May 24, 2021 - World

Watergate-style scandal rocks Bulgaria ahead of election

Former prime minister Boyko Borissov. Photo: Olivier Matthys/POOL/AFP via Getty

Bulgaria's National Security and Technical Operations agencies eavesdropped on opposition politicians in the run-up to last month's parliamentary elections, caretaker Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said on Friday.

Why it matters: Rashkov was echoing echoing claims from a leading opposition politician, who said 32 politicians from three parties had been wiretapped. All three parties are opponents of the long-term ruling party, GERB, and former prime minister Boyko Borissov, who dominated Bulgarian politics for the past decade.

  • It is not clear which politicians were wiretapped, or on what grounds. Prosecutors are currently looking into the eavesdropping claims.
  • Rashkov warned of a potential cover-up, saying he'd been told that materials were being destroyed at the State Agency for National Security.

The state of play: Borissov stepped down after GERB failed to win a majority in the elections and none of the other parties were willing to join it in a coalition.

  • On May 12, President Rumen Radev appointed a caretaker cabinet to lead the country until the new poll in July.  
  • Radev has been critical of Borissov and supported the protest movement last year that accused the government of having mafia ties and refusing to fight corruption or reform the judicial system.

The caretaker government made significant changes in its first week.

  • The new cabinet adopted a decision relieving all regional governors of their posts and appointing replacements. Government spokesperson Anton Kutev said the move was "intended to guarantee fair elections and to reduce vote buying.”
  • The general secretary of the Interior Ministry, Ivaylo Ivanov, was also fired over his handling of police violence during the anti-government protests last year.

What's next: GERB led narrowly with 23% in a poll published two days ago by Gallup International, down from 26% in the April elections.

  • Running second with 20% is the “There is Such a Nation" party, led by TV host Slavi Trifonov.

The bottom line: Radev has warned that with another inconclusive vote in July Bulgaria would risk a “political and constitutional crisis.”

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