Bulgaria's Presidential Race: Exposing the Total Lack of Leadership
Their collective political record reads like the "Who's Who of Human Insipidness." That's right, they are the dirty dozen of candidates for the office of Bulgarian President in the elections on October 23.
With Bulgaria being a parliamentary republic under the 1991 Constitution, the job of the Bulgarian President is not really a very thrilling one.
But even though it doesn't matter much, it does matter enough so there is no excuse for the political parties and the so called "initiative committees" for nominating bidders most of whom can get their audience excited only if it is on a combination of Prozac, pot, and Viagra, or if it consists of illiterate vote-buying enthusiasts. (Vote-selling is probably the more correct term here.)
Don't get it wrong - the candidates for the Bulgarian Presidency are interesting individuals. Some of them are even actual nice fellas. Some, on the other hand, are sufficiently questionable personalities worthy of the ill-fated historical stereotypes about the Balkans. Some have impressive resumes in one field or another. And, to be fair, as a group, they are actually not devoid of strong characters, etc. But these qualities are not enough for real leadership.
The great problem with their leadership potential is that none of them really stands out in terms of having, projecting, and communicating any kind of a strategic vision, a grand strategy, a clear-cut governance philosophy - or just a simple but powerful constructive passion, if you will - for the future of the Bulgarian nation and the Bulgarian republic.
Not to mention going beyond all that to naughty international topics such as the future and development of the region (the common parroting of "Euro-Atlantic integration" into some kind of a "family" doesn't mean squat here), the future of the EU, Schengen and the euro zone, Bulgaria's actual role in Europe, global warming, GMO, the global biotechnological revolution, etc, etc.
Because genuine leadership required for a head of state that does something for the people can't go without a passionate and sensible vision translated into a strategy. If you want to be a head of state, you should be able to motivate the people of an entire nation-state to use their heads, hearts, and minds.
I am really saddened to arrive at the conclusion that none of the present candidates for the Bulgarian Presidency has that idea about the raison d'etre and the direction of the Republic of Bulgaria for the remaining 90 years of the 21st century.
Not Rosen Plevneliev, the bright, fresh technocrat with little proper political experience (in spite of his two year as Regional Development Minister), the candidate of the ruling party GERB, who has just been commandeered by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to win the presidential elections, and serve as President by 2016 when that job is supposed to be passed to Borisov, in Borisov's own words. (!)
Not the overly calm but lackluster candidate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and its leftist coalition, former Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin, who I foresee, is going to have difficulty rallying even the hardcore base of Socialists because of his apparent inability to impress.
Not the ex EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, the de facto candidate of ex Tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg's establishment technically nominated by some sort of an "initiative committee", with her vague rhetoric about the "Europeanness" of "European" citizens all over "Europe" and their virtues that is light years away from the Bulgarian public, making her more appropriate to run for the Presidency in countries like Iceland or New Zealand.
Not the selectively vocal leader of the nationalist party Ataka Volen Siderov whose agenda smacks of fear-instilling speech about certain threats to the nation and questionable ways to handle them (that actually threaten to create real threats if employed), and who has been both with and against the government of the GERB party for the past two years.
Not the widely unknown candidate of the so called Blue Coalition Rumen Hristov – a nominee of a supposed rightist formation which has the unenviable quality of decreasing in popularity any time the number of its coalition members increases.
Not the former undercover agent, former university professor, and former alleged top mafia boss, also formerly known as "Octopus" (at least according to Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov), Aleksei Petrov, whose story is about as impenetrable to the general public as the concept of gravity or television transmission – you know it's a big deal but who knows how exactly it's really operating...
Not the high-pitched Atanas Semov, an otherwise intelligent lawyer in the role of the candidate of the marginal supposedly conservative party RZS party (the acronym actually means "Order, Law, Justice" – how nice!), a formation which got conceived God knows how by God knows, for God knows what purposes, and God knows why it is still around.
Not the leader of the remained of the VMRO (VMRO-BND) party Krasimir Karakachanov, another nationalist with recipes for solving the nation's problems by digging deep into its "nationhood", statehood, brotherhood, other "hood"-s and pure-blooded "Bulgarianness"...
Not the remaining couple of candidates that are probably widely popular with their families even though I personally have hardly heard of – and I kind-of tend to follow public life.
I am truly sorry but I just don't see anyone in this mosaic of prominent Bulgarian individuals as proper presidential material. People say, you grow into it when you take up a new job but I am not sure. I am trying to imagine each one of them in the role of a Commander-in-Chief (of whatever is left of the Bulgarian armed forces) – one of the most important responsibilities of the Bulgarian President – in the event of a war, or a terrorist attack, or a natural calamity, may God forbid any of those.
I am also trying to picture in my mind each one of these candidates in a bid to restore the faith of the Bulgarian citizens in themselves and their state – a true leadership challenge for the head of state. None of them seems to be cutting it in either role.
Of course, they have the chance – at least some of them – to prove me wrong. For example, by coming up with a vision and measures to implement it about Bulgaria's international role and development, the economy, the education, the ports and railways and canals and international transport terminals and transit corridors... Why has the integration of the Roma failed completely, or, rather, why was it never truly started or desired, or thought all the way through? And how can we (i.e. the candidates and other politicians) really root out vote-buying other than paying lip service to condemning it while enjoying its "benefits"?...
Not only that, but none of the candidates for President of Bulgaria seems to be in possession – and in pursuit – of any sort of spiritual goals, or at least of sane ones, if you think of some candidates.
Why do I think that this is so important? Simply because the Bulgarian nation has had an added value, to put it that way, when it believed in a national goal, a mission, an image that provided at least a very broad basis for societal unity. That was the case even in the Communist period, or more precisely in its early years before the disillusionment of the so called "mature socialism" which kept failing to acquire a human face through the Cold War decades.
What sort of a society do the people living in Bulgaria want to have? Even if it is going to be Western-style consumer society – which seems like the easiest choice - even then it should have a moral and spiritual "lining", point, objective, raison d'etre.
Bulgarians today don't believe in anything: not in God, not in Europe, not in democracy, not in market economy, not in civil society, not in Bulgaria. Wait! They do seem to have a shared interest in the conviction that their state is evil, corrupt, hopeless, and in bashing and cursing it.
How do you go about changing all that? The outgoing Presindet of Bulgaria Georgi Parvanov, a former party leader of the Socialists, didn't attempt it in his two terms; it wasn't on his agenda.
I am not sure that, not unlike Parvanov, any of the wannabe-heads of state of the Bulgarian republic even has this question at heart.