Bulgaria’s former president Rossen Plevneliev says that four countries are trying “in one way or another” to influence the political process in Bulgaria – Russia, Turkey, Macedonia and Serbia.
Plevneliev, who was Bulgaria’s head of state from 2012 to 2017, was speaking in an April 24 television interview.
He earlier criticised his successor, Roumen Radev, for having focused solely during the campaign ahead of Bulgaria’s March parliamentary elections on attempts by Ankara to interfere in the political process.
“I am particularly concerned about the Russian influence in terms of the electoral process in Bulgaria and the political activity in Bulgaria,” said Plevneliev, who during his term in office was a frequent critic of Moscow, in particular its illegal annexation of Crimea.
Plevneliev said that there were suspicions that Russia was financing Bulgarian political parties. “Politicians very often visit Russia, and most of their visas do not go through the foreign ministry,” he said.
He said that there was evidence and reports by the State Agency for National Security about the cyber-attacks mounted on the day of the 2015 elections and referendum. The cyber-attacks were against the Central Election Commission, the Presidency and the Cabinet. This was an attack on Bulgarian democracy and “we have to take this into account,” Plevneliev said.
He said that he sincerely wished success to Radev. In 2016, Plevneliev announced that he would not seek a second term in office as president. GERB leader and then prime minister Boiko Borissov nominated former National Assembly Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva as the party’s presidential candidate. She was defeated at the second round by Radev, a former air force commander whose presidential candidacy was backed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
Plevneliev said that he had given Radev his mobile phone number and “I’m ready to help him”.
He reiterated his criticism of Radev’s role in the attempt to propose a domicile rule for voting in presidential and parliamentary elections – a massively controversial move that was apparently directed against Bulgarian passport-holders in Turkey.
“Trying to limit the electoral rights of two million Bulgarians abroad is a big mistake and I hope he will correct it,” Plevneliev said.
“Bulgarians abroad are great patriots. They build churches, schools, dance folk dances, teach their children their native language, they love Bulgaria. They are the biggest investor in Bulgaria, we have to reach out to these people, and that goes to a head of state. It is not right to limit the right of Bulgarians abroad to vote. ”
Currently, Plevneliev is writing a book. “The book is an honest reading of what happened in this term – as I saw it,” he said. In several interviews, Plevneliev has not ruled out seeking a second term as president.