Sparks fly as Bulgaria’s caretaker PM meets socialist leader Stanishev

Written by on March 15, 2013 in Bulgaria, News - No comments

Bulgaria’s caretaker Prime Minister Marin Raykov continued his series of meetings with senior officials and politicians on March 15 2013, hosting Sergei Stanishev, leader of the largest opposition party in the 41st National Assembly, the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Earlier this week, when Raykov’s nomination was announced, Stanishev was sceptical about the caretaker cabinet’s ability to guarantee fair elections with the current leadership of the Interior Ministry, going as far as to say that “there is a suspicion that the interim government is a second reserve team of GERB,” the party previously in government.

Stanishev also called for a clean sweep of the deputy ministers left over from the previous cabinet (who, under Bulgarian law, do not automatically leave office unless they resign or are sacked) and asked that the interim cabinet “found out the truth about the condition of the state” – in the public sector, of the budget, of companies with state majority ownership – so that the Borissov government’s legacy could be known.

Stanishev, a former prime minister of the tripartite ruling coalition that governed between 2005 and 2009, re-iterated the same message in his meeting Raykov, only to be rebuked by Raykov in the joint news conference after the meeting.

Responding to Stanishev’s criticism of the Interior Ministry and the socialist leader’s stated concern that the early elections would not be fair, Raykov said that “there is only one negative scenario for the elections and that is if the losing party justified [the failure] with claims of manipulations of the vote.”

On the issue of sacking all deputy ministers, Raykov said that while some might be replaced, there would be no summary firings. “I do not think that it is appropriate to replace, so to say, the staffing at that level, only those whom ministers do not wish to work with, or if there is clear proof or sufficient suspicion that their work so far has created crises in their respective area of responsibility,” Raykov said.

He also rejected the call for an unequivocal assessment of GERB’s government, saying that it was an “understandable demand” but not one he planned to entertain. “We will not give a political assessment of the Boiko Borissov government, but I seek to assure you that we will not be giving a political assessment of your government either. We will attempt to work in such a way that no one can doubt our impartiality,” Raykov said.

(A not-so-subtle barb at Stanishev and his government, criticised by Borissov for leaving office with a great deal of unpaid debts and contracts, as well as describing Bulgaria as an “island of stability” in 2009 even as the economy teetered on the brink of recession as a result of the global financial crisis.)

Deputy minister turnover
Over the past week, several deputy ministers in the GERB cabinet tabled their resignations – including Deputy Labour Minister Valentina Simeonova (who cited personal reasons), Deputy Education Minister Milena Damyanova (who said that as a member of GERB, she felt compelled to follow her colleagues out of government) and Deputy Agriculture Minister Svetlana Boyanova (who said that the new minister should be given the opportunity to bring in his own team).

Meanwhile, Deputy Economy Minister Evgenia Haritonova was appointed chairperson of the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission on March 8, making a return to the regulator – she was a member of the commission between 2010 and 2012, before her appointment as deputy minister.

Deputy Economy Minister Ivo Marinov, in charge of the tourism industry, resigned after being asked to do so by caretaker minister Assen Vassilev, who said that he planned to bring in his own deputies.

This has caused a stir among some tourism industry groups, who demanded that Marinov was brought back. The last law passed by the prorogued parliament was the Tourism Act, which now needed a series of regulations on implementation of the law to be put in place – having Marinov, who worked on the drafting of the bill, would speed up that process, the industry associations said.

Meanwhile, the first deputy minister appointments in the caretaker cabinet were announced on March 15 – one of Bulgaria’s most famous gymnasts, Yordan Yovchev, was appointed Deputy Sport Minister, while Vanya Stoineva was appointed Deputy Labour and Social Policy Minister in charge of the human resources development operational programme.

(Caretaker Prime Minister Marin Raykov, left, and socialist leader Sergei Stanishev. Photo: government.bg)

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Alex Bivol is the news editor of The Sofia Globe.