Candidate for central bank head withdraws amid row within Bulgaria’s ruling coalition

Hours before the council of Bulgaria’s four-party governing coalition was due to meet on resolving its dispute over its two rival candidates to head the central bank, one of the candidates said that he was withdrawing.

There have been weeks of tensions within Bulgaria’s governing coalition over the rival bids by Andrei Gyurov, parliamentary leader of Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s We Continue the Change (WCC) party, and Lyubomir Karimanski of Slavi Trifonov’s ITN party.

On Facebook on April 10, Gyurov said that he was withdrawing his candidacy.

“After the de facto split of the ruling coalition over the election of the BNB (central Bulgarian National Bank) governor, it became clear that there is currently no broad parliamentary majority to support this election,” Gyurov said.

He said that as head of the WCC parliamentary group, he had always put the public interest first, and that now required responsible and statesmanlike thinking and action.

“In the absence of coalition support, let my opponent judge for himself whether he wants to leave this important and responsible choice in the hands of the opposition,” Gyurov said.

“This is ultimately an ethical choice, part of the BNB leader’s requirement for high morals and reputation,” he said.

The lines that have been drawn on the issue in recent days have seen the Democratic Bulgaria coalition call for both candidates to withdraw and a new candidate named, a position lately backed by another of the parties in the governing majority, the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

There was melodrama on April 8 when Karimanski alleged that he had a received a death threat, while senior ITN MP Iva Miteva said on April 9 that Petkov had offered Karimanski the post of Bulgaria’s representative at the World Bank if he withdrew from the BNB race.

Miteva said on April 10 that Karimanski intended taking court action for defamation against WCC co-leader Assen Vassilev, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, after Vassilev levelled allegations against him.

Petkov, speaking soon after Gyurov announced his withdrawal, said that WCC would not support Karimanski because of concerns about his professional biography.

Petkov said that he would information the coalition council about Gyurov’s decision.

He said that Gyurov had decided that he could not afford to stand in an election that would be decided by opposition parties GERB and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms because of the split in the ruling coalition.

“The candidate of WCC informed me that he does not want the battle for BNB governor to be a brake on the most important legislative actions in the coming days, such as the closure of the specialised prosecutor’s office and the specialised court,” Petkov said.

There was no obstacle to the current BNB governor remaining in office until the coalition could agree on a common candidate, he said.

The six-year term in office on the current head of BNB, Dimitar Radev, expired in July 2021, but he continues in office.

“The struggle for positions should not be allowed to prevail over the real goals of the government,” Petkov said.

On April 10, ITN leader Trifonov said in a message on Facebook – ahead of Gyurov’s announcement – that his party had “absolutely no reason” to withdraw Karimanski.

The imbroglio over the central bank post is not the only vexed issue expected to be discussed at the coalition council meeting on the evening of April 10.

Other issues include Bulgaria’s position on the start of EU membership talks for North Macedonia, the provision of military assistance to Ukraine, the forthcoming Budget revision and Democratic Bulgaria’s call for the expulsion of Russian ambassador Eleonora Mitrafanova.

Trifonov has publicly lashed out at Petkov over North Macedonia, while the BSP repeatedly had opposed military aid for Ukraine, the expulsion of Mitrafanova and talk of buying further US-made F-16 fighter jets. The BSP has various demands regarding Budget measures, including a further increase in pensions and a price ceiling on certain foodstuffs.

(Screenshot of Gyurev: BNT)

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