Bulgaria gets interim government ahead of snap election

New Bulgarian president Rumen Radev seeks better relations with Russia

Bulgaria’s president-elect Rumen Radev is congratulated by well wishers during a handover ceremony outside Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photograph: Oleg Popov/Reuters

Bulgaria’s president-elect Rumen Radev is congratulated by well wishers during a handover ceremony outside Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photograph: Oleg Popov/Reuters

 

Bulgaria’s new president Rumen Radev will dissolve parliament on Friday and a caretaker government will start running the country ahead of early elections called for March 26th.

Gen Radev’s victory in last November’s presidential election triggered the political upheaval, with the outgoing centre-right cabinet deciding to resign after its candidate was soundly beaten by the former air force commander.

Gen Radev appointed ex-parliamentary speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov as interim prime minister this week, replacing a government led by Boiko Borisov, whose centre-right Gerb party holds a slim lead in polls ahead of the snap vote.

The widely respected Mr Gerdzhikov (70) said he would seek to provide stability and guide the EU and Nato member state of 7.2 million people smoothly to its third early election in four years.

Surveys suggest that neither Gerb nor their main rivals the Socialists will secure a majority in the March ballot, raising the prospect of prolonged uncertainty in a Black Sea state where analysts say Russia is keen to reassert its Soviet-era influence.

Moscow influence

Russian money and business still have considerable sway in Bulgaria, which relies on Moscow for energy and welcomes many Russian tourists each year.

In the presidential election campaign, Gen Radev and his Socialist backers emphasised the need to repair western relations with Moscow and lift EU sanctions imposed over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“Europhilia does not mean Russophobia. Anti-Russian rhetoric carries unnecessary risks . . . I will work toward lifting the sanctions. Crises should be resolved with political tools and not economic,” Gen Radev said at the time.

Before taking office last week, the US-trained Gen Radev (53) reiterated his desire to improve ties with the Kremlin, while insisting that he would do nothing to jeopardise Bulgaria’s membership of the EU and Nato.

“Bulgaria will always work only together with its partners, the EU and Nato . . . I want Bulgaria to be a real member of Nato, with real capabilities and to be a loyal and predictable partner,” he told the Financial Times.

“I think we face common threats – terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism – and co-operation between Nato and Russia is necessary,” he added.

“If we don’t work for a better dialogue and to reduce confrontation, we can’t face these global threats effectively.”

Gen Radev appeals to the many Bulgarians who are disillusioned with their political elite and its failure to fight corruption, which the EU again criticised in a monitoring report this week.