In Bulgaria, parties serious about fighting corruption now rule alongside parties from the corrupt old regime. This cost the creators a lot of sympathy. But perhaps this is the best way for a country to function better. Because eliminating corruption often goes wrong if it is too comprehensive.
If bribery is part of everyday life, then everything goes worse without bribery. Example of building permits: If you give money to an official, it will come faster and the official will earn more. The building owner and officials benefit from it. If this type of bribery is no longer possible, they will both lose in the short term.
Kirill Petkov’s fruitless struggle
There are a few in Bulgarian politics who are trying to rid the country of corruption. And many who do not want to change anything. Boyko Borisov represents those many who do not want to change anything. He has been head of government in Bulgaria for many years, and still receives the most votes in almost all elections – despite the scandals surrounding him.
Kirill Petkov represents the few who want to change something in Bulgaria. He was also Prime Minister of Bulgaria for a few months last year. He studied at one of the elite universities in the United States of America. He promised to put an end to corruption. As head of government, Petkov wanted to turn things around quickly. Maybe too much, too fast. For many people, everyday life has become more difficult – Kirill Petkov’s fight against corruption has angered many people. A few months later, entrenched politicians in Parliament overthrew his government.
Innovators choose new paths
But now the unthinkable has happened: Kirill Petkov’s party, the innovator, is ruling alongside Boyko Borissov’s party, which represents the old, corruption-riddled order. Neither party had enough votes to govern alone. Voters believe that the creatives now turn a blind eye to corruption and have become part of the old system.
But what recently happened in Bulgaria suggests the opposite: government ingenuity has succeeded in preventing billions allocated for road maintenance from reaching the usual suspects through rigged tenders. They made sure that the Bulgarian government developed a plan for the future of coal mines and power plants. They were able to close the tax loopholes, so that in the last two months the Bulgarian state collected one billion francs more than it spent.
Examples show that creative people might achieve more under a corrupt system if they joined the old rulers. Even if the country is still full of corruption. Even if reformers sometimes have to act like a fig leaf, it is possible to take small steps for the better.
Eastern European correspondent
Sarah Novotny is SRF’s Eastern Europe correspondent. She lives in the Polish capital, Warsaw. Nowotny has been working at SRF Radio since 2014. She previously worked on “NZZ am Sonntag” and “Der Bund”.
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