Another weekend of tit-for-tat politicking between Bulgaria’s president and government

Written by on September 16, 2018 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Another weekend of tit-for-tat politicking between Bulgaria’s president and government

The tit-for-tat politicking between Bulgarian President Roumen Radev and leading figures from Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s ruling majority continued on the weekend, with sniping exchanged over issues from the coming changes to the Cabinet to the row over the Bulgarian address to the opening of the UN General Assembly.

Part of the exchange of words currently arises from the moves to put to the vote in Parliament proposed changes to three Cabinet portfolios, arising from the resignation of the ministers of the interior, transport and regional development on August 31 over the Svoge bus crash disaster.

A planned vote on September 13 did not go ahead because Radev had not signed a decree relieving Mladenov Marinov, designated as the next interior minister, of his post as the ministry’s chief secretary.

Earlier, there were exchanges over just when the draft decree had been sent to Radev’s office for his signature. By the time of the intended vote in the National Assembly, Radev had left for a two-day visit to Latvia’s capital Riga. At the time, his office said that he would sign it on his return.

However, on September 15, Radev said that he had not signed the decree on Marinov’s dismissal as Interior Ministry chief secretary because the law “had not been complied with” in the sense that the proposed decree had not been co-ordinated with him.

With it remaining unclear, as of September 16, when the Cabinet changes would be put to Parliament (another complication being the withdrawal of the transport minister-designate and the ruling coalition yet to name a replacement), the parliamentary leader of Borissov’s GERB party, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said that it was “only a matter of time” before Radev signed the decree.

Bulgarian President Radev during the Open Day at the Presidency, September 16 2018. Photo: president.bg

The other issue between the two institutions, the Cabinet office and the Presidency, is the plan for Borissov to address the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly later in September 2018.

Earlier, media reports emerged that Borissov was going instead of Radev. A head of goverment addressing the UN gathering is not unprecedented, as happened in the case of Bulgaria a few years, and UN rules also allow a country to be represented by its foreign minister, as also has happened in the case of Bulgaria in recent years.

However, the bone of contention is whether Radev’s office was consulted on the matter, and when.

On September 14, Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva insisted that Radev’s office had been properly notified, and said that “in principle” the task of addressing the UN General Assembly could be rotated among the head of state, head of government and the foreign minister.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva says President Radev’s office was properly notified of the plan for PM Borissov to address the UN. Radev says that Cabinet account of events ‘does not correspond to the truth’. Photo: Bulgarian Foreign Ministry.

Zaharieva said that there had been correspondence and a meeting between officials of the two offices.

On September 16, Radev said that the “profound explanations” on the part of the Cabinet “categorically do not correspond to the truth”.

“The problem is not whether the president or prime minister will go. The problem is whether the law is respected and how decisions are made, and whether the spirit of the constitution is respected,” he said.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified the UN about the head of the Bulgarian delegation without any notification to and co-ordination with the Presidency. All other meetings and letters – they are after the fact,” Radev said.

The tensions between Radev and Borissov’s government over these two issues are hardly the only ones. Radev has criticised, repeatedly, the government over the lack of progress in military modernisation, and failure to act against corruption. GERB parliamentary leader Tsvetanov routinely has accused Radev of acting solely in the interests of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party. Radev was elected head of state on a ticket backed by the BSP.

Another issue left lacking clarity is the appointment of Bulgarian ambassadors abroad. Given the lack of public announcements, against a background that such appointments require agreement between the government and the head of state, on whom the constitution confers the power to appoint and withdraw ambassadors, the process appears to have become bogged down.

(Main photo: Strollers in the Presidency building during the September 16 open day: president.bg)

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