We asked Irina Alexieva of the School of Politics in Bulgaria for her view on the character of politicians and the matter of trust in politics

1.       What are the most important character attributes you look for in a politician?

For me, it is very important to see a “brave heart”. A person who has clear views and ideas, who takes responsibility for them, and is ready to fight for them in the public interest. He/she has clear moral and ethical principles and values from which he/she does not backtrack. We are increasingly lacking the sense of leadership – bright and clear, responsive and brave. To a great extent, it is hard nowadays to distinguish between who is left or right on the political spectrum, everything seems equally unclear. That’s why I think these characteristics are extremely important.

2. How can politicians win back the trust of frustrated citizens?

People need to understand their leaders. The abundance of complex words, and inscrutable, scientific-sounding speeches do not imply trustworthiness. Trust can be built when leaders hear what they are told, but also speak to their citizens, explaining their positions clearly. And all this should be done transparently. The retreat from these positions, and shady deals on the part of the political formations, give voters a feeling of frustration and leads to their retreat from participation in public processes. These are good foundations for the birth of populism.