“We urgently need more digitization, legal reforms and a pension increase,” explains Daniel Yanev, a 26-year-old Bulgarian who lives in Berlin. In the summer of 2020 he took an active part in protests against the then government in his home country. “I just cannot accept that Bulgaria is not realizing its economic potential and that people’s standard of living is still well below the EU average. And that’s because of the pervasive corruption and the way public money will be used wasted in Bulgaria, “Yanev told DW.
On July 11th, Bulgarians will be called to the ballot box for the second time this year after attempts to form a government after the April 4th elections have failed. Young people who took to the streets last year want to cast their vote again in order to finally promote change in the corruption-plagued Balkan country – even if they have to interrupt their summer vacation to do so.
Daniel Yanev is one of the founders of ‘Are you lying?’ Fact check platform
Together with friends, Daniel Yanev set up a fact-checking platform whose name translates to “Are you lying?” During the election campaign, the founders research whether politicians are spreading untruths or manipulative statements and publish their findings online. “We pay particular attention to checking statements on the areas of business and health,” says Daniel. “Incorrect information on such topics is particularly dangerous.”
Although Daniel has already decided which party will receive his support on election day, he is at a loss – because even members of “his” party sometimes do not tell the truth. “Working on the ‘Are you lying’ platform taught me to think critically.”
Suffer from corruption
“Corruption is the main scourge of our country,” agrees Boris Bonev. In 2015, together with other young activists, he founded “Save Sofia”, an NGO watchdog group that monitors and criticizes the policies of the Bulgarian Mayoress Yordanka Fandakova and the city administration.
Boris Bonev, co-founder of the watchdog NGO “Save Sofia”
Bonev, who studied business administration and innovation and technology management in Paris, and the “Save Sofia” platform are constantly making suggestions on how Sofia can become a more modern, innovative and “greener” city. In 2019, the now 33-year-old ran for mayor’s office with an independent ticket and received more than 10% of the votes.
The fight begins in Sofia
The victories of the opposition in the Hungarian capital Budapest and the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul show, according to Bonev, that the dismantling of a corrupt system, as it was built in Bulgaria by former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in recent years, has to begin on the whole in cities. “The battle for Bulgaria begins in Sofia,” says Bonev with conviction.
Boyko Borisov was the Bulgarian Prime Minister until May 12, 2021
According to the latest corruption index from Transparency International, 90% of Bulgarians consider corruption at government level to be a problem. “People are fed up with living in the poorest and most chaotic cities in Europe, under a government run by corruption rather than prudent decisions,” says Bonev.
Bonev’s NGO “Save Sofia” has declared its support for nine of the candidates nominated by the Alliance “Democratic Bulgaria” (DB). The DB is an association of parties, which also includes the “Green Movement”. With the move of DB in the course of the elections in April 2020, Bulgaria has Green MPs for the first time since the 1990s. Of the nine DB candidates approved by Save Sofia, five are representatives of the Bulgarian Greens.
Every year air pollution kills hundreds of people in the Bulgarian capital
“Our organization is part of the so-called Green Wave in Europe,” says Bonev. He is convinced that Bulgaria and the capital Sofia in particular urgently need green solutions. “The fight against air pollution, which kills hundreds of people in Sofia every year, is one of our top priorities. The other important goal is to reduce car traffic. This can only work if alternatives are provided.”
The 26-year-old activist Daniel Yanev is also looking for alternatives. Bulgaria needs a new generation of politicians – modern, young and independent: “In the elections on July 11th, I will support candidates who are experts and have no dubious past.” According to Yanev, such people are not only needed for Bulgarian politics, but also for the economy of the EU member state.