Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov will ask Parliament to release Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov from his duties and confirm EU Funds Minister Tomislav Donchev as Dyankov’s replacement, the Cabinet’s media service said in a statement on February 18.
Donchev will also retain his portfolio of overseeing the management of EU funds. Regional Development Minister Lilyana Pavlova will replace Dyankov as deputy prime minister overseeing the economy.
The statement did not offer a reason for the latest Cabinet reshuffle, nor did it specify whether Dyankov resigned or was sacked.
In a statement on the Finance Ministry’s website, however, Dyankov thanked Borissov and his Cabinet colleagues for the “many hours of shared work and the successes accomplished.” It said that Dyankov submitted his resignation on February 17, but did not elaborate on the reasons for it.
This is the highest-profile Cabinet reshuffle in the Borissov Cabinet, which took office in July 2009, and the most surprising, given the level of support Borissov routinely gave Dyankov. Although Borissov has, on occasion, overruled his finance minister, he would often hold him as an example of competence when comparing his government’s performance versus that of his predecessors.
Borissov also often praised Dyankov for the fiscal discipline imposed by the outgoing minister, rejecting repeated calls from his political rivals to sack Dyankov, who has become a favourite target for the opposition and trade unions by virtue of the office he held.
As recently as December 2012, Borissov said that Dyankov would stay on as finance minister if Borissov’s party, GERB, won the next parliamentary election, due in July 2013. Dyankov too, on several occasions in recent months, said that he would stay on as finance minister if Borissov were the prime minister after the next election.
Although no reason for Dyankov’s departure was given, mass-circulation daily Trud claimed in its February 18 print edition that Dyankov was facing dismissal and barely escaped being sacked last week. The reason was his unwillingness to release state subsidies for farmers until March or April, instead of before the end of February, as promised by Borissov, the daily said.
Another reason was the Finance Ministry’s delay in approving the International Monetary Fund reform proposal, which envisions changes in the distribution of Fund quotas, Trud said. Bulgaria was the last EU member state to join the initiative and it was done personally by Borissov, who had to step in last week and override Dyankov on the issue, the report claimed.
The news of Dyankov’s replacement produced mixed reactions from Bulgaria’s main political parties.
The main opposition, the socialists, saw it as a delaying tactic. Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev described it as a “panic move to divert attention from the real problems in the society and the economy.” The only solution was to call snap elections, he said.
Former socialist economy minister Roumen Ovcharov, while describing Dyankov as “incompetent”, said that “at least Dyankov cared about fiscal discipline” and with him gone, the Borissov Cabinet would embark on unchecked government spending before the elections.
Lyutvi Mestan, leader of the other big opposition party, the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms, echoed socialist comments, saying that Dyankov and his policies were incompetent, as was the rest of the Borissov Cabinet, and called on President Rossen Plevneliev to start consultations for an interim government and snap elections.
The centre-right opposition Blue Coalition, too, called for Borissov’s resignation and the appointment of an expert cabinet until the next election.
Meglena Kouneva’s Bulgaria for Citizens, now outside Parliament but expected to win seats in the next election, said that with Dyankov gone, “the mantra of financial stability will remain in the past”, but went on to blame Dyankov for poor fiscal policy choices that, the party said, will result in more government debt.
(Simeon Dyankov photo by Finance Ministry)