Pulse.ng logo
Go

In Bulgaria Boyko Borisov: Knockout for black-belt PM

"I apologise to those who supported us. I thought I was doing the right thing," the straight-talking premier said Sunday evening.

  • Published:
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announces his resignation on November 13, 2016 in Sofia play

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announces his resignation on November 13, 2016 in Sofia

(AFP)

The resignation of Bulgaria's charismatic Prime Minister Boyko Borisov -- holder of a black belt in karate -- comes as a self-inflicted knockout.

The burly bruiser had vowed to quit if his presidential nominee Tsetska Tsacheva lost Sunday's election. Tsacheva not only lost, but appears to have been dealt a crushing defeat by Moscow-friendly general Rumen Radev, backed by the Socialist opposition.

"I apologise to those who supported us. I thought I was doing the right thing," the straight-talking premier said Sunday evening.

"I'm a sportsman and I know how to win and lose."

The defeat dealt an unexpected blow to the popular leader who is the only prime minister in post-communist Bulgaria to win re-election twice.

Until recently, his down-to-earth manner helped keep his approval ratings extremely high, a feat unmatched by any other Bulgarian politician.

The divorced father-of-one appears equally at ease shaking hands with the crowds and kissing German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the cheeks.

"Boyko Borisov incarnates the triumph of popular taste," political observer Nikolay Mihailov said last year of the passionate football player.

But public dissatisfaction over rampant corruption and poverty have seen Borisov's popularity wane.

"He won people over by the fact that he talked just like them -- with the ordinary, plain language that they used," a taxi driver who chose to remain anonymous told AFP on Sunday.

"But then he lost them because he also talked like someone who has been god-chosen. Ordinary people hate that."

'Mafia' rumours

The son of a police officer and a teacher, Borisov set up his own security company in 1991, after graduating from a police academy in Sofia and working as a firefighter.

Bulgarian presidential candidate for GERB party Tsetska Tsacheva (R) and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov hold a news conference in Sofia on November 13, 2016 play

Bulgarian presidential candidate for GERB party Tsetska Tsacheva (R) and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov hold a news conference in Sofia on November 13, 2016

(AFP)

His clients included Bulgaria's ex-communist dictator Todor Zhivkov who had been ousted in 1989, and former king Simeon Saxe Coburg who had returned to Bulgaria in the mid-1990s after 50 years in exile.

"I had the unique chance to interact, in an informal setting, with both the number one of communism and his antipode, the ex-monarch. What I heard from them taught me how to understand history and the mechanisms of power," Borisov told AFP in a 2009 interview.

His bodyguard past would later raise eyebrows in diplomatic circles, with a leaked 2006 US diplomatic cable evoking his alleged "close social and business ties to influential mafia figures" in the past -- allegations dismissed as "speculation" by Borisov.

Following Saxe Coburg's landslide election victory as prime minister in 2001, Borisov was named chief of staff in the interior ministry.

His plain-spoken manner and no-nonsense attitude saw him promoted to lieutenant general in 2004, the highest possible police rank.

Power 'is no pleasure'

Harbouring even bigger ambitions, Borisov quit his job in 2005 to run for mayor of Sofia -- and won, leading to the formation of his GERB party.

GERB's 2009 victory in national polls propelled Borisov to the top job at the head of a minority government.

But he was forced to resign four years later after violent street protests over rampant poverty, cronyism and poverty.

When he returned in 2014, Borisov dropped his uncomprising macho stance and struck a more conciliatory tone to keep a difficult balance in a bickering four-party government.

On the foreign policy front, Borisov maintained pragmatic ties with Moscow because of Bulgaria's dependence on Russian energy and tourists, while nevertheless supporting EU-imposed sanctions over Ukraine.

He also managed to ward off a massive migrant influx by leading a careful dialogue with neighbouring Turkey.

But at home, Borisov has largely failed to implement major reforms and improve the lot of poor Bulgarians.

Shortly before the run-off, he had confessed: "Power is no pleasure at all, it does not bring anything but stress."

Do you ever witness news or have a story that should be featured on Pulse Nigeria?
Submit your stories, pictures and videos to us now via WhatsApp: +2349055172167, Social Media @pulsenigeria247: #PulseEyewitness & DM or Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng. More information here.