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Serbia, Pop Stars, and 'Interference' In Bulgaria's Election

Lepa Brena (left) and Boyko Borisov in Sofia
The Bulgarian blogosphere is buzzing with a hot topic: Serbia's biggest pop-folk star, Lepa Brena, and her private audience with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, which some see as direct support for the ruling political coalition.

The meeting with Borisov by itself wouldn't have attracted much attention -- the immensely popular Brena is treated like royalty all over the Balkans. By coincidence (or not), however, it happened two days before Bulgaria's October 30 presidential election, won by a coalition candidate, Rosen Plevneliev.

Speaking to reporters after the audience, Brena described Borisov as "phenomenal" and said she thought that his mandate will be "very successful" and that he will bring Bulgaria to a "higher level." She also sang two lines of the pop-folk anthem "Jovano, Jovanke," to everybody's delight.

Now, pop stars make all kinds of comments here and there, and to try to find hidden messages in what they say publicly is mostly a futile exercise. The gracious Brena, striking and youthful at 51, was simply playing to the Bulgarian reporters. But now, after Plevneliev won the presidential vote, bitter voices are grumbling that, knowingly or not, Brena encroached on Bulgaria's sovereignty by interfering in the presidential campaign.

If so, one reader sarcastically commented under an article published in the Bulgarian daily "Dnevnik", why then did Borisov not invite Tarkan, Turkey's biggest pop star, for an audience?

Plevneliev's victory marks an unremarkable changing of the guard in the Bulgarian presidency for a largely a ceremonial post. Less than 42 percent of the eligible electorate cast their votes.

Lepa Brena, on the other hand, continues to hold the record for the biggest concert audience in Bulgaria. The historic mark was set on July 24, 1990, at Bulgaria's largest stadium and attracted an audience of over 80,000 fans, this writer being one of them.

-- Nikola Krastev

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