The impact of Roma votes: good, but far from decisive
Choice is a fundamental right and also engagement of every citizen that lives within a democratic political system. In its turn, democracy is the responsibility every citizen; it is like human organism that needs food, water and nurture in order to have a good metabolism. A desire for democracy, however, means more than simply going to the square box and to choosing from a list according to your political orientation. It also entails responsibility for your decisions, by being active and involved in the success of the political entity that represents you. The democracy is not “I choose, and let them lead me”, but “I choose, because I can lead with them”. Aristotle said in his political writings that „the law has to be lead, not the people, because the law is reason”. It is time for us, the citizens, to change the mindset that someone will come to save us or clean our back yard, without any effort from our part.
Democracy can exists in its ideal shape if there are the necessary conditions for its “flourishing”. Bulgarians can nowadays witness democracy through the unprecedented collaboration between its intrinsic values, meatballs, beer and the passivity of citizens. This is a good time for the researchers of this political system to publish new studies exploring the newest forms of democracy, which are far from that despite their name. That’s because the price of the voters and their vote has no place in any real democracy. Let’s not lie to ourselves – this not democracy, it is commerce and a division of the national vote according to the color of the skin, income, political correctness and the “us and them”principle.
It would be good if everybody tried to understand why election monitoring focuses on the voting patterns of certain social groups or communities, such as the Roma. Journalists, politicians, experts, buyers, sellers, mediators are all talking about that. The propaganda that the votes of the Roma are an important factor in the final choice is extremely successful. If we asked 10 people on the street about the influence of “the Roma vote”, at least 7 people will answer that it is the “swarthy” brothers who pick the person to govern the country. This misunderstanding is passed on and taken for granted. It is incorrect because of several obvious facts: the number Roma who vote is not large enough to determine the final winner in the elections. The Roma vote is not unanimous, which shows that the democratic right to choose exists, at least in large and medium-sized cities and in most towns.
The local re-elections in Kyustendil (Bulgaria) also showed that the Roma vote doesn’t really determine the future of Bulgarians. Somebody should think why all the political discussions focused on the “Roma vote” before and after the elections. It may sound and look highly topical and easy to talk about, a fact proved by all the international attention around it. The question “Who benefits by emphasizing this idea before the elections for the National Parliament?” sounds rhetorical. The insinuation that ” the Roma will define your destiny “, serves for the manipulation of ethnic Bulgarians, a morally unacceptable tactic according to political psychology.
Bulgarians living in poverty that are unable to see a solution to their problems, see the people who govern them and who were “elected by the Roma”as the real “culprits.” Interestingly, “the culprits” are the same group of people who talked about “Roma voices” and have been part of the government for years. As Jean-Paul Sartre said: “each policy is primarily a collective action of some people toward other people”.
Apparently, some political parties got seriously sunburned right before the election and fear for their future. This turns everything into a pretty mess that starts the talk about the ethnic vote even in political formations whose rhetoric didn’t include this term before. Even prime minister Boyko Borisov, caught in between political interested by coincidence or by design, joined the discussion about Roma votes from the Roma neighborhood “Iztok” in Kyustendil. The more interesting part is that no one spoke about the votes from Bulgarian districts and neighborhoods. Are all political parties ashamed of their score in Kyustendil?! And why nobody talks about the victory of the mayor Petar Paunov, instead of just throwing accusations of buying Roma votes at each other?! Could it be the shame to admit their loss and the effort to gloss over the consequences of this heavy slap in the face justified with several thousand votes?! The voter should answer if he wants wants. Sartre said that politics is based on the matching and mismatching of interests.
The working conditions in the media are becoming increasingly embarrassing and that influences the quality of professional journalism. Opinion and thesis have became facts in serious Bulgarian electronic and print media. Journalists have stopped making professional investigations, and prefer to deal with rumors and “facts” like “someone or somebody” heard, said, saw, think. Has democratic journalism become simply gossip? Some experts would call that freedom of speech. There’s no denying that freedom of speech is necessary, but how long must our small number of conscientious legislators, Council for electronic media and we the citizens tolerate the morning theater from TV screens or newspapers that starts our day? The Ethical Code of the Bulgarian media must be turning every day in its grave, since “public interest” is constantly replaced by ” interesting for the public” on a daily basis. Hopefully the media experts will begin to see that the interesting for the public is dangerous for the public interest.
The focus on flickering attempts at professional journalism left aside other activities, which happened at the same time with the elections in Kyustendil. For example, on the evening of 12 May several Roma activists and leaders of the neighborhood “Iztok”, such as Ilcho Sashev, Sasho Krastev, Orlin Mirchev, Georgi Mirchev, were arrested for 24 hours. The official reason according to the police was a suspicion that they were hiding excisable products. The searches made the police discover two legal gas pistols in the Orlin’s house, about 10 000 euro (of proven origin) in Sasho’s house, 180 grams of tobacco for personal use in Ilcho’s house. Only the latter was fined 150 Euros by the Customs Agency for the possession of the undeclared tobacco. It is interesting how the police decided to search and arrest these people the day before the elections for municipality counselors in Kyustendil. It is anybody’s guess whether this is further evidence of how some political parties organize elections- or not. Another question is whether the detainees will organize a press conference about their arrest, or will stick to the say that silence is golden. Although the well-respected Bulgarian journalist Ivo Indzhev said that in this case”silence is the evil”.
Every civic activist who still cares about the democratic values may question whether the arrests were an appropriate thing to do, regardless of the non-Roma or Roma origin of the detainees. Things must not be left as they are, because this way anybody could get arrested during the next elections on random charges. The main targets would be those who have their own opinion and can influence the opinions of the others, and those who own “excisable products”, of course! The truth is this arrests managed to scare people and tarnish the reputation of the leaders of the Roma neighborhood.
Ilcho Sashev was not candidate in the cancelled elections for municipality counselors, but he worked actively for a political party with Roma candidates, the only political party with Roma canidates in the entire neighborhood to gain more than 700 votes. That seriously scared mainstream parties. The issue became a hot topic because there was no common list of Roma candidate for the elections. Why? Because some political parties that brag about their strong electorate were afraid they might miss the “Roma votes” and will look funny in the competition with their political opponents. And they managed to steal all the ideas for a common Roma candidate list from “Iztok”. They managed to do that by force, intimidation… and money. Others will wonder why is it necessary to have a list with only Roma candidates. The answer is simple : “Bulgarian lists” do not allow Roma to be elected. From day to day, the Roma’s need to take part in the decision making process increases. Elections are a way tof becoming part of this process.
Meanwhile, it became clear that during the elections police checked if cars in Roma neighborhoods had a warning triangle in the boot. It would be interesting to know if they also measured treads on car tires. Funny, right? No, it is tragical and frightening. The Roma journalist Valerie Lekov, who encouraged people to vote, was summoned to the police by mistake. The political subjects seeking Roma votes were consistently boring and acted in funny ways. They followed the priciples of Niccolo Machiavelli : they acted so the people would be afraid of them instead of simply liking them.
Journalists talked for weeks about the vote buying in Kyustendil, but no one quoted facts. Opinions are fine, but nobody cares about facts or professionalism.
“They buy votes, тхе others buy votes, I don’t even know who doesn’t… aliens buy votes too probably…”, repeated some politicians who are afraid for their future on the political scene. The statesmen who expressed their regrets did not look for any evidence after delighting us with their oratorical skills about vote buying in the Roma neighborhoods. The buying and selling of votes in our country contradicts the logic of the logic. The politicians overbid and buy something that is not being sold anywhere. They have found a market, however, after putting serious efforts and perseverance in their endeavour in spite of the laws that prohibit and criminalize such actions.
It would be a real pity if the citizens trusted these lies, games and insinuation before the parliamentary elections. It would be tragic indeed if the citizens of democracy stopped believing they can change the status quo. It would mean that we still can’t fathom the power of the levers of this political system: the civic voice and the civic will.
And the citizens who are eager to sell their votes should think seriously: “How much do they cost before the elections?” – a meatball worth 10 euro can be the equivalent of eternal misery, a catalyst for controlled votes, or even worse. If they think their votes cost more than that, they have to show it and not just complain about such facts.