Opposition to Bulgaria’s government seizes on controversy around anti-corruption chief

The announcement on April 4 by Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General that the head of the country’s anti-corruption commission, Plamen Georgiev, was under investigation for alleged irregularities led President Radev to say he was withdrawing his confidence in Georgiev and the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) to say it would petition for Georgiev’s removal.

Georgiev was elected to office on March 8 with the votes of the coalition partners in Bulgaria’s ruling majority, defeating the candidate backed by the BSP.

After controversy erupted in March about ruling majority politicians allegedly having acquired apartments in Sofia at below-market price, Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov said that he had asked Georgiev’s anti-corruption commission to investigate the matter.

Ruling majority figures named in the investigation have resigned their public offices. An opinion poll by Alpha Research showed that Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government and GERB party had been damaged by the apartments controversy.

On April 4, Tsatsarov announced that Georgiev was among people being investigated by prosecutors and the National Revenue Agency in connection with allegations in some media that they too had got apartments at cut-price, evading taxes in the process. All three deny wrongdoing. Georgiev is taking leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

The same day, the office of the President said that Radev was withdrawing his confidence in Georgiev. Radev, head of state after election on a ticket backed by the BSP, had in January vetoed the law providing for the election of the new version of an anti-corruption body, the one that Georgiev now heads. Radev’s veto was overturned by the ruling majority.

A day before Tsatsarov announced the investigation into Georgiev, Supreme Cassation Court president Lozan Panov and the son of Bulgaria’s National Investigation Service, Radev had announced that he was calling a meeting for April 8 of the Consultative Council on National Security, to discuss corruption in high places.

The entire melodrama is taking place in the run-up to Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections, to be held on May 26 2019.

BSP leader Kornelia Ninova, whose party has been boycotting sittings of the National Assembly, told an April 4 news conference that her party wanted Georgiev to resign. If he did not, the party intended raising a petition in Parliament for him and his deputy to be dismissed.

Ninova said that her party had tabled its own version of the anti-corruption law and commission, but this had been rejected.

She said that the removal of the anti-corruption leadership would not solve the problem “because it is not possible for the government, whoever it is, to choose the ones who will check them…there will never be a complete fight against corruption because they are interdependent on each other”.

(Archive photo of Radev and Ninova in November 2016: BSP)



The Sofia Globe staff

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