Georgi Purvanov, leader of minority socialist breakaway party ABC, has threatened to withdraw from his party’s deal to support Bulgaria’s Boiko Borissov coalition government unless the country formally nominates UNESCO head Irina Bokova as its candidate for United Nations Secretary-General.
Bokova, whose political pedigree lies in the Bulgarian Socialist Party of which Purvanov was leader from 1996 until the end of 2001, was nominated for the UN post in June 2014, soon before the departure of the BSP-Movement for Rights and Freedoms government.
Bokova, whose father was Georgi Bokov, editor of Bulgarian Communist Party mouthpiece Rabotnichesko Delo, was a Communist Party member until 1990, and the BSP candidate for vice-president in Bulgaria’s October 1996 elections. Later, she was Bulgaria’s ambassador to France and in September 2009, was elected UNESCO secretary-general after the previous favourite faced allegations of anti-Semitism. She was elected to a second term as UNESCO head in November 2013.
There has been speculation that Bulgaria’s current centre-right government, in office since November 2014, might instead nominate Kristalina Georgieva, Bulgaria’s member of the European Commission – now in a second term, having been elevated to a powerful vice-president’s post – for the UN post.
In 2017, it will be the turn of the UN’s Eastern European Group, one of five regional blocs at the UN and which currently includes 23 countries, to have the Secretary General come from one of its countries. Further, given that the UN post so far has not been held by a woman, it is widely expected that gender will be a factor in the choice.
Recently, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said that Bulgaria would announce its candidate at a moment most opportune for its candidacy to be a success.
Purvanov, speaking at a January 14 news conference, said that the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs should not procrastinate but should move immediately with the nomination of Bokova as UN Secretary-General.
The vague position and possible wrong decision on the part of the Bulgarian government could lead to ABC reconsidering its position on its participation in the government, Purvanov said.
Purvanov alleged that there were Bulgarian diplomats who covertly were working against Bokova’s candidacy.
He said that “clear instructions should be given to the Bulgarian diplomats abroad to without ambiguity and double games support the candidacy of Irina Bokova, as some of them are allowing themselves to work against this nomination.”
“This is not only ugly, but is offensive to the nation, for our compatriots to do that is somewhat unacceptable,” Purvanov said.
He said that there were negative media reports against Bokova whose origins could be traced back to Bulgaria.
“I refuse to reflect on the hypothesis that the state would not support Irina Bokova. If this happens, it will be a disaster for the Bulgarian diplomacy. I told him carefully and diplomatically, because at this stage we are trying to speak diplomatic language. But language may get tough, this should not sound like a threat, but as a real judgment,” Purvanov said.
Ivailo Kalfin, currently Deputy Prime Minister in the Borissov Cabinet as part of the deal with ABC, and who was foreign minister in the BSP’s tripartite coalition from 2005 to 2009, has said that Bokova has the support of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – a claim rejected in some reports in foreign media.
In 2015, the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly departed from previous practice towards choosing a new Secretary-General, by making the process more transparent by asking member states to make formal official public nominations.
So far, other names mentioned in media reports as possible UN Secretary-General candidates include Georgieva, foreign minister Vesna Pusić of Croatia, former prime minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and president of Chile Michelle Bachelet.
(Photo: A meeting in November 2009 between Bokova and Purvanov, when he was president of Bulgaria. V Nikolov/president.bg)