Clarity awaited in Bulgaria’s Bokova – Georgieva UN chief nomination drama

Two days after reports that Bulgaria’s European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva would emerge as a candidate to be the next United Nations Secretary-General, possibly officially replacing her country’s nominee Irina Bokova, clarity was still awaited on the issue.

The September 10 reports, some suggesting that a group of Central and Eastern European countries would put forward Georgieva with the backing of Germany, and some saying that Bulgaria’s Cabinet would dump Bokova in favour of Georgieva, have yet to draw a categorial denial from official quarters in Sofia.

Two deputy prime ministers said, on September 12, little more than they had “no information” that Bulgaria’s Cabinet would discuss the matter.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, the majority partner in the ruling coalition, neither confirmed nor denied the reports that Georgieva would become the candidate.

The reports emerged a day after the fourth and latest “straw poll” among the 15 UN Security Council members on the candidates to the next UN chief. Bokova, whose best performance in the round of votes was once coming joint third, placed fifth on September 9.

GERB deputy leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who is not a member of the Cabinet, said that a decision on replacing Bokova with Georgieva was a matter for the government.

Tsvetanov said on September 12 that in coming days there would be news on the topic, but declined to say what the news would be. “Let’s wait for the Prime Minister and Cabinet to make their decision,” he said.

Roumyana Buchvarova, the deputy prime minister in charge of coalition policy, said that she had “no information” on the government discussing replacing Bokova, but added that Bokova’s presentation in the UN race had been “unconvincing” adding that a good outcome could not be relied on.

Meglena Kouneva, a deputy prime minister from minority coalition government partner the Reformist Bloc, said that changing Bokova had not been formally discussed by the Cabinet. She declined to comment further, saying that given that there were only media reports, there was nothing to comment on.

The reports have caused annoyance in the Bokova camp. On September 12, Solomon Passi, who was foreign minister from 2001 to 2005 and has been an outspoken supporter of Bokova, said that if a Georgieva candidacy was initiated, it would cause problems.

One, according to Passi, was that it would mean that while Bokova continued to head Unesco, “this would break the unwritten principle of geographical balance”.

Further, he said, it was unclear how Russia would be persuaded to support someone from the European Commission that had imposed sanctions on it – a reference to the EU sanctions declared against Russia after that country’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Meanwhile, it was expected that the issue of candidacies for the next UN Secretary-General were likely to be discussed on September 13, during visits to Sofia by two heads of government – Hungary’s Viktor Orban, whose country has been named as a possible nominator of Georgieva, and Serbia’s Aleksander Vucic. In the latter case, Serbia has former foreign minister Vuk Jeremic in the race, who at one point ranked second in the Security Council “straw poll”. Serbia has close ties with Russia, which has been widely seen as initially keen on the Bokova candidacy, though reports from the UN have suggested that Russian diplomats have been disappointed by Bokova’s performance.

The fifth straw poll is to be held on September 26, after which the Security Council is to make a recommendation to the UN General Assembly. Before that nomination stage is reached, the five permanent members of the Security Council have power of veto over candidates, opening the way for the customary horse-trading about who the council’s nominee will be.

At a regular news conference in Brussels on September 12, a spokesperson for the European Commission, asked about the media reports about Georgieva, said that she was still part of the EC, a very important member of the team responsible for the 10 departments of the institution and doing outstanding work.

“We are all familiar with the media speculation. I have no comment on it,” the EC spokesperson said.

In February, Georgieva said that she was not in the running to be Bulgaria’s candidate for the UN chief post.

Georgieva’s name had been mentioned as a more appropriate political fit for the current centre-right government.

Bokova, the scion of a Bulgarian communist family, a one-time deputy minister in a 1990s Bulgarian Socialist Party government forced out by public protests over economic mismanagement and a failed BSP vice-presidential candidate in 1997, was first nominated behind closed doors in the dying days of the 2013/14 administration in which the BSP was a partner.

However politically incompatible with the current government, the Bokova nomination followed a public threat to Borissov from a minority socialist party to quit his government unless she was named as the country’s candidate.

In February, Borissov’s Cabinet put forward her candidacy. In May, the minority socialist party, Georgi Purvanov’s ABC, quit the government anyway, citing a lack of dialogue in the coalition.



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.