Bulgarian Air Force chief Roumen Radev submitted his resignation on August 1, as rumours swirled that he would be named as the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party’s (BSP) candidate in the country’s November 6 presidential elections.
The BSP has said that it will announce a candidate on the day of a scheduled national council meeting, August 14. Before then, the party is due to hold talks with two splinter left-wing parties, Georgi Purvanov’s ABC and Tatyana Doncheva’s Movement 21, about a joint leftist candidate.
Radev was said to have requested to retire because he had reached pensionable age under Bulgaria’s law on the military.
He has resigned once before, on October 1 2015, saying that a lack of financial resources for the air force made it impossible for him to do his job properly. But the same day that he submitted his resignation, Radev withdrew it, after centre-right Prime Minister Boiko Borissov summoned him for a discussion.
At the time, Borissov was understood to have made undertakings to Radev. Some months later, the government and Parliament approved a big-ticket project to acquire modern multi-role jet fighters for the Bulgarian Air Force, to replace the country’s ageing Russian-made aircraft that fail to meet Nato standards.
Media reports have named Radev as a possible candidate on a left-wing ticket in the November 6 elections, in which voters will be asked to choose a successor to Rossen Plevneliev, who was elected on the ticket of Borissov’s party in 2011 but who, for personal reasons, is not seeking a second term as head of state.
The BSP has largely been in decline for some years, damaged especially by its role in the discredited 2013/14 government which was the subject of large-scale public protests demanding its resignation after the short-lived election of controversial figure Delyan Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security.
The BSP’s current leader, Kornelia Ninova, elected in May 2016, has seen a slight increase in support for the party since she took up the post. However, Ninova has said repeatedly that she would not be available to be her party’s presidential candidate. The party has been struggling to find someone whose candidacy would be supported beyond the BSP’s most loyal hardcore electorate, a quest complicated by the issue of trying to come up with someone palatable to other left-wing parties and a potential electorate outside party ranks.
No major political party in Bulgaria has yet named its presidential candidate, apart from two nationalist political forces, leaving the characters in the November contest largely the subject of a guessing game.