Bulgarian PM Slams Opposition for Abusing 'Good-Natured' Presidential Hopeful
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has stepped in to defend GERB's presidential candidate Rosen Plevneliev, who got involved in a bribe scandal, saying that both left wing and right wing parties are taking advantage of his good nature to score political points.
In two Thursday morning phone interviews for Nova TV and bTV, Borisov insisted that the former Regional Development Minister had never been offered a bribe directly.
"Plevneliev told me what he had said in 2007, namely, that it all boiled down to hints", the Prime Minister stated, adding that Plevneliev did not have a police mindset and had not expected such a turn of events, otherwise he would have used marked money to bust the wrongdoers.
Borisov also said that his prime ministerial office prevented him from exposing not three but ten bribe brokers.
To do this while on the current job, however, would mean playing the game of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, he stated.
He underlined that the corrupt municipal councilors he knew about were not part of ruling center-right party GERB and were no longer part of municipal administrations.
When asked whether Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov had made a blunder by announcing in public that GERB's presidential runner had faced a blackmail attempt, Borisov said that "when somebody takes part in a seminar and speaks for several hours, their words can always get patched together so as to stir up a scandal".
Borisov further accused BSP of trying to shift the media focus away from discussions on the platforms of presidential candidates.
He also drew attention to the fact that socialist candidate for Sofia Mayor Georgi Kadiev had been well aware of the graft attempt and BSP should have reacted to the situation, given that its member headed the Interior Ministry at the time.
Rosen Plevneliev, in his turn, has firmly denied ever been blackmailed in one of his projects as a private businessman, before entering politics.
The alleged top runner to become Bulgaria's next president on the ticket of the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, party, spoke Wednesday in a 7-minute press conference where reporters were not allowed to ask questions.
He called the conference after 5 days of silence, amidst the scandal provoked by revelations of Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, head of the GERB election headquarters, who, speaking for journalists last Friday, revealed that Plevneliev had declined reporting an extortion case.
"I never met any "brokers" – not one, not two, not three. No one had asked me personally for a bribe. You know very well that a bribe is never asked for directly, but rather through some hushed hints. And I have never given a bribe," Plevneliev said.
According to Tsvetanov, in 2007, Plevneliev told him that three municipal councilmen from the City Hall, known as the "municipal brokers," have asked him for a bribe of EUR 500 000 to secure his ownership of a small land plot in the Sofia Business Park, one of the top projects of the presidential nomination of GERB as a businessman.
The plot was property of the City Hall and Plevneliev needed it to finalize the project.
Tsvetanov further informed that after learning about the case he advised the now-presidential hopeful to report it to the police, but the latter declined on the grounds "he did not want to participate in such mechanisms."
The Interior Minister's revelations turned into a scandal because they raised questions as to why neither he nor Plevneliev reported the case to the authorities since the law requires them to do so.
Plevneliev's Wednesday press conference statement, however, came in full contradiction with Tsvetanov's story. He further stated that the Business Park case had reached a favorable conclusion only thanks to the strong will of Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, in his capacity as Mayor of Sofia at the time, and to the municipal councilmen, who supported the latter's decision.
The presidential hopeful labeled the scandal as the "complete helplessness of the opposition and its failure to part with the past and participate in elections with a new vision."
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