A meeting of the Bulgarian government coalition council that had been scheduled for October 8 has been postponed until October 12, amid signs of disagreement over the choice of a new chief secretary of the Interior Ministry.
The post is vacant following the election of former chief secretary Mladen Marinov as Interior Minister on September 20.
Once again, the core disagreement is between two of the leaders of the United Patriots, the grouping of ultra-nationalist and far-right parties that is the minority partner in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government.
Ataka leader Volen Siderov wants Svetlozar Lazarov, who was Interior Ministry chief secretary from 2013 to 2015 and who until recently was a senior official in Siderov’s party, to be given the post.
On October 7, Siderov’s Ataka said that the coalition council would meet on Monday at 9am to discuss the question.
But not long after the scheduled start of the meeting, Bulgarian National Radio reported that it had been postponed, with no reason given. Reports suggested that Ataka had wanted the postponement.
The same morning, October 8, United Patriots co-leader Valeri Simeonov, with whom Siderov frequently has publicly been at odds, described Lazarov as someone with “serious negatives”.
Simeonov referred to the Lyaskovets case, of which Lazarov had been in ultimate command. In that botched operation, against a mentally ill man who had barricaded himself in an apartment, a police special forces officer died and three were seriously injured.
A month after the March 2014 operation, it was announced that four Interior Ministry staff were to be sanctioned, though Lazarov was not among them.
Simeonov has indicated that he believes that the new Interior Ministry chief secretary should be put forward by Borissov’s GERB party.
Nominally, the chief secretary is a non-party official. Marinov’s appointment was made from the GERB quota after his predecessor as the Interior Minister, Valentin Radev – from GERB – resigned.
Possibly complicating the saga of the new chief secretary will be the fact that it will be co-ordinated with President Roumen Radev, elected on a ticket of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and a frequent public critic of Borissov’s government.
Marinov’s election as Interior Minister was delayed because of a public squabble between the governing coalition and Radev over whether Radev had been properly consulted about the decree, which the law requires the signature of the President, dismissing Marinov as chief secretary.