Published by Wikileaks & Bivol.bg
date: 10/22/2008 7:18 refid: 08SOFIA672 origin: Embassy Sofia classification: CONFIDENTIAL destination:  header: VZCZCXRO1035 RR RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHSF #0672/01 2960718 ZNY CCCCC ZZH R 220718Z OCT 08 FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5469 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 000672    SIPDIS    E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/22/2018  TAGS: PGOV, BU  SUBJECT: BULGARIA'S NEXT PRIME MINISTER    Classified By: Ambassador Nancy McEldowney for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).    1.  (C)  SUMMARY:  The odds-on favorite to become Bulgaria's  next Prime Minister is Sofia Mayor Boyko Borissov.  A rough  hewn and volatile figure with rumored links to organized  crime, Borissov exploits the electorate's yearning for a  dominant leader to reverse the perceived failures of current  PM Stanishev and his gridlocked three-party coalition.  Touting his lack of sophistication as a badge of honor,  Borissov is the most cunning and charismatic player of the  day.  He is explicitly cultivating U.S. and European approval  to bolster his legitimacy.  Using this to our advantage, we  can push him and his GERB party into more responsible  positions as next year's elections approach.  END SUMMARY.      2.  (C)  Though elections are still as many as nine months  out, Sofia Mayor Borissov is the man to beat.  A political  headliner, he outpaces PM Stanishev by over 30 points, vying  with President Parvanov in popularity.  Borissov's charisma,  prominent (and usually favorable) media treatment, and the  discredited state of rival leaders (and their parties) propel  his two-year old GERB party.  Despite self-styled claims that  it is Bulgaria's "new center-right," GERB's appeal flows from  Borissov's  larger-than-life personality and his populist bent.  He  attracts disenchanted  and alienated voters from both the left and right, as well as  huge swaths of the protest vote against the unpopular  Socialist-led coalition.    Raw Political Force  -------------------    3.  (C)  A canny political operator, Borissov is smart and  savvy even if relatively unsophisticated.  More comfortable  on the Bulgarian than the world stage, he is no novice at  playing on larger arenas.  He fully understands power -- real  and symbolic -- and how to hold and exercise it.  Underestimating his political talent or drive is a costly  mistake for his rivals and opponents.  Called a "raw  political force," with emphasis on all three words, he is an  instinctual decision maker.  As a political operator, he is  more tactician and inside player than strategist.  At times  mercurial, he can be (according to our GERB contacts)  "impatient" and "change his  mind every day"  even when being completely focused on  clearly defined goals.  Borissov has a tainted past --  personal  ties to 1990s mafia leaders -- but denies any involvement  in crime.  During his Secretary General tenure at the MOI, he  personally led raids against drug dealers, but there  were no busts of any major OC figures.  As elections near,  questions about his past are likely to increase, especially  from the desperate Socialists who plan to mount a negative  campaign to cast the election as a "referendum on  Borissov."    Springboard Sofia  -----------------    4.  (C)  Borissov touts U.S. and European ties whenever  possible, including his support from the center-right  Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Hanns Seidel Foundation,  the Robert Schumann Foundation, and his personal  relationship with Angela Merkel and the European People's  Party.  In his initial meeting with the Ambassador, he  stressed  Bulgarians are not used to taking decisions on their own  and need Washington and Brussels to "tell the PM what needs  to be done."  He added that when GERB wins, he plans to have  a foreign  expert in each ministry to support and monitor its work.  A  directive not collaborative leader, Borissov would dominate  whatever cabinet he chooses.    5.  (C)  We have consistently urged Borissov to develop teams  to  elaborate policy on key issues, such as national security,  energy security, and rule of law, and to identify and groom  candidates for senior and mid-level government positions.  We  doubt the planning process has gone much further than making  lists and some initial contacts, but preliminary soundings  hold some promise.  Borissov and nominal party head Tsvetan Tsvetanov shared  names of potential future ministers in a GERB-led  government, including some non-GERB choices; some hold  promise.  GERB has  already floated the Finance Ministry to World Bank Director  Kristalina Georgieva and the MFA to GERB European Parliament  Deputy  Roumyana Zheleva.  Borissov is a master of misdirection and  false leads, at times hinting he may not take the Prime    SOFIA 00000672  002 OF 002      Minister's position but offer it to someone else.  This helps  fuel speculation that he has the Presidency in mind, a  calculated ploy to boost his image as a national unifier.      Wild Cards: Russia, Ataka  -------------------------    6.  (C)  Despite his pro-European talk, insiders believe  Borissov is a "wild card" when it comes to Russia.  He is  close to Lukoil regional  head Valentin Zlatev, rumored to support GERB with  cash.  (Hedging bets, Slatev is also a big BSP money patron).   Borissov keeps a wary eye on electoral dynamics.  A GERB  survey shows that 64 percent of likely GERB voters and 67  percent of Bulgarians in general favor close ties with  Russia.  With an alienated, angry electorate, GERB looks to  minimize defections to radical fringes, especially Ataka.  Based on the survey, Borissov reportedly told his team that  he would make pro-Russian statements from "time to time"  and stay away from the Russia vs. NATO debate to keep his  electorate happy.    7.  (C)  Borissov may be prepared to tack away from  center-right positions under certain circumstances.  For  example, GERB has flirted with Ataka, conducting some joint  actions with them and (sometimes) speaking well of their  leader Volen  Siderov.  He assures us he is doing so only to keep up his  populist credentials and would never form a coalition with  them, in fact, would go into opposition before doing so.  But, if GERB faced the prospect of needing a coalition with  the BSP or ethnically Turkish MRF, odds are Borissov would  manipulate all parties to drive the best bargain.    8.  (C)  The one constant in Borissov is his need for foreign  validation.  He looks to the U.S. for much of that,  showcasing his relations with U.S. politicians and law  enforcement officials.  The likely victory of his  personality-based party in the next general elections  illustrates  Bulgaria's continued political immaturity, as many  still believe in a savior who will quickly resolve  problems.  Borissov's need for our blessing and oversized  ego are powerful tools we can use to steer him toward  becoming an effective national leader.  Leveraging his pride  and  need for legitimacy, we can nudge him and his party toward  a modern political formation that naturally looks to the U.S.  as a genuine partner.  But in any case, if Borissov wins, it  will be quite a ride.  McEldowney 

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