Maxim Behar: There is no real and visible political campaign to comment on

PR expert Maxim Behar and journalist Asen Genov discuss the ongoing election campaign in Bulgaria on the show "Good Morning, Europe" on television Euronews Bulgaria, hosted by Diana Radeva

Host (Diana Radeva): Hello again! You are with "Good Morning, Europe" airing on television Euronews Bulgaria. Only a few weeks are left until the general and European parliamentary elections. Are the candidates' messages reaching the voters? Will the Central Election Commission manage to organize the polls well? And do people even care about the European elections during our national passions and scandals? Today's guests are journalist and vlogger Asen Genov and PR expert Maxim Behar. Hello and welcome!

Maxim Behar: Good morning!

Host: Mr. Behar, what is your assessment of the political campaign so far, apart from the questions we are already discussing? And how is this campaign doing?

Maxim: There is no political campaign; therefore, there is nothing to evaluate and comment on. We only see people talking on television, but there is no concept, vision, or strategy that differs from what we have seen. And it also would need to be practically applicable. Unfortunately, these are the sixth elections in Bulgaria in the last two and a half years, if I'm not mistaken.

Host: What kind of imagination would the party officials need to develop something different for the sixth election in three years?

Maxim: They highlight three critical points. The first is that the candidates should not conduct a negative campaign; instead, there should be a charismatic leader or charismatic people who can present an economic program. In Bulgarian politics, nothing is to be changed - we will not discuss leaving the European Union or NATO – that part is clear and categorical. However, the economy in Bulgaria is in crisis. There is not a single financial expert or politician to come out and present a strategy on how Bulgaria will move economically in the next 2-3 years. The second important point is that it is pointless to talk about elections on television without being allowed to mention specific individuals or political parties. Unfortunately, Bulgarian law says that while the election campaign is running, we should not mention particular individuals and political parties during in-studio discussions. The third absurdity is that candidates can run for whatever position they want in any region. For example, they can lead the electoral list in Shumen, be second on the list in Sliven, sixth in Vidin, and fourth in the European elections because now they are 2-in-1.

Host: Are there no people to apply for the elections?

Maxim: Some people want a 100-percent guarantee that they will get elected for anything. But this is a mockery for all of us, the voters. Because, at one point, you vote for Ivan Petrov, Peter Ivanov, or whoever. And then you see this person gives up one parliament and chooses to enter another. Or they decide not to enter a parliament because they want to do something else. The law needs to be corrected purely administratively. But this in no way diminishes the necessity to know who we are voting for and what that person or political force will do.

Host: Let me ask you, purely from a PR perspective, will anything change in the campaign and in the attitudes of the people who will vote due to the recent incident, which is certainly being used for political purposes by one side or the other? I'm talking about the incident with the car of the National Service for Protection, where, unfortunately, there was a victim, and the other person is still in a severe condition.

Maxim: It is used for political purposes only from one side. And it's only logical and normal when something happens to a political force or leader. Unfortunately, this is a great tragedy. However, I don't see a reason why this should affect the political messages of the party if they have any. We just need to look at everything from a more practical and political perspective. Anything can happen to anyone, but I'm not sure the reaction to the incident was adequate.

Host: Lately, it seems difficult to convince people that voting matters, given the situation. What would you advise them? Will you personally vote in these elections?

Maxim: Look, the European issue is practically an internal one. Our internal issues in Bulgaria are the most critical during European elections. And not just Schengen or the Eurozone, but many other things related to Europe, because nowadays there is practically no "going abroad." Germany and Austria, for example, are not "abroad" anymore, or at least should not be.

Host: 80 percent of the bills passed in the National Parliament come from the European Union - that was the data provided by the European Commission.

Maxim: It is probably so, but even the other 20 percent is in some way concerned with our participation in European structures. If we enter the Eurozone, we will be part of a joint European financial market, which means that we will be an inseparable part of every other country. Yes, I will vote. However, I don't have a specific message for other voters because I could tell them the clichéd phrases that everything depends on them, to vote for their benefit, choose the right one, vote, vote... Yes, that's how it should be - we must vote because it's the easiest thing to stay at home. But if your neighbor starts dumping their garbage in front of their house, and you live next door, it's impossible not to notice. You'll go, argue, fight with them, call the police – you'll do something. However, suppose someone allows themselves to split the state into parts, steal from it, lead it down the wrong path, use politics for their own purposes, or get more money. In that case, that is, to do something bad. Then suddenly, we choose to stay home and not care - "I won't vote because I don't have a choice among the candidates." In fact, we do have choices, but they have become fewer with all these elections over the past years. Go back six elections prior, and you'll see the options are more limited now than they were back then. Ultimately, it's logical that we need to vote. Moreover, voting in Bulgaria is mandatory. True, there are no sanctions, but Bulgaria, Greece, and Belgium are the three European countries where voting is compulsory. But it's not a matter of sanctions. If something is mandatory, we should do it, as it's our job.

Host: Concluding sentence, please.

Maxim: Obviously, there is a high risk of this incredibly long spiral of elections every few months continuing, and the only way to stop this is for as many people as possible to vote and make their choice. If there is a low percentage of voters, the balance of power in the next parliament will be the same. The elected will be people who, if they happen to form a government, will ultimately not stand against each other. The more people vote, the greater the chance Bulgaria will have a stable government after June 9, the day of the elections.

Host: Thank you very much!


Watch the full interview here.

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