The Bulgarian government has removed Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov as head of the Cabinet’s National Council for Co-operation on Ethnic and Integration Issues, replacing him with Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev, the government media office said on October 25.
The move was proposed by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, according to the government statement, which gave no reasons for the decision.
Simeonov has been mired in controversy in recent days, with calls for his resignation as Deputy Prime Minister over his comments about protesting mothers of children with disabilities.
Under pressure from coalition partners, Simeonov, who for days had said he would not apologise for the comments, issued a grudging apology on October 24.
Simeonov, a co-leader of coalition government minority partner the United Patriots – a grouping of far-right, ultra-nationalist parties that lately has been caught up in faction fighting – is amid new controversy, over draft legislation that would make him the head of the National Council for Integration of People with Disabilities.
The text that provides for this was approved at first reading by the National Assembly’s social policy committee on October 24.
Anton Kutev, of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, said that the proposal to appoint Simeonov to the post “sounds almost like a joke, but the truth is the law was written long before the scandal around Valeri Simeonov broke”
Kutev said that the problem was not the law itself, because it would be good to have the council headed at deputy prime minister level, but that Simeonov – a “bad candidate” – would get the job.
Hassan Ademov, of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, said that his party would propose that the post be given to the Minister of Labour and Social Policy – as has been the case up to now.
In the current situation, the proposal to appoint Simeonov to the post was scandalous, Ademov said.
Svetlana Angelova, of Borissov’s GERB party, said: “I think there is no drama and after consultation, after discussion, this text can be changed”.
Vesselin Mareshki, of the populist Volya party – the smallest in the National Assembly, said: “We should not change the law to transfer this activity to another deputy prime minister, we have to replace the deputy prime minister”.