Maxim Behar: There is always someone to vote for in any elections

Maxim Behar: There is always someone to vote for in any elections

Host: Hello again! It's exactly 25 minutes until 10 A.M. You are watching Euronews Bulgaria TV and the special election panel "Your Choice." Let me introduce our next guests – Professor Ivanka Mavrodieva, a lecturer in rhetoric and communications at Sofia University, and PR expert Maxim Behar. Hello and welcome!

Maxim Behar: Good morning!

Host: Did you vote, and do you think people will make the effort to go to the polls today?

Maxim: I will never agree with people who say there is no one to vote for. For the first time in 30 years, I see an extraordinary array of representatives from various political movements, associations, and parties – uneducated and very intelligent from far left to far right. Therefore, there is something for everyone to vote for. The concept mentioned in this studio just a few minutes ago - voting even for the lesser evil - seems perverse. We won't vote for something evil, lesser or greater. We will vote for the candidates we like or whom we believe. In this political palette, there is no way not to find a single person or political force you can choose or sympathize with. If that is the case – the fault lies with the person who suddenly sees everything in black. The pre-election campaign was highly negative, and that was a big disappointment for me. Those political forces and "leaders" who wanted to attract attention did so at the expense of their opponents.

Host: Doesn't this work effectively in our region?

Professor Ivanka Mavrodieva: Black PR or argumentum ad hominem (argument against the person) works or, in other words – airing dirty laundry, fake news, exaggeration of the negative, or belittling the achievements of the previous governments. Every campaign includes such negativity. But when it is overexposed or predominant, and politicians continuously attack each other in TikTok with parodies, paraphrases, software, and caricature elements, this has a momentary impact but does not form a lasting support for anyone. Mr. Behar knows best from his online communication research that the power of Facebook as a mainstream media is disappearing. The power of Facebook groups is not the same as it was. Echo chambers, self-limitation, and information bubbles of the more extreme voters are dominating nowadays. At the same time, I agree with Mr. Behar – an extensive range and many new political forces – green, social, orienting, and repositioning.

Host: Have you noticed that there are loud phrases and words with different meanings at the level of party names and coalitions? For example, the parties use words like "strength" as abbreviations.

Ivanka: Sword, strength, parallel, calm, peaceful, secure, guaranteed – all this sounds good as rhetoric and slogans, but some were purely hollow. The campaign included billboards and information with no slogan at all. Some personas, who are considered recognizable, are positioned as personal political brands.

Maxim: All these elements aim to fill another helplessness – the lack of messages, economic plans, strategy, and, most importantly – charisma. People are often influenced by charisma, and the world is full of leaders who smile and have wonderful messages. That's why we have all these parties with names like sword, fight, punch, and whatnot. But it is a good thing, and I think they need to exist so we can have our choice. I am surprised by the enormous amount of money spent on billboards and outdoor advertising. I would never do it.

Host: Doesn't this work?

Maxim: In my opinion, it doesn't work at all. This is also a manifestation of some complex issues that show that they have resources. We see pictures, the party name, with a poorly thought-out slogan here and there.

Host: I would like to take advantage of your expertise, especially your interest in PR, messages, and social media. How would you comment on what happened yesterday in the official profile of Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, his photos after the diving action, and the comparisons and memes that this provoked?

Maxim: Why shouldn't a person post a sports photo? I see nothing wrong with that. He wants to show that he is manly and an athlete.

Host: Why exactly on the day of reflection?

Maxim: That's how it happened – to find this diving park or whatever it was. I don't see any political subtext here. We can make a comparison with the series of photos of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin as he comes out of the icy waters and goes in. However, I wouldn't pay attention to this photo at all. Let everyone dress and show themselves as they want. What matters is the work he does and the messages he sends. I would expect more positivity from the presidential institution and the ability to unite different political parties and groups. It would be great if it could use its influence to ensure a regular and long-term government after today. I have absolutely no remarks about the photos he wants to publish.

Host: We were talking about the European Parliament and the whole campaign around the local conflicts. Did they largely drown the importance and remove the significance of the European Parliament votes? Today, 87% of all Europeans decide what the next European parliament will be.

Maxim: The European elections were totally blurred by being combined with the parliamentary ones. This also happened in Belgium, where elections are 3 in 1 today. But it's not that important because when we vote for Bulgarian representatives in the European Parliament, we also make our choice for local politics. More importantly, the practice of a single candidate running for many places and going wherever he is elected must stop. The law should be changed so a candidate can only run for one place. And then, it will be very clear what and how he wants to achieve it and his messages, especially on a local level. We will see what happens with the European Parliament. What the candidates have done until today, June 9, that's it. Now, we must focus on what will happen from June 10 onwards.

Host: Do you have any predictions about what will happen?

Maxim: There are two options. Those who lose the elections must follow the Dalai Lama's maxim that when you lose, don't lose the lesson, and learn from it. And those who win and enter parliament must think very clearly that there are urgent priorities for Bulgaria. As we all know, the first is the Eurozone, the second is full Schengen membership, and the third is a new economic policy to stop inflation. The last two years in Bulgaria were complete chaos regarding finance and controlling inflation. Different VAT rates did not affect the constantly increasing prices at all. I wish one day, Bulgaria had a conservative economist who could explain and clarify to our politicians how to follow a very clear and strict financial policy so that our economy could develop better.

Host: Thank you both!


Watch the full interview here.