behar and Evelina Hristova. Hello and welcome! I'm glad to see you.

Maxim: Good morning.

Host: How far have the politicians taken us, and how far have we as voters taken ourselves? The course is early elections, although the surprising news, perhaps not so surprising for some, came minutes ago from PP/DB with the decision that they will attempt to realize a second term. In discussions with GERB/SDS, they offered a Minister-President for their mandate.

Maxim: We are getting too worked up about what's happening. Perhaps because we haven't witnessed so many direct broadcasts or everything else, Bulgaria has a government. This government is currently working. It has ministers. They are fulfilling their duties.

Host: And the parliament will continue to work, by the way...

Maxim: We have a parliament. I have two astonishments. One is that, in my opinion, the people from GERB sacrificed Maria Gabriel, and both Maria Gabriel and Nikolay Denkov are exceptionally qualified individuals. I've observed them closely over the past few months. I'm very sorry that both were put in a highly atypical public situation over the weekend, which was not inherent to either a prime minister or a vice prime minister. Pale, made up, exhausted, tormented. I wouldn't wish that on any politician or person to end up in such a situation. In my opinion, this situation was invented by their advisers. Whether they're called PR consultants... I don't know who advises them, and I'm not interested.

Both sides. Both GERB and PP. But I have the feeling that the people around them had pushed them to such an extent that both Maria Gabriel and Nikolay Denkov were super tormented, and this is something an ordinary person from the kitchen can see. Because all these statements were late at night, people had already had one or two brandies or a glass of wine. This worries me much more than some debates in parliament, even if they are at a slightly higher tone. And even a little insulting. And my second big question is, after they changed the constitution, why didn't they abolish the unnecessary institution of the caretaker government? This is a complete absurdity. We are changing ourselves. When I walk down Vitosha Street, everyone is either a minister or a former minister.

Host: That is true, by the way...

Maxim: We have many ministers, changes in these institutions, and insecurity among the employees there. We have completely mixed messages to the voters themselves. And for years, I've been saying, maybe for 20 years, that the caretaker government played some role in the early 90s. Now, it no longer makes any sense. We have a government; let it continue to function. If there needs to be elections, there will be elections. People will vote for this or for that. And these two points worry me much more than heated debates in Parliament or elections. Because, no matter how much they cost... after all, we know what Churchill said, that democracy is not the best form of government, but so far, no better one has been invented.

Host: Let's talk, however, and move in the direction of image damage, not just image. In fact, who will suffer the most from this political move by PP/DB during the elections, and how much will it cost them?

Maxim: Now I'll tell you my interpretation of things. For several months, I've been observing very carefully. I haven't heard this anywhere, and there's a certain percentage chance that I'm wrong, but in my opinion, GERB and PP have liked a person for prime minister, and that person is named Rosen Zhelyazkov. That's my interpretation. I don't know him; I haven't seen him.

Host: Ah, based on what your interpretation stands for, I'm curious.

Maxim: I see that Rosen Zhelyazkov, as the chairman of the parliament, behaves very intelligently and is very balanced. He's a compromising person who unites different political forces. He could be an excellent prime minister. Again, I haven't seen this person. I don't know; I only observe his external appearances. At one point, I go back to the beginning, but the people from GERB themselves sacrificed Maria Gabriel, to my great regret. A quality person, a good politician, recognizable, knows how to speak, knows people abroad, and all the other qualities. They could have kept her because she would have been a good prime minister. And that's why I think now PP is passing the ball to GERB, telling them: "You pick the prime minister." GERB, who will they pick for prime minister? Naturally, they'll pick Rosen Zhelyazkov. That's my logic. Maybe I'm slightly mistaken, but the next two or three weeks will show. And anyway, you know, a new player might be emerging now because...

Host: Are you talking about a presidential formation or something else?

Maxim: No, no, something completely different. I agree that many people were disappointed with PP. We had, including myself, completely different ideas about how young people come and start to govern and make our lives more ethical, more honest, and more transparent. All these things were written in newspapers and said in television studios about how they would come into place. In one way or another, the guys couldn't handle it. I think they couldn't handle it communication-wise. That's the big drama. None of these respected people and politicians could handle it communication-wise. There wasn't a strong charisma. They couldn't convey their messages. They couldn't explain, not one of them, with a calm, reasoned, argumentative tone, what's happening, what can change, and what can't. Therefore, I think there might be a new formation of people in the age range between, let's say, 30 and 40 years old who would like to grab that vote, which, probably, in future elections, will rather go to GERB.

Host: From which spectrum, however, would this new player come?

Maxim: I would say something from the center, which is liberal and very business-oriented.

Host: Could it be from the existing PP/DB?

Maxim: Why not? There are highly qualified people there. Laura, I've advocated that the state be managed like a corporation for years, like a business structure. It's simple. In business, we don't get angry with each other. Yes, we have competition, but we meet with our competitors and say, "Let's do a project together; let's earn more money because if we earn more money, our colleagues will have better salaries. And the lives of our colleagues and entire teams will be better. Our clients will be happier. Those who buy our goods or services. They will respect us more." If the state were managed this way, we wouldn't see what we saw in parliament today. And not just today, but before that, too. There, people can't stand each other. They get offended. I don't know anyone in business who has offended another person. Well, become better than them. Prove it.

Host: We've become used to this in the plenary hall as a way of...

Maxim: It's normal in the British Parliament and many other parliaments. But if these people or this new formation have more business thinking. If they have more reasoned and structured proposals and approaches, it seems to me that everyone will live better. It's not a complicated job.

Host: Mrs. Hristova, what do you think?

Prof. Evelina Hristova: I don't see capacity for more than 20% anywhere in a new structure, and that's a problem.

Host: So, for a new structure to emerge and take 20%, that's not insignificant.

Prof. Evelina Hristova: No, it's a lot. That's why I don't see capacity. And yet, they are necessary for two or three political forces to form a government.

Host: Let me tell you, even 10% or 15% will still change the political landscape.

Prof. Evelina Hristova: And it won't be achieved. So, that's a good scenario, but unfortunately, it seems impossible to me because those people from 30 to 45, active young people, traditionally don't vote. Those who are in the three big cities vote. Also, the voters, as a larger population, already have traditional elections that they make. So, this seems like a challenging situation to me. I would instead pay direct attention to what awaits us regarding steps and how they will be realized and communicated. Firstly, we have a slight ambiguity in the Constitution. Article 99 stipulates what should happen now. It allows for an election if the second mandate is not realized now, and we heard this morning that the third one definitely won't be realized if it goes to DPS. I assume it won't be realized if it goes to the other formations. So, if this second mandate isn't realized within a few days, a caretaker prime minister should be appointed.

The choice is from 10 people. I assume the ombudsman has accepted and won a judicial position for two, but she cannot. The Chairman of the Judicial Panel has the huge, heavy, and very complex task of entering the Euro area. The Ministry of Finance launched a website for information on how the euro is adopted and what's next. Very well-prepared. This is one of the few good things about communication that happens in political life. One suitable person from the remaining eight will have to be found who can, within a minimum of two months, but not much more, complete the task of preparing the country for elections. We also have changes in the electoral code, which are now allowing for machine and paper voting. Overall, it's not an easy situation for us.

Maxim: Well, that's some progress, after all. The president has a limited choice of who to appoint as prime minister because it won't be one of his advisors.

Host: However, other political observers doubt that the caretaker cabinet will be under the dictate and influence of GERB, DPS, or both formations because the people, among whom, as of today, Rumen Radev will have to choose, are tied in one way or another, selected, or nominated.

Maxim: We're not talking about the cabinet but about the Prime Minister. So, if the Prime Minister belongs to and has inclinations towards one political force or another...

Host: Do you believe he won't influence his ministers from his interpretation, view, or perspective?

Maxim: No, I believe in something else. I think that even with a second mandate, a government might emerge.

Host: Let's hope we don't come to a caretaker cabinet.

Maxim: Yes, I believe the chances are, I would even say 60%, that we will have a government and maybe 30/40...

Host: Do you think GERB will accept something like that?

Maxim: Why wouldn't they? What's the alternative? The other option is to get into endless elections and caretaker governments.

Host: To hope for a weaker position of PP/DB or some new player.

Maxim: We have two main goals, and we all know these goals. One is full Schengen, and the other is entering the eurozone. Given that last week, various institutions told us we have a chance, including Kristalina Georgieva. From January 1, 2025, to join the eurozone. By January 1, if we follow the procedure outlined in the law, we might not be able to form a government. I don't see a reason why GERB and PP wouldn't find common ground, and if, for example, a minister or prime minister's candidacy was controversial or unacceptable, why wouldn't there be other acceptable candidates now? I'll return to business again if we have differences with a business partner or competitor; it won't even cross our minds to sit apart and do nothing.

On the contrary, we'll sit down together. We'll see how we can win that contract, project, money, and business strategy so that the business can run better and our colleagues can live better and have better salaries. Let's learn from this situation. We all need to know so we don't make the same mistake again, and hopefully, after two or three weeks, we'll have a government, and things will calm down in Bulgaria. And I urge politicians not to forget that in business, we look at how to work together, not how to divide.

Host: Thank you for this interview and for taking the time to participate in our broadcast!


Watch the full interview here.

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