Even before Plamen Oresharski could present to President Rossen Plevneliev his proposed cabinet, one of the candidate ministers – Kalin Tiholov, put forward for the new investment projects portfolio – withdrew, citing what Tiholov called a “dirty campaign” regarding his past.
It was among strange twists in the saga of the proposed Oresharski cabinet, of which the list was announced on May 27. Plans are for there to be two deputy prime ministers, but only one, a former European Commission employee, was named. A question mark remained over what had happened to reported plans to name left-winger Yanaki Stoilov to the other post, in charge of co-ordinating the economy portfolios.
Tiholov, in the hours after the proposed cabinet was announced, was the subject of media reports and online chatter linking him to the 2012 controversy about construction on an ecologically-sensitive dune area along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
The name of Tiholov, a department head at Sofia’s architecture university, had been a surprise among the list of “experts” named by the socialists to take over the running of the country.
Oresharski said that the investment projects portfolio was being created to deal with neglected work on the cadastral front and problems in the use of EU funds.
On the early morning of May 28, a few hours before the 9am scheduled meeting between Oresharski and Plevneliev, Tiholov sent an open letter to Bulgarian-language news agency Bgnes announcing his decision to withdraw his nomination.
Tiholov said that within hours of his name being announced, there had been a number of false statements about him and his professional reputation in the Bulgarian media.
He said that he had accepted Oresharski’s invitation to join the proposed cabinet on the basis that his work as a minster would be related to his professional experience and knowledge and that he would not engage in “political battles and compromises”.
However, he had subjected to a dirty campaign, “aimed at arousing public tension and distrust not only in me personally but also in the new cabinet”.
Tiholov said that in his professional career, he always had been led by the principle that a man must protect his professional name and dignity. “So I cannot allow my name to be used as a bargaining chip in devious intrigues and political battles.”
Separately, Bulgarian-language media reported that there were misgivings in BSP circles about some of the names, notably Tsvetlin Yovchev, named as interior minister but seen as linked to Boiko Borissov, leader of the centre-right GERB party and former prime minister.
Reportedly, at the BSP national council meeting, there were also objections to Daniel Papazov, the Varna port captain nominated to be transport minister, also seen as having links to GERB. Other names about which questions were raised included Zanaida Zlatanova, former head of the EC office in Sofia, nominated to be deputy prime minister, while Mediapool reported socialist sources as complaining that there was “no oligarch unrepresented” in the proposed government.
Stoilov, asked about the absence of his name from the cabinet list, said that at one point it had been thought the parties that would support the government should have enough people in high positions in the government so that it would adhere to the promises made to voters, but that in recent days this formula had been changed to add “external experts” that had purely sectoral commitments.
(Photo of Oresharski: bsp.bg)