THE ELECTION OF NEW CEM MEMBERS: CALCULATIONS SWALLOWED THE PRINCIPLES
The leaders of the Confederation of Independent Trade-Unions in Bulgaria (KNSB) proposed last week that the writer Ilya Velchev become member of the Council for Electronic Media (CEM). In an open letter to the President Georgi Parvanov, the Chairman of the National Assembly Georgi Pirinski, the Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev and the chairmen of parliamentary groups in the 40th National Assembly, the trade-union leader Zhelyazko Hristov admitted that the law did not give the trade-union a right to nominate, but all citizens of this country have a right to freedom of information. KNSB's proposal added, there are already four nominations. The group also includes Georgi Lozanov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Media Coalition, nominated by the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria, the journalist Todor Tokin nominated by Ataka, and the ad expert Ivaylo Malinov proposed by the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII). However, the MPs were again unable to decide about who should replace Margarita Pesheva who fell off in November. She was then accompanied by Toma Ivanov and Yuliana Toncheva whom the head of state should replace with two new representatives when the MPs get ready.
Paradoxical as it may sound, reaching an agreement on who will be the CEM new member from the Parliament's quota already seems even harder than electing the politically supported chief prosecutor candidate (ironically, Ilya Velchev is the uncle of Boris Velchev who was appointed to the post). Nearly two months after the rotation became true and Margarita Pesheva quit, the ruling coalition in Parliament is unable to choose her successor. The initial deadline set by the MPs expired in the beginning of December. Then it was extended by a few days. The procedure repeated several times. Finally, the MPs stopped making proposals and simply said the election would be made personally by the leaders of the coalition. The latest rumours spread that this is about to happen in the beginning of next week.
The task of the leaders does not seem an easy one, though. Currently, CEM has six people who should stay on their posts during the entire year. Four of them entered the council when it was established in November 2001. Stoyan Ganev who was later eliminated from the political life used to take care of the NMSII deeds at that time. Obviously, the only one of the four who enjoys the rulers' benevolence is the Chairman Raicho Raykov. After the first rotation took him out of the council, he returned in 2003. It is known that his return was arranged by the Movement for Rights and Freedom (MRF). He joined the council along with the legal expert Rayna Nikolova (proposed by NMSII), when President Georgi Parvanov replaced Georgi Lozanov with the writer Marko Semov. Simple calculations and the knowledge of political tempers show that these three of all the six council members may be considered loyal to the ruling majority. There is one member for each of the political forces - Raykov for MRF, Nikolova for NMSII, and Semov for the President and BSP. The other obvious thing is that the fight is now concentrated on which party will put its representative in CEM. If it is the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), it will have four votes in the future full list of council members - the new one from the parliamentary quota and Parvanov's three men. The number will be of extreme importance for the competitions that are to take place in the second half of 2006 for new radio and broadcast televisions. If things go this way, when the competitions begin it will be sufficient for BSP to simply pick a piece of the frequency cake and flick it to one of its coalition partners - MRF or NMSII, in order to get five of the nine votes in CEM it needs and give licences to the companies it has chosen to support.
The calculation gets much more complicated if the post is to be taken by someone supported by NMSII. Maybe we should note here that during a visit of Bulgaria's former prime minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in Italy his good friend and also leader of the local majority Silvio Berlusconi demonstrated extreme knowledge and interest in the Bulgarian media market. However, his knowledge of how things go on in Bulgaria is perhaps less enjoyed by the businessman Petar Mandzhoukov who owns Duma newspaper and BBT cable television and is close to BSP and President Parvanov. As CEM announced last week, he already submitted application for taking part in a competition for the fourth national television and for regional frequencies in 30 Bulgarian towns. Mandzhoukov certainly has reasons to worry because probably the friendly talk between Berlusconi and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha has been followed by others. Other people may have sought the NMSII leader, too. Undoubtedly, MRF also has some ideas about how the remaining part of the radio and TV spectrum should be divided. That is logical, as competitions will be held in several regions with prevailing Turkish population by the end of the year.
Apart from NMSII and maybe MRF, the socialist party is also said to cause troubles to its leader Sergey Stanishev. There he has to manoeuver between two central media figures - Ivo Atanassov, Chairman of the Commission for Civil Society and Media, and Iliyana Yotova, his colleague there. There are no official announcements of collisions between the two, but still there are doubts. This can explain why they are competing to announce that the names spread by the press are not the party's real candidatures. As Ilya Velchev was nominated last week, it is believed that Atanassov has decided to show him out with a strong nomination and attack until the National Assembly finally elects the long-awaited new member of CEM.