The Bulgarian coalition council of governing parties named Rossen Zhelyazkov, current head of the Communications Regulation Commission, as its new candidate transport minister after the previous nominee withdrew.
The September 17 meeting of the coalition council, the third Monday in a row in recent times that it has met, was the latest to deal with the fallout from the August 31 resignations of three Cabinet ministers – of the interior, transport and regional development – over the Svoge bus crash disaster.
The process of Parliament voting the changes to the Cabinet has seen a number of hiccoughs.
A planned September 13 vote could not go ahead because President Roumen Radev had not signed a decree to relieve Mladen Marinov, the interior minister-designate, of his duties as Interior Ministry chief secretary.
Also on September 13, Alexander Manolev, the transport minister-designate, withdrew his nomination after negative media reports about his past. He has threatened court action over these reports.
Zhelyazkov (50) has headed the Communications Regulation Commission since January 2018. A graduate in law who spent some years working for Sofia municipality, he was in the headlines in October 2013, at the time he was chief secretary of the Cabinet.
The Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office laid a charge of criminal misconduct against Zhelyazkov in connection with a large consignment of ballot papers found at a printing house in Kostinbrod just ahead of Bulgaria’s May 2013 parliamentary elections.
The Prosecutor-General’s office alleged that between April 27 and May 12 2013, Zhelyazkov failed to fulfil his professional duties when he allegedly failed to exercise proper control over the implementation of a contract between the Cabinet office and the Multiprint company for the printing and supply of 8 343 000 ballot papers. Subsequently, the court acquitted Zhelyazkov of all charges.
Should Radev sign the decree dismissing Marinov as Interior Ministry chief secretary, a vote in Parliament to accept the three resignations and appoint the successors is possible this week.
The saga of the resignations and replacements has provoked further tensions in the ruling coalition. While matters have been patched up for now, Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov’s National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria party – part of government minority partner the United Patriots – has said that it will vote against the resignations, but vote in favour of the new ministers. Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s party GERB is confident that it will muster sufficient votes in the House to approve the resignations and the new appointments.
(Photo of Zhelyazkov: Bulgarian Communications Regulation Commission)