Bulgaria’s July elections: Trifonov names proposed cabinet with Nikolai Vassilev as PM

With the official results of Bulgaria’s July 11 early parliamentary elections still pending, ITN leader Slavi Trifonov has listed the cabinet that he will propose to the next National Assembly, naming Nikolai Vassilev – a veteran of two previous governments – as his nominee to be Prime Minister.

Incomplete results showed a fractional difference in the percentages won by Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF coalition and Trifonov’s ITN, meaning that it is not yet clear which of the two will first be offered a mandate to seek to get a government approved by Parliament.

In an address shown live on Facebook and his cable television channel on July 12, Trifonov said that ITN would not form coalitions, but would “take political responsibility” to propose its own government to Parliament.

Trifonov described his nominees as experts in their fields, with concrete priorities with the shortest possible deadline to implement them. Some of the nominees have served in previous caretaker governments.

“I think there is no government of the minority, no government of the majority, because all governments are of Bulgaria,” he said.

Vassilev, 51, was deputy prime minister in the Simeon Saxe-Coburg government from 2001 to 2005 and again in the tripartite coalition government of Saxe-Coburg’s party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms that was in office from 2005 to 2009.

From 2001 to 2003, Vassilev was also economy minister, from 2003 to 2005, minister of transport and communications, and from 2005 to 2009 was minister of state administration and administrative reform. Apart from the public offices that he has held, Vassilev has a background in the private sector.

Other nominees are:

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs: Radi Naidenov, career diplomat, former ambassador to Austria and Germany, now Switzerland and Liechtenstein, who was caretaker foreign minister in 2017 in the Ognyan Gerdzhikov interim administration appointed by President Roumen Radev.

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister: Nikolai Radulov. Now a New Bulgarian University professor, Radulov was a State Security officer in Sofia in the early 1980s and from 1997 to 1998 was secretary of the Interior Ministry.

Finance: Maria Boychinova, who has worked for US firms. A graduate of the London Business School and Vassar College, Boychinova works for Expat Capital, a company set up by Nikolai Vassilev.

Economy: Lyubomir Datsov, who was deputy finance minister in two governments between 2003 and 2009.

Health: Velislava Petrova, an immunologist.

Education: Natalia Mitova, a graduate from Columbia University in California.

Energy: Krassimir Nenov, executive director of Contour Global – Maritza East 3.

Regional Development and Public Works: Mihaela Lashova, financier and manager.

Transport: Hristo Alexiev, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science and held the transport portfolio in the 2017 Gerdzhikov caretaker cabinet.

Tourism: Ivailo Kozhuharov, former manager of a hotel chain in Albena, manager of hotels in Sofia.

Agriculture: Plamen Abrovski, a lawyer.

Defence: Teodora Genchovska, a graduate of the GS Rakovski Military Academy.

Labour: Lilia Ivanova, a lawyer and Sofia University graduate.

Justice: Petar Iliev, a lawyer and lecturer in constitutional law.

Culture: Stanislava Armutlieva, a music producer.

Youth and Sports: Radostin Vassilev.

Minister without portfolio on Roma issues: Antonia Valentinova, doctor.

Trifonov did not include the portfolios of environment and of EU funds management in his announcement.

Trifonov said that current caretaker ministers Assen Vassilev (finance), Kiril Petkov (economy) and Nikolai Denkov (education) had been asked to join his proposed cabinet, but had declined.

In a joint statement on Monday afternoon, the three – Vassilev, Petkov and Denkov – said that they had held talks with ITN at the invitation of Trifonov’s party.

“In the course of the talks, it became clear that ITN and the economic team of the caretaker government have significant differences in their visions for financial policy and the main tasks in the coming period

“In addition, ITN offered the current caretaker Minister of Finance, Assen Vassilev, a ministerial post in another ministry. That is why all three of us decided that it would be better for the future government to have a team that shares the vision of the Prime Minister and the holder of the mandate regarding the financial policy of the state,” they said, adding that they wished the future government luck.

Trifonov listed the priorities of his proposed government as including:

Construction of the required number of kindergartens to accommodate all children from Sofia and other cities in the country.

Construction of a brand new children’s hospital

Purchase of medical rescue helicopters.

Putting motorways, such as Hemus, as concession, with the concession-holder required to build or complete them.

The purchase of up to a million tablets or laptops for all pupils and teachers and the provision of the necessary software for the education system.

The privatisation of state-owned Bulgarian Development Bank, with 51 per cent for a strategic investor and 49 per cent through the Bulgarian Stock Exchange.

A sharp improvement of transparency in public procurement.

Eradication of the vicious practice of spending billions of leva from state structures without competitive procedures, eradication of the vicious practice of paying billions in advance to contractors, eradication of the vicious practice of presenting a number of repairs as “emergency” in order to circumvent the Public Procurement Act.

Rapid redundancies in the state administration and digitalisation of services.

Changing Bulgaria’s electoral system to introduce a majoritarian vote, electronic voting and reducing state subsidies for parties to one lev per valid vote.

Abolishing the Special Court and the Specialised Prosecutor’s Office.

Accelerated construction and commissioning of the gas interconnector with Greece

Confirmation of the application for membership of Bulgaria of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the euro zone and the Schengen visa zone.

Submission of an application for Bulgaria’s to join the the European Space Agency. Trifonov said that the government would do everything possible for a man and a woman to become Bulgaria’s first astronauts via Nasa. (Via the Soviet Union, Bulgaria had two cosmonauts). “We will do everything possible for a North Macedonian astronaut to join them,” he said.

There were at least two things notably absent from the priorities stated by Trifonov.

One was regarding Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev, whom ITN had during its election campaign should be dismissed from that post.

Second, there was no mention among the priorities of the fight against Covid-19.

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