What's on the Bulgarian Menu?
Dissent has condensed around one person widely seen to represent the precarious state of Bulgarian democracy: the 33-year-old member of the Turkish party and media mogul Delian Peevski, whose appointment as chief of the Secret Services of the country a year ago first sparked the protests.
Following the appointment of Peevki’s mother to head of the State Lottery, the family shortly accumulated large wealth. From the high school bench Mr. Peevski was appointed to the board of directors of the biggest Bulgarian port, in Varna. He managed to convince the leadership of the DPS, the Turkish party, to invest in his figure as a Bulgarian party member, with DPS wanting to leave behind the image of a Turkish-only party.
Peevski quickly became deputy minister of Emergencies, although he was soon fired for attempting to blackmail the director of the Bulgarian state tobacco monopoly.
In the next Parliament, Mr. Peevski was elected MP from the same party. Later he and his mother bought some of the major newspapers in Bulgaria and created a oligopoly in publishing. In parallel, Peevski acquired the construction company “Vodstroy 98”, which is seen as winning a large number of government contracts, including the construction of the South Stream pipeline. There is strong evidence that at the moment Peevski is the majority shareholder of the tobacco company Bulgartabac – the former state tobacco monopoly - and owns the distribution chain for newspapers and cigarettes "Lafka" which closes the cycle of production and marketing of his businesses.
In June 2013 came to power a coalition government with the participation of DPS. Peevski was appointed head of the secret services, leading to a large protest wave in the country, with citizens associating his name to corrupt practices and lack of morality. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets. Peevski resigned, but people remained on the streets and protested for one year - until yesterday's de facto resignation of the entire government.
Peevsky’s sources of income to build in a short time such an empire remain unclear.
Many of Peevsky’s alleged abuses seem to include misuse of the judiciary for personal purposes, according to many. A frequently mentioned case is that of the magistrate Petyo Petrov.
The magistrate became popular first in 2007 when he appeared with Peevski in a racketeering scandal involving both men and the former CEO of the state-owned company “Bulgartabac”, Hristo Lachev. The goal was allegedly to push Lachev to give contracts for advertising and repairs to their companies. After Lachev’s complains and the scandal that ensued, the Prosecutor General of that time, Velchev, rebuffed the case saying stating that the only witness did not confirm the words of Lachev. The only witness appeared to be the same magistrate Petrov. Arrests and convictions did not follow, but Peevski was fired from his position of Deputy Minister because of "lack of morality." Later on, under the protection of Peevski, Petrov was went on to work in the National Investigation Service, where he is accused of having fabricated attacks on the former defence minister Tzonev, a political and economic rival of Peevky.
Against this background, amongst questions that remained unanswered for the next government, the following will be particularly crucial:
- Is the principle of separation of powers observed?
- What are the actual actions associated with the recommendations and comments of the European Commission to Bulgaria for the controversial judicial appointments; is there transparency in the personnel policy, recruitment and appraisal?
- Is the state capable to ensure that the judicial system is not used for solving personal, corporate or political interests? Has the investigator Petyo Petrov all the moral and professional requirements necessary to lead the Metropolitan Investigation Office?-
- Does Peevsky’s party “Movements for rights and liberties” abide to sufficient standards of transparency and legality to be a part of the ALDE group in the European Parliament?
If these questions and many others begin to receive answers, perhaps the next government and the entire country will have a better fate.