Bulgarian PM Raykov speaks on ballot-printing controversy
Bulgarian Prime Minister Marin Raykov, head of the country’s caretaker cabinet, told a May 13 news conference that his government had delivered the democratic and transparent manner it had pledged itself to, and hit out at politicians who had made targets of him and his administration.
Raykov, who remains in office until whenever a government is elected, spoke on the controversy around the raid on a printing house on the evening of May 10 by State Agency for National Security Agents and prosecutors investigating a batch of 350 000 allegedly illegal ballot papers.
The raid led to a media and political storm the day before the national parliamentary elections, with the accent on the printing house owner’s ties to Boiko Borissov’s GERB party.
Amid the confusion about the legality or otherwise of the batch of ballot papers, which the owner of the Multiprint firm defended as being overruns never intended for distribution, Raykov came under fire on May 12 from Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev, who alleged that the caretaker administration had failed in its duty to keep the elections clean.
Stanishev said that Raykov had not kept his promises of a fair and free election, given that election day saw large-scale violations of the law, pressure and vote-buying, according to the socialist leader.
On May 11, Raykov’s office issued a brief clarification about the contract with the printing house, while the Prime Minister criticised party political leaders who made public comments about the printing issue, saying that they had broken the rules of the “day of contemplation” when no campaigning is allowed on the eve of elections.
The following day, election day, Stanishev said that Raykov was head of government because of a “secret deal” with Borissov.
Raykov told the May 13 news conference that he awaited with keen interest the outcome of the prosecutors’ investigation into the ballots at the printing house.
“I have been told that some of them are rejects. I did not receive this piece of information from the Prosecutor’s Office. So I am waiting to find out what exactly these 350,000 ballot papers are,” he said.
He handed over to Cabinet chief secretary Rosen Zhelyazkov to explain the contractual arrangements regarding the printing. The caretaker cabinet rejected allegations of any conflict of interest in the deal.
“I’ve never been interested in who the owner of the printing house is – this was not a subject of discussion,” Raykov said. “There is a public procurement and this is a printing house, which meets the requirements and conditions. There is no conflict of interest, because the owner has never been a matter of interest – neither in the order, nor in any other moment of the procedure,” Raykov added.
“I have assumed responsibility since the very first day I became interim prime minister. I do not evade responsibility. I find impressive the fact that you have been deliberately keeping silent about the fact that the government, in the person of the State Agency for National Security (SANS) and the Interior Ministry, put the ballot papers in Kostinbrod under close guard,” Raykov said.
The authorities had taken preventative measures in order to avoid a possible crime.
The process at the printing house had been monitored with cameras and Raykov said that he had been told that the ballot papers had been under guard since April 23.
On the overall political situation, with the ultimate outcome of the May 12 vote – as to what government, if any, will be formed – Raykov appealed for calm conduct among political parties, “not to continue pre-election campaigning after the election”.
“The elections are over,” Raykov said. Political forces in Bulgaria owed it to citizens to form a stable government, not one based on demagoguery that would send the whole country to the bottom.
“Until the formation of a new government, my ministers and I will continue exercising our duties until the very last day. We will continue standing at an equal distance from all political powers. My appeal is to reject all suspicions for revanchism and upcoming chaos. This country cannot be ruled with hatred.,” Raykov said.
He called on political parties that were not satisfied with their results in the parliamentary elections not to shift the responsibility on to the caretaker cabinet. His administration had stayed out of partisan politics and had declined to respond to any attacks on it, he said.