Bulgarian TV presenter Slavi Trifonov broadcasts special statement on television | Photo: VASSIL DONEV / Agência EFE / Gazeta do Povo

Several names considered to be “outsiders” of politics have been elected in several countries in recent years. The comparison, as a rule, has always been made with Donald Trump, a businessman and extremely high profile man who, like a meteor, has become president of the richest and most militarily powerful country in the world. Sometimes the comparison didn’t make much sense, other times it had more to do with the method. In the case of Bulgaria and its likely new prime minister, the comparison is quite appropriate.

Slavi Trifonov is 54 years old and was born in the historic town of Pleven. In the north of the country, the city was the scene of a major battle between Russians and Ottomans in 1877. The Russian victory influenced both the independence of Bulgaria and neighboring Romania. In the 1980s, Trifonov studied music and graduated from the National Academy in Sofia, the main music conservatory in the country. His studies, and part of his career as a musician, focused on Bulgarian folklore, but it was in pop-rock that he found himself.

Celebrity

For thirty years, Trifonov has been a key figure in Bulgarian radio and television. His group, Ku-Ku, was very popular from the early 1990s to the 2000s, and he appeared on several music-themed reality shows, some of the same franchises that air on Brazilian television. On November 27, 2000, Slavi’s Show debuted, in the usual talk show format, with interviews, musical paintings, jokes and monologues. The program spanned nineteen years and over four thousand different views in prime time.

Of course, you have to put things in perspective. Donald Trump is a global media figure, but at home, Trifonov reigned supreme. After studying his figure, it is discovered that he holds the record for audiences on Bulgarian television outside of live journalism or football. Almost three million people have watched one of its shows. The number seems small, until one remembers that the Bulgarian population hardly exceeds seven million. Something like half of the country’s adult population was listening.

And his talk show didn’t end after nineteen, he just “grew up.” In 2019, Trifonov started his own channel, 7/8 TV, and produces some of Bulgaria’s most popular programs. The same year, and it is perhaps no coincidence, he founded his political party, which has an official voice in the network. Baptized “There is such a people”, it is referenced by the acronym ITN. The name of the party, even, is the name of one of the albums of his musical career. The heavyweight of media and pop culture was now entering politics.

The party is marked by the idea of ​​”against all that is there”, like many so called outsiders, but it is not amorphous like other similar phenomena. It has objective orientations and is written into the statutes. Transition from the current system of proportional representation to a constituency system in national elections; halve the National Assembly; start of the implementation of electronic administration, with remote and direct votes for certain positions; compulsory voting; greater integration into the European Union; and finally, to expand the state social security system.

In the April elections, which did not result in the formation of a government, Trifonov and the ITN won 17.3% of the vote and 51 of the 240 seats in parliament. In the elections of Sunday, June 11, they rose to 23.7% of the vote and now have 65 seats. More than that, the ITN became the largest party in parliament, and Trifonov won the right to form a government first. And now it’s time for the media big boss to show if he can survive and swim among the sharks.

government formation

Even if it was the most voted, the ITN is far from being majority. It was also not so far ahead of the second Gerb, the largest party on the Bulgarian right. Formed as a successor to the party of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who was tsar in his childhood and prime minister from 2001 to 2005, the party is controlled by Boyko Borisov. He is the big name in Bulgarian politics of the 21st century. He was mayor of Sofia from 2005 to 2009, when he became Prime Minister, a post he holds almost continuously to this day, with the exception of a few months of elections and government formation.

Borisov is accused of extending his influence to all spheres of Bulgarian life. Corruption is said to be what keeps him in power, including links to mafia organizations that act as “electoral militias”. In July 2020, then President Roumen Radev, in a speech rich in detours, even called for the expulsion of the mafia from inside the government. It became a party, translated something like “Get up!” Out, mafia! ”, Formed in the context of the protests of that year. The party has now won thirteen seats.

Gerb and Borisov ended up with 63 seats, the second bench. They lost twelve, but he still has great political influence in the country. And Trifonov, in his policy of “regenerating politics”, has already rejected coalitions with mainstream parties. Besides the Gerb, the Socialists on the left had 36 seats, and the center-liberal had 29 seats. The “Dehors, mafia” and the coalition of the Bulgaria Democratic Party, formed by the Greens and the pro-European movements, remain possibilities. Even so, he would not have a majority.

Knowing this, Trifonov has announced that he is authorizing the assumption of office with a minority government. He will neither join traditional parties nor form a coalition with anti-corruption flag parties. A fragile solution that can be overturned by a simple vote of no confidence articulated by the other parties. And this is perhaps the bet that Trifonov wants to make with a minority government. Get ousted by the establishment, present yourself as an honest persecuted, and expand your constituency.

There would be no shortage of new voters for him, even, since only 40% of voters went to the polls. Trifonov’s dream would be to achieve what Nayib Bukele achieved in El Salvador, a large government majority in the legislature. For him to achieve this goal, it will first depend on his ability to survive among sharks. If you won’t be devoured, if you are incompetent, or even if you won’t become one of the schools of fish that just want your bite to eat.