The appeal by Bulgarian opposition party the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria for all of the country’s right-wing and pro-European political parties to unite behind a Rossen Plevneliev candidacy for a second term as President caused a flutter of reaction – not least from Plevneliev himself, who said that he had not been consulted and would not announce whether he will be a candidate.
Plevneliev was elected President in 2011 on the ticket of Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, taking office as head of state early in 2012. His five-year term expires in January 2017, and Bulgaria is to hold presidential elections some time in October or November 2016.
Borissov’s GERB party has not said who its candidate will be, and Plevneliev has not made clear whether he will be available to stand for the second and final term allowed him by the constitution. He has, however, hinted that he will not be a candidate, repeatedly speaking of presidential candidates in the third person.
Radan Kanev, leader of the right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB) – a constituent party of the Reformist Bloc that is part of the governing coalition, although in late 2015 the DSB declared itself to be an opposition party – made the call for right-wing unity behind Plevneliev on May 13, saying that Plevneliev could emerge as an independent presidential candidate.
Kanev told a May 13 news conference that the presidential institution was the main guarantor of the geopolitical stability of Bulgaria, of its foreign policy orientation, of the defence capability of the armed forces and the defence of justice from political interference.
“This is the constitutional role of the Bulgarian President. We believe that today’s Bulgarian President is the most successful example of addressing these problems,” Kanev said.
He said that his party was advocating that a sufficient number of political forces, including coalition government majority partner GERB “and all others who pretend to be at the core of the pro-European orientation of Bulgaria” should propose to Plevneliev to nominate him as an independent candidate in the presidential election.
First, Plevneliev should be persuaded to make the move and be sure of the unreserved support of political parties, Kanev said.
The President’s office said in a statement in response that Plevneliev was in his final year of a dramatic term of office and he had undertaken to tell Bulgarians in June whether he would stand for a second term of office.
Until then, any statement reflected only the position of those behind it, not the head of state, the statement said.
The declaration by the leadership of a political party did not come from Plevneliev and had not been co-ordinated with him, the President’s office said.
In a May 13 television interview, Plevneliev said that he would announce by June 30 whether he would be a candidate. Before then, there was much meaningful work to do, including judicial reform and anti-corruption legislation.
“Under the constitution, the President is independent and separated equally from all political forces. More and more I have to remind many Bulgarian politicians what it says in the constitution. It is not a matter of proposals or whatever other actions aside from the last year of the term in office of the head of state. I act according to conscience, non-partisanly and in accordance with the law.”
Meglena Kouneva, leader of Reformist Bloc constituent party the Bulgaria for Citizens Movement, which remains part of the government deal by which Kouneva is a deputy prime minister, said that Kanev’s move was “serious political intrigue”, a severe blow to the Reformist Bloc.
Kouneva said that she really could not understand why Kanev had made his statement without speaking to Plevneliev himself. Failure to do so had violated Plevneliev’s political and human rights, according to Kouneva.
“I do not think that people who have reached the level of leadership of their parties are insufficiently intelligent,” Kouneva said, “if this is not political stupidity, what else could be?”
Plevneliev had been the first victim of the “intrigue” but the ultimate target was the the Reformist Bloc. This reflected more heavily on the Reformist Bloc than on the President, Kouneva said.
GERB parliamentary leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov said that it was “not normal” to nominate someone for President and seek political unity with the nominee knowing about it. (As an aside, this past week Tsvetanov announced that ruling coalition parties had agreed to the nomination of Tomislav Donchev as labour minister; the nomination went elsewhere, with first reports saying that Donchev had refused it – but Donchev then said publicly that he had not been offered the post.)
Tsvetanov thanked Plevneliev for his very quick response, to stop any speculation, he said.