Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on January 30 that he intended to nominate Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) president Stefan Vodenicharov to replace Sergei Ignatov as education minister. Ignatov was dismissed on January 28 in the wake of irregularities found at the Scientific Research Fund.
Initially, media reports – based on remarks made by Borissov before the weekly Cabinet meeting – said that Vodenicharov was to take over as head of the Scientific Research Fund, while Ignatov would be succeeded by his deputy in charge of co-ordinating state policy for pre-school and school education systems, Milena Damyanova.
The Cabinet’s media office later clarified that Vodenicharov was to be nominated for the education portfolio, while Damyanova would stay in her current position.
Vodenicharov’s nomination has to be confirmed by Parliament, which must first accept Ignatov’s resignation. The date of the vote has not been announced.
Vodenicharov was elected president of BAS in December 2012, replacing Stefan Dodounekov, who died only two months after taking office in June. If Vodenicharov is confirmed as minister, it would not trigger the third BAS president election in a year, since he would remain BAS president, but go on leave.
“I will nominate to Parliament, after we co-ordinate with the [ruling party GERB] executive committee, that BAS president Vodenicharov takes this position. He will take unpaid leave, because his academic credentials are undisputed and his election as president of BAS was no accident,” Borissov was quoted as saying by news website Mediapool.bg.
On Damyanova, Borissov said that she would continue her work to have the draft bill on secondary education, now on parliamentary floor, passed before the elections due in the summer.
Vodenicharov was most recently on the opposite side of barricades from Borissov, as head of the initiative committee in favour of building the Belene nuclear power plant (backed by Borissov’s main political rival and the largest opposition party, the socialists).
Prior to his election as president of BAS, Vodenicharov, 68, was the head of the academy’s institute for metalwork constructions and technologies. He has a degree in machine engineering from the Technical University of Sofia and became a full professor in 1991. He was elected corresponding member of BAS in 2004 and a full member in October 2012.
(Stefan Vodenicharov. Screengrab from Bulgarian National Television)