President Purvanov – that Dorian Grey of world statesmen – has delivered a veiled rebuke to his arch rival, every Bulgarian’s fantasy-drinking-companion, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
In an address to a local government conference in Albena, Purvanov has said that ordinary Bulgarians have no need of “police serials”. They need calm and reassuring government.
What he means is that Boyko Borisov and his morose looking Home Secretary should draw back from their sensational highly publicised but so far ineffective campaigns against organised crime and concentrate on the task of making Bulgarians feel better about themselves. Why should ordinary Bulgarians be concerned by extortion in high places when health and education systems seem to be going to hell. As many of the Mayors in his audience may have been feeling the heat of criminal investigation, I’m sure the applause was hearty.
Some might say this is rich coming from the svelte sophisticated President who has not escaped accusations of corrupt business links over his long reign. Now nearing the end of a second mandate he has worked alongside three improbable Prime Ministers – the barely articulate ex-Tsar Simeon Saxekoburgotsky, the anally retentive pursed lipped Socialist Sergei Stanishev, and now the absurdly populist Boyko Borisov.
In the first months of Boyko Borisov’s government, not a day passed without headlines reporting arrests of significant criminal gangs along with corrupt high ranking civil servants, magistrates, police and customs officers. The most trumpeted arrests were those of the chief of the National Security Agency and of a band of kidnappers known as “the Blackguards”. Meanwhile highly publicised trials of colourfully named gangsters were roared on from the sidelines.
A year on and as Boyko takes time out to be filmed lumbering around the football field with his role model, former football star and greatest living Bulgarian, Hristo Stoichkov, it is left to his the sad-faced balding Home Secretary to comment on the fact that hardly any of the previous year’s spectacular arrests have led to satisfactory prosecutions and sentences.
Lumbering police investigations, incompetent prosecutors, compromised evidence, shaky witnesses and sharp defense lawyers have been key factors in court’s decisions to release suspects on bail pending limitless delays of legal process. Home Secretary Tsvetanov accuses the courts of being in league with organized crime. The Judges in turn fault Tsvetanov’s lack of manners. The vulgar Bulgar has not understood the necessary constitutional separation of Administration and Judiciary. They parrot the textbook constitutional rights of any advanced civil society – just because the whole nation fervently believes the accused are guilty, these wealthy powerful men and women should still have the right to obfuscate and delay, to plead illness and enjoy the comforts of home, in the hopes of eventually establishing their innocence – or at the least the state’s inability to prove their guilt.
Purvanov’s judgement that the Bulgarian people have no need of such “police serials” is yet another attempt by the fastidious aristocratic Socialist to gain the moral high ground over the right wing bull in a china shop/man of the people.
Police serials take two forms. They either reassure a trusting public that however dastardly the criminal, the forces of law and order will always win and so justice will prevail. Or (like the successful American series The Wire)they flatter a skeptical audience by demonstrating the complex Dickensian links between criminal gangs and powerful social structures. In either event, police serials are entertaining and satisfying fictions that bear some relation to real life.
The problem for the Bulgarian public and its self elected spokesmen, is that Borisov’s police series are far from satisfying. In a recent article, Martin Karbovski describes the thin layer of mire that sticks to all aspects of Bulgarian life. Ageing Bulgarians are encouraged to believe that this mire is not so bad. Bulgaria is not Greece or Sicily. But according to Karbovski, the inability of government and judiciary to deal with this mire promotes a feeling of hopelessness in the young and accounts for their mass migration to the west.
Meanwhile Boyko Borisov picks up a tennis racquet. His press people are showing that he is at least trying to bring criminals to justice. Is that superstar Pironkova around? Fetch up the cameras! Anyone for tennis?