© Georgi Kozhuharov
Anton Hekimyan announced that he received an offer to be GERB’s candidate for mayor of Sofia from party chairman Boyko Borisov a week ago
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Surprising for the party members, but promising for the results – this is how representatives of GERB summarize the nomination of journalist Anton Hekimyan as a candidate for mayor of Sofia. According to them, yesterday’s director of “News, Current Affairs and Sports” and a long-time TV personality will be counted on to attract voters from the wide periphery of the party. And also to be recognized by the people of Sofia with patriotic attitudes, which could be decisive in a runoff.
According to unofficial information of “Dnevnik”, the nomination was nominated personally by the party leader Boyko Borisov. The decision came at the last moment – a day before the deadline for registration, despite Borisov’s numerous requests in recent months that different profile and competing nominations are being discussed. Thus, after nearly 18 years of rule in the capital, GERB bet on the mayoral race on popularity, instead of expertise, in order to overtake its main opponent – “We continue the change – Democratic Bulgaria”.
The promotion of the former TV presenter from GERB caused many reactions, including political ones, for the relations between BTV and Borisov’s party, as well as for the media – power relations in general. The topic will most likely be part of the election campaign starting in just two days. This promises high political tension in Sofia, as Hekimyan’s competitor – Vasil Terziev (“We continue the change – Democratic Bulgaria”) continues to answer questions about the past of his loved ones, related to the repressive communist State Security.
Thus, the key to the final outcome may be whether the two will even get to a debate about specific problems of the capital and their possible solutions, or whether the partners in the national-level governance will try to extract party dividends by aggressively opposing a common principle. The chosen strategy and the reaction of the voters will probably have an impact on the results of some of the other mayoral candidates – Vanya Grigorova (“The Left”), Deyan Nikolov (“Vazrazhdane”), Ivaylo Valchev (“There is such a people”) and Vili Lilkov ( “Blue Sofia”).
To choose “The Bachelor”
It has been unofficially commented in the media circles that Hekimyan’s positions at BTV, where he took over a key directorial position about three years ago, were shaken due to insufficiently high ratings, with the exception of the show “The Bachelor”. Probably precisely because of the viewership of the show, there were such parallels on the sidelines of the National Assembly among GERB representatives:
“If someone nominated The Bachelor, do you know what vote they would get?”
Behind this jocular (for now) wording, several representatives of Boyko Borisov’s party explained to “Dnevnik” unofficially that they see the modern trend: that popularity prevails over institutional, administrative, political experience.
The journalist who passed through the other side: Who is Anton Hekimyan, the candidate for mayor of Sofia from GERB
The popularity of 39-year-old Anton Hekimyan is also considered important because the candidate does not yet have time to gain recognition. According to representatives of GERB, the journalist has another plus – he is an external figure for the party and cannot be directly linked to the negatives of GERB’s management in Sofia, on which part of Vasil Terziev’s campaign is focused. At the same time, as a new person in politics, he can lead a positive campaign, relying on his media image.
Hekimyan also leads the list of municipal councilors of GERB, which, apart from a possible expected stronger effect on its result, means that he has a guaranteed new job after the elections.
Who (doesn’t) like ice dancing
If there is a runoff after October 29, Borisov’s party is counting on Anton Hekimyan “citizens will recognize themselves” and that he will also attract the votes of the patriotic.
The journalist gained popularity with his regular participation in the so-called ice dance in Kalofer for Yordanov Day, as well as with his loud opposition eight years ago against the dropping of the song “Davash li davash, Balkanji Iovo” from the literature curriculum.
The sympathy of voters who would support him because of his views could prove important in reaching a runoff, election observers said. At the previous vote in the capital, the candidates of the pro-nationalist formations VMRO, “Ataka” and “Vazrazhdane” won over 25 thousand votes in the first round. Now the challenger of “Vazrazhdane” seems to have the most chances for a good performance, but VMRO also has a candidate. The votes of their supporters could prove decisive in a runoff.
GERB will rely on Hekimyan to make up for the votes the party lost in Sofia in the series of early parliamentary elections over the past two years. In April of this year, “We continue the change – Democratic Bulgaria” was the first political force in the capital, beating its opponent by over 70 thousand votes.
For now, sociologists are cautious in their predictions about how many residents of the capital will go to the polling stations on October 29, but in the previous vote (in 2019) the mayor’s post was “worth” GERB nearly 210 thousand votes – with that many Yordanka Fandakova won the seat in the second round with a voter turnout of 40 percent. In the first round, just over 160,000 people voted for her against 123,000 for Maya Manolova, who ran for a runoff against the incumbent mayor.
Already in mid-August, the previous mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova, stated in an interview for BTV that the nomination meetings of the GERB for Sofia had ended. In mid-September, the party announced that the leadership – the Executive Committee – had approved candidates for mayors and municipal councilors. However, only the candidates for regional mayors were officially presented.
The profile of the candidate for mayor of the capital initially – just two weeks ago – included: prepared, understanding of politics, “not an experiment”. From today’s point of view, unofficial party representatives point out that the move with Hekimyan is actually an experiment. The chronology of events also showed that the decision was made at the last moment:
On September 21, Boyko Borisov stated that his decision to be a candidate for mayor of Sofia was non-standard. On September 23, BTV and Anton Hekimyan announced that he was leaving the media and taking a different professional direction. On September 25, Hekimyan confirmed that Borisov personally got a meeting invitation about a week ago
The deputy chairman of the party, Tomislav Donchev, also showed in a public statement that the decision for Hekimyan was not due to a preponderance of the votes of the party structures, but due to the wishes of Boyko Borisov: “We have a number of cadres of the party who deserved growth, a chance. But we decided the election race to escape the traditional political opposition. […] Whether this was the will of Mr. Borisov – undoubtedly, he is the chairman of the party”.
Explanations without explanation
On Monday (September 25), neither GERB nor Anton Hekimyan gave a convincing explanation of how a director in a leading media in a few days becomes a candidate of political power for the most politically and economically significant city in the country.
First, the until recently head of BTV avoided questions about his connection with GERB and his acquaintance with Borisov, by asking for a definition of “close relations” in response to a question from “Dnevnik”. The current chairman of the Metropolitan Municipal Council (SOC) and until recently one of the candidates for mayor, Georgi Georgiev, described Hekimyan as “the best critic” of GERB. He was complemented by Tomislav Donchev, who called him “very critical and sharp” towards the party that has ruled the country for more than a decade.
The opposition suddenly saw the connections between the media and politics because of GERB’s candidacy for mayor of the capital
Despite this protection, Hekimyan’s candidacy was sharply criticized by the opposition in the parliament, where he was even called a “mole” of GERB in one of the biggest media. BBC was also put in a difficult situation and declared that it would make extra efforts to prove its objectivity.
BBC is taking measures to ensure its objectivity after the nomination of Hekimyan for mayor