GERB’s Reformer Hypocrisy

They say GERB would be making reforms, should it win a second mandate. At a meeting between the government and the business, held on the 3rd of December, Mr. Simeon Dyankov asked the ministers what kind of reforms they were going to initiate, should GERB happen to win a second mandate. Since, for a full mandate, the government has failed to make even one slightest reform, now, on the verge of elections, GERB has decided to declare commitment to reformations, while, actually, it is simply trying to fool the voters for a second time that it is going to make reforms. Obviously, the government itself is well aware of the fact that it has done nothing to improve people’s lives, and now, it is trying to create expectations that this will be done during the second mandate.

GERB, however, cannot make any reform whatsoever because it doesn’t have the capacity to do so. The problems that the government had to cope with date many years back. They were obvious since the very moment the government took over the power. And it took the power with immense support with the sole purpose to solve these problems. Here comes the great paradox of the Bulgarian people’s choice. The years during which the power was held by the authentic Right – 1997-2001, and during which the heaviest and most radical reforms were made, which turned Bulgaria back to the group of the free and democratic states in Central and Eastern Europe and which actually opened the doors to EU accession for our country, were proclaimed by the Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and by GERB a transition failure. Of course, they may be qualified as failure, depending on the point of view. If the starting point is the socialist past with its centralized market economy, full wage-leveling, lack of any freedom whatsoever, physical removal of people by putting opposite-minded to prison and camps, and most of all harnessing the whole state to guarantee the high lifestyle of a ruling top 300 families, then the reforms of the Right can really be considered a failure. Let’s remind, however, that when the average salary in Bulgaria during the time of Mr. Todor Zhivkov was BGL 165, the ruling top of the communist party received incomes of about BGL 10,000-20,000, plus free food, plus free housing, plus free resorts, and so on, and so on. These people had indeed made up communism but for their own sake only.

Once Mr. Borisov took over the power, he began to promote the mentality specific to the communist regime before 1989. Only cosmetic reforms were initiated, aiming to whitewash people’s discontent or to imitate actions in response to people’s expectations before the elections, without any serious desire for actual changes. Prior to 1989, this unwillingness was naturally due to the lack of any opportunity to work for the change of the very socialist system. Thus came the moment, when in the 1980s of the last century, the lack of any reforms and the undergoing full system disintegration forced the government to start drawing loans, used to import end consumer goods, only to satisfy, at least to a minimum degree, the consumer demand in the country. Ultimately, Bulgaria’s external debt reached an astronomical figure, while servicing this debt became impossible and thus, in the final reckoning, the state bankrupted.

The present economic and political situation in Bulgaria considerably resembles the one that was characteristic for the country more than 23 years ago. Of course, there are certain differences in the economical conditions, but in fact, for the time being, the state does not work in favor of the ordinary man and entrepreneur but in favor of a certain circle of people and companies, close to the power. The small and medium-sized business has long ago been shattered and casted out of the market. Tens of thousands of companies bankrupt on a daily basis. Only for the last four years, over 300,000 working places have been lost. Moreover, half of the Bulgarian companies currently have no employees at all. At the same time, there are huge economic groups in the country, which have divided between each other the state, just like an apple cake, with Mr. Borisov’s blessing. These groups continue to grow larger and larger with the obliging cooperation of the government and continue to occupy Bulgarian economy piece by piece. Whether these would be enterprises or ports, parts of state’s coastal line or the so-called multiplexes that offer HDTV, is of no significance. The matter it that the players are all one and the same and no outsiders are allowed to this narrow circle. On the other hand, if some of the so-called oligarchs happen to infuriate Boyko Borisov, they are being brutally thrown out of the game and forced to sell their business and save their skin abroad to avoid supreme retribution. This is the same method applied by Mr. Putin in Russia.

Meanwhile, the government systematically and uncompromisingly makes every endeavor to occupy the judicial system, to use it to enforce the sovereignty of the law for its own sake. The scandals regarding the appointment of judges and prosecutors on high electoral positions are the emanation of these endeavors for destructing the normality in the state behind a façade of democratic rules. The purpose of the façade democracy, which Mr. Borisov has actually developed, is to serve and work only in protection of the government and the ruling top around it, exactly as the time of Mr. Zhivkov, when this privileged position was held by the communist nomenclature. The law enforcement authorities fail to pursue the people, who allegedly violate the law but they pursue the people, who make such allegations. People come to think that it is dangerous to complain from institutional arbitrariness and blackmailing because it is almost 100% sure that the state “machine” would pursue not the crime perpetrator but those who have made the allegation. From this point of view, it is important for the power to appoint obedient people on high positions in different institutions, in order to provide a façade legal form for this state government conception.

Despite all these efforts for development of an authoritarian political system, there is still one major problem. It lies in the fact that there are still political subjects and NGOs, which are trying to oppose the follies and antidemocratic actions of the government using democratic means. In order to cope with them, the government initiated, sometimes concealed, sometimes not, a campaign for destruction of both its actual political opponents and the NGOs, which refuse to play by the government’s rules. This is the exact reason why the Blue Coalition was beaten up, as it was the only actual alternative of the present inept government. Mr. Borisov’s fears that he might lose the elections to the only reformer, which 15 years ago dragged Bulgaria out of the biggest economic crisis in its newest history, drawn upon it as a result of the incompetent government of BSP, are obviously pretty serious. For the purposes, apart from reanimation of any kinds of political “zombies”, who are allowed to enter the political scene with the sole purpose to detract right votes off the authentic Right, Mr. Borisov also took some brutal actions, by means of apparatus games, to beat up the only worthy political subject in the right-wing political space. Currently, this plan is being implemented, although not fully as initially devised.

It is pointless to comment on the status of the media in Bulgaria. The country can hardly recollect any such strong dependence of the media on the governing party. Each journalist is now well aware of the fact that the more servile and uncritical to the government he is, the more likely he is to climb up in his career. The real, investigative journalism, which keeps asking the government inconvenient questions, is hustled out in the corner and placed in reanimation. Incapability and incompetence begin to overwhelm as a tsunami each and every professional branch in the country, but media is the most visible part. It is now impossible for anyone, who is not a member of GERB, to start some kind of job. Such an attitude was demonstrated only by the Bulgarian Communist Party, when party members before the changes exceeded 1 million people and when anyone who wanted to hold a higher position in the state or economy had to be a member of the communist party. This is the next analogy with the former totalitarian regime, which methods the present government is trying to revive. This is all understandable considering the admiration Mr. Borisov holds for Mr. Todor Zhivkov and his methods of governance. Is it surprising then that it was exactly during the time of the “right-wing” party GERB that the first museum of socialist art was opened, that a conference for rehabilitation of the work of Ms. Lyudmila Zhivkova was organized in Sofia University and so on and so on. In general, systematic persistence is being applied for revival of the methods and symbols, specific to a past epoch, which was placed on the same footing with the Nazi regime in terms of criminality not only by international institutions but also by the Bulgarian Parliament.

This is why on one hand GERB does not want, and on the other GERB is unable to realize any reforms whatsoever. Because there is no way that people, cradled in the values of communism and setting it on pedestal, could make democratic reforms. The reform represents the government’s vision about the development of the country. When the entire GERB’s vision is so strongly oriented to the communist past, there is no way for it to make reforms consistent with the modern requirements for economic and social development. Thus, ultimately, the entire “speaking” about reforms is a hypocritical theater, mostly before the right-wing electors, while the actors, who draw the country to its communist past, are hiding behind the curtain. There is no action whatsoever that the ruling team of GEBR has undertaken with the clear vision about the required changes and the expected results thereof. Problems are solved piece by piece, with no clear idea about the results from such solutions. Whenever the budget deficits goes up, companies’ VAT return is suspended, irrespective of the fact that this would additionally deteriorate the business environment and would lead to subsequent reduction of paid taxes. Whenever the prices of pharmaceuticals are high, measures for reduction of traders’ markups are initiated. This leads to dropping off of small traders, to decrease of competition, to monopolization of the market by big traders of pharmaceuticals and, ultimately, to increase in prices. The administrative reform is understood mainly as cutting down the staff and as relocation of institutions throughout the country. It’s all to the good that in the final reckoning this idea was not realized in full. Whenever money for pensions increase is required, deposit interest retention tax is being introduced, announced as an attack against the wealthy, provided that 90% of all deposits amount to BGN 1,000-2,000. Where exactly is the reform here?
There is no way that such nostalgia to the past could disappear, provided that the memory of it is so stubbornly supported. This party is obviously not a right-wing one. It is unacceptable for a right-wing party to somehow deceive people so that they vote for it, with the sole purpose to hold on to the power for another mandate.

From this point of view, GERB’s support, provided by right-wing people, is quite weird. If they feel such a strong nostalgia to the communist part, one way or another there is a political force in Bulgaria – successor of the former communist party. It has already gone so much “right” with the introduction of the flat tax with no tax exempt minimum that it can easily be reckoned as a party, which combines both the nostalgia to socialism and the protection of large capital, inextricably bound to the former nomenclature, to the repressive communist apparatus and reared with party and state funds, which were unlawfully taken away from the Bulgarian people.

On the other hand, there is a right-wing alternative in Bulgaria, based on actual right democratic values, which 15 years ago saddled with the task to make fundamental reforms in order to create new opportunities for development for the Bulgarian people and the state. This, beyond dispute, is the Blue Coalition. It was the realization of these bold reforms that actually cost the loss of the power by the traditional Right. Only that it was thanks to these reforms that during the next 8 years Bulgaria went through its economic boom and people actually managed to feel the favorable effect of market economy and of free entrepreneurship, before the world economic crisis befell upon the country and GERB’s government destroyed all options for fast recovery from this adverse economic situation.

The political government in one democracy cannot simply have as its goal only holding power for personal welfare, although this is exactly why Mr. Borisov and Mr. Tsvetanov favor democracy less and less. The political government should be based on certain values, which should be followed, and on the idea for the implementation of such a policy that would contribute to the people’s welfare. Apart from being unable to solve the exigent problems in the country, such façade democracy that Bulgarians begin to get used to, is also very harmful for the future development because it only develops people with low self-esteem and deprived of faith, because it only breeds nihilism, because it only destroys the basic values underlying society, because instead of bringing forth the most clever and able-minded people, it only brings forth the most uneducated and insolent, who are ready to step over corpses to get their way. This is no way to build a society. This is the way to build district gangs for territory distribution. It is pitiful to witness such behavior being demonstrated at a highest state level.

Therefore, on the next elections, the façade democracy in Bulgaria must be defeated, so that finally reforms can be made – the reforms, which will revive the country from the ashes of the economic crisis and the incompetent governance of GERB.

However, this appears to be less and less achievable.

The article was published for first time on 29.07.2012 г. at www.mediapool.bg

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