Bulgarian Right-Wing Leader Ivan Kostov: I Expect GERB to Rig the Vote
Interview of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) and Novinite.bg with Bulgarian right-wing political leader Ivan Kostov.
Ivan Kostov is a former Bulgarian Prime Minister (1997-2001) and the leader of the right-wing Democrats for Strong Bulgaria party (DSB). DSB entered a coalition with the Bulgarian Democratic Forum ahead of the upcoming May 12 early general elections.
Mr. Kostov, what is your prediction for the right-wing parties in the elections?
There are no right-wing parties in Bulgaria, except Democrats for strong Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Democratic Forum. All the rest stopped being right-wingers, since they took an unauthorized left turn. They failed to hear the warnings of Margaret Thatcher that there are two ways to go in times of crisis – right-wing and wrong. A left turn in times of crisis is the wrong way. It does not matter what types of banners they have chosen for their election campaign – red, blue or brown. I said brown, since I have witnessed some Goebbels style ones.
Look at their programs and you will see the wrong left turn.
How do you assess the promises made by political parties to increase incomes and cut taxes after the elections?
During the campaign, all parties took a left turn, and making promises is a symptom of that. The truth is that the people can rescue the country from the crisis, not politicians. This is our political philosophy. That is why we do not make promises but instead offer specific solutions to problems. It is more important for us to know how to solve a problem. We do not say, "We will give you a BGN 1000 salary" because we are not sure whether this could happen.
What are the specific measures that can create new jobs in the short term?
We announced a total of 54 specific measures for increasing incomes and tackling unemployment. They are based on sound analysis, consistent with the current market situation. So far, no one has objected.
There are three main obstacles that are shrinking the market and depriving people of jobs. One of them is the unfair competition, which involves abuse of power, smuggling and gray economy. To remove this obstacle, we need a very strong state.
The second obstacle is that the central government is acting like a reincarnation of the reigning Communist administration of the past. It acts in a way that does not allow the normal conduct of business. The whole mechanism has been hijacked by politicians and the administration through public procurement deals.
Another aspect is the manipulation of EU funds resources. EU money is being distributed between a handful of tenant farmers, and not among the hardworking farmers.
The third thing is that the government collected some of the money during the crisis. A total of BGN 5 B. We suggest that the government should return some of it in order to ease the business and the people.
One of the envisioned measures is to reduce the tax for sole traders from 15% to 10%. We should redistribute the tax burden and relief those who are most vulnerable.
We should attract investors and enable small firms to receive preferential loans, especially those who want to introduce modern production technologies.
Bulgaria should have important strategic investment projects. Not the likes of the “grand slam” of (former President) Georgi Parvanov, who served foreign interests. We offer three areas in which we should seek investors.
One of them is the project to connect the "Varna West" port with a transport route to the river Danube, so that the Danube corridor could be used. This will result in a great economic activity for Bulgaria.
The second project was once launched and then abandoned – Kulata –Sofia -Vidin. It was supposed to be a high-speed road or a highway. That project would solve the problem of the poorest region in Bulgaria.
The third project is the successful use of water in Bulgaria. We proposed it some years ago, but it was not adopted. Time has proven that there is great potential in this.
Isn’t education a way to fight unemployment?
Yes, it is the other way to actively fight unemployment. We should develop skilled and competitive workers that are sought after at the market. It is not necessary for all Bulgarians to have a very high education; in the EU there is a place for everyone.
The important thing is for everyone to a profession or trade, to have developed some skills. Therefore, we need practical training. As I am touring the country, people are complaining that they have been offered incomprehensible theory instead of real practical skills. For example, plant growing.
Emphasis should be placed on the quality of secondary education. It has to become competitive, so that our children would not choose to study abroad.
Would you form a coalition with GERB, if Boyko Borisov is not the Prime Minister?
The important thing is whether there are anti-crisis measures in place, and whether someone can guarantee us that our measures will be implemented. If we do not have a guarantee, and if we do not believe that these measures will be implemented, it does not matter how the party is called.
Do you believe that the elections will be fair?
We expect heavy abuse from GERB.
How could we expect fair elections, when we have a case of politicians being wiretapped? We would appear na?ve if we believe that no manipulations will take place.
Why did the “blue” parties fail to unite?
The Union of Democratic Forces refused to unite with us, since they could not resist endorsing GERB. The Blue Unity does not want to take part in the elections. If they want to form a coalition with us, they will have to wait until May 12. It turned out that there are a lot of people who cannot defend the cause of the right-wingers. They understood that no easy solutions exist. They understood that we cannot get better in 800 days, and neither can we rely on (former PM) Boyko Borisov’s iron fist.
Borisov pretended to be right-wing, and you saw what happened. I believe that one should have an ideology.
What would be the worst-case scenario after the vote?
There isn’t a great deal of good options for after the election. The best is to implement anti-crisis measures.
The Specialized Prosecutor’s Office questioned Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergey Stanishev and former Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. Would this scandal affect the campaign and the outcome of the election?
This scandal does not affect people. It will not change the stance of those who have decided to vote or not to vote for GERB. The people’s problems are jobs and income.
The allegations were that not only politicians, but also businessmen have been wiretapped. This means that eavesdropping can be a weapon for extortion.
But people say, "We know all that." This is terribly wrong, because it means that we have got accustomed to extortion and self-censorship.
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