Bulgaria sinks under wave of pre-election scandals

Bulgaria sinks under wave of pre-election scandals

Ahead of elections on July 11, Bulgarians are confronted by alarming revelations of state capture.

Bulgarians are losing count of the scandals.

There’s a Watergate-style wiretapping scandal. There’s an agricultural tycoon accusing the government of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov of extortion. And there’s a state-owned bank providing hundreds of millions of euros to a small batch of favored companies.

The country’s dizzying daily headlines feel more like plotlines from a hit mafia series on Netflix than actual events unfolding in a European Union member country ahead of an election on July 11. 

Spring (and summer) of scandal

Since the April election, the scandals have come thick and fast. They appear to be a damning indictment of the way GERB has exercised power for years, but Borissov is shrugging them off.

In May, Atanas Atanasov, from the anti-corruption Democratic Bulgaria party, said that more than 30 opposition politicians had been wiretapped in the run-up to the April general election. While the list of politicians as well as the grounds for wiretapping are not public, caretaker Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov confirmed the claims. He went a step further and announced that even caretaker Prime Minister Yanev was among those whose phone was tapped. 

Another opposition politician suggested the wiretapping covered more than 80 people and could have started during anti-government rallies last summer. Bulgarian prosecutors are now investigating the claims. 

The accusations tap into deep fears among Bulgarians that the prosecutors, police and spy services are deeply interwoven with the political corruption.

“This is just another example of politicizing the intelligence and the law enforcement to use them as tools for repression,” Hristo Ivanov, chair of opposition party Yes, Bulgaria, told POLITICO.

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