On Sunday, Bulgaria will have a second round of presidential elections. The two competing candidates are the current President Georgi Parvanov (from the Socialist party) and Volen Siderov from the Ataka party. Their photos are shown, respectively, at http://www.parvanov.bg/eng/?go=53 for Parvanov and at http://news.bulgarianpost.com/story-read_parliamentat_sne_imuniteta_na_volen_siderov-5172.php for Siderov (the grey-haired guy in the middle).
I won't discuss Siderov now; he has been honoured by me earlier (http://mayas-corner.blogspot.com/2006/04/volen-siderov.html) and, besides, now everybody leads propaganda against him. Everybody tells us how important is not to elect Siderov and how we, the people whose views put us against Parvanov, must press our noses with two fingers and go to vote for him. Oh, really? Let's see.
I'll first translate the information about Parvanov given by Mediapool at http://www.mediapool.bg/show/?storyid=121454 and most likely originating from his official CV. It is usually said that Parvanov is a historian. His CV points exactly what kind of historian he is: "He graduates history in the Sofia St. Kliment Ohridski University, after which he becomes a PhD student at the Institute of History of Bulgarian Communist Party, affiliated to the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Until 1991 he is a research assistant in the same Institute. Since 1991 he has been Head of the Center for historic and political studies affiliated to the Supreme Council of the Bulgarian Socialist party. Since December 1996 Parvanov has been Head of the Supreme Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party..."
So you see that his "history" was not any kind of history but history of the Party. To put the matter rudely, we have no proof that Parvanov has ever in his life done any work worth 2 cents (btw this is also true for our PM Sergey Stanishev, also a Socialist).
Strangely enough, in his relatively modest career as a historian, Parvanov still managed to stain his name by tying it to the State Security - the Communist Secret Services. He was asked by the State Security people to give his expert opinion about a book devoted to Macedonian history. He wrote a text and signed it by "Gotze" (in Macedonia, men named Georgi are often informally called Gotze). This fact surfaced several months ago. Parvanov tried to vindicate himself by saying he was only giving an expert opinion, as any expert would do. However, there are at least 2 reasons not to whitewash him. First, if the State Security wanted just an expert, why didn't they summon an expert? Why did they turn to an unexperienced researcher who seems to have always been an embodiment of mediocrity? Second, more important, why didn't he sign his opinion with his real name? When in 1990 the opposition politician Peter Beron was revealed to have written reports for State Security under the pen name "Boncho", my uncle said, "Of course, nobody could refuse to testify when subpoenated by State Security. His fatal mistake was that he accepted a pen name and so entered the game. (Peter Beron was among the presidential candidates at the 1st round last Sunday. An unfortunate country, isn't it?).
According to his Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgi_Parvanov), Parvanov "is in favour of Bulgarian membership of NATO and the European Union". Yes, he is now, when the NATO membership is a fact and the EU membership is inevitable. But in the meantime, he did everything he could to prevent Bulgaria from entering these unions. Well, this was according to his views, but why is he now pretending to be more pro-Western than people like me?
But let the distant past bury its dead, while we see Parvanov's performance as President. Generally, nothing special; according to the Bulgarian constitution, the President, although elected directly by the people, has little real power. But I don't like the little things he did. He decorated with the highest-rank Bulgarian medals nasty people such as the leader of the Turkish party Ahmed Dogan, the arms dealer and former publisher of Socialist newspaper "Duma" Peter Mandjukov, Todor Zhivkov's alcoholic son in-law Ivan Slavkov (ordered out of the International Olympic Committee after BBC journalists exposed his corruption) and, most importantly, Vasil Mrachkov, who was Chief Prosecutor during Todor Zhivkov's campaign of renaming Bulgarian Turks (1984-85). Among the few important items where the President has real power is dealing with foreigners wishing to remain in Bulgaria. Parvanov uses this power to reject the right of asylum to people fleeing "friendly" dictators (I've posted about one such case at http://mayas-corner.blogspot.com/2006/05/more-about-michail-vashkevich.html); I also know about a hard-working Russian mother of two who, without claiming to be a refugee, hoped to build a new life in Bulgaria but was kicked out. Meanwhile, every time when a foreign-born gangster is shot in the street by rival gangsters, he turns out to be a naturalized Bulgarian citizen. Last, a small but telltale fact - Parvanov periodically organizes charity campaigns for children in orphanages and sick children and takes care to snach all the credit for the results, forgetting the ordinary citizens who donate small sums, literally taking them out of their mouths.
Nevertheless, now people considering themselves democrats are appealing to us to vote for Mr. Parvanov. Here comes even Hans-Gert Poettering, the Chairman of the (rightist) EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament. I haven't heard him before the first round to speak in support of the rightist candidate Nedelcho Beronov, but now he summons the rightist Bulgarian parties and their electorate to vote for a "democratic candidate, even though he is our opponent". (Remarkably, the appeal is dated Oct. 23, just a day after the 1st round, which most likely means it was prepared beforehand.)
In principle, I don't entirely reject voting for a candidate with a programme not matching my views. I have actually done this - at the 2nd round of the last municipal elections, I voted for Socialist Tatyana Doncheva in a desperate effort to prevent the dangerous populist and Neanderthalian sex symbol Boyko Borisov from becoming mayor of Sofia. However, the candidate I would vote for must be a reasonably decent person. Parvanov isn't.
The arguments of Bulgarian commentors telling us to vote for Parvanov can be summarized as follows: "If we elect Siderov, all the Europe and the world will regard us as xenophobic idiots. And besides, imagine what will happen if Siderov is elected and begins to materialize his hateful agenda!"
Well, why should we try to conceal our nature of xenophobic idiots? I am for openness. Any attempt to present ouselves as people better than we actually are can only lead to later misunderstandings. Besides, even in countries with much more powerful democratic tradition elections frequently turn into census of idiots.
As for Siderov materializing his agenda, it's impossible. You cannot set up concentration camps for Gipsies, Jews, Turks etc. in 2006. This is not Germany, 1943, this is not even Bulgaria, 1984. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, Bulgarian President is mainly a figurehead. If somebody is to set up concentration camps, this is the Prime Minister. Check the Constitution. So Siderov is just a scarecrow.
Somebody might say, "But your call to neglect the danger to minorities is a bit dishonest, after you are not a minority member."
Here I have a counter-argument I deliberately left last, the cherry on the cake. Why do you think that Parvanov is better? Siderov offers much xenophobic talk, but as far as I know, he has never supported an actual genocide, while Parvanov openly supported the "Butcher of the Balkans" Milosevic. As late as 1999, he sent to Milosevic an encouraging letter. So we have all the reasons to believe that if creating concentration camps (or any other form of genocide) becomes practically possible and socially acceptable, Parvanov would go ahead with it.
At the 1st round of any elections, there is always if not a good candidate, then one who can be regarded as lesser evil. At the 2nd round, there often isn't. So I won't vote on Sunday and recommend the same to everybody. Let the idiots elect the idiot they prefer.