Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev told reporters on May 19 that he was appointing Yordan Bakalov, who was interior minister in the August 2014 caretaker cabinet, as the new head of Military Intelligence.
Bakalov will succeed Vesselin Ivanov, whom Nenchev fired in March 2015.
Ivanov had held the post since 2010, the first civilian to do so, but was dismissed because he and Nenchev did not agree to staff reforms at Military Intelligence, where close to 40 per cent of personnel date from Bulgaria’s pre-1991 communist era.
Nenchev told reporters that Bakalov had a “very high level of morality” that impressed him personally and this had been a leading factor in deciding on the appointment.
“For me, it is very important, without morals, nothing can happen,” Nenchev said.
He said that Bakalov was very well prepared for the post, including because he had been a long-standing member of the parliamentary committee on internal security and public order. “There are a great many reasons why he will be suitable,” Nenchev said.
Nenchev, asked about rumours that he was facing dismissal from the cabinet, said that he was not worried by rumours spread through Russian propaganda.
The appointment of Bakalov to the Military Intelligence post has been the subject of media reports and speculation for two months, and well before Nenchev’s comments on May 19, prompted reservations from members of parties in Bulgaria’s centre-right ruling coalition.
In March, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, a former interior minister and current deputy leader of coalition government majority partner GERB, said that it was his personal opinion that the security sector should be staffed with experienced professions.
It could create “tension in the system” should a politician be appointed to head an office which was highly sensitive, Tsvetanov said.
Similarly, Miho Mihov, of the socialist minority coalition partner ABC, said earlier in May that his party was opposed to the concept of a civilian heading military intelligence. He had nothing personal against Bakalov, but military intelligence should not be headed by someone from a political party, Mihov said.
(Photo: Yordan Bakalov, at the time that he was caretaker Interior Minister, at a September 23 2014 news conference: mvr.bg)