Battle looms in Bulgaria over next changes to security services

Battle looms in Bulgaria over next changes to security services


By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

The embattled Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) government is pressing ahead with its grasping for a consolidation of power through restructuring of the security services, again setting it on a collision course with the head of state, President Rossen Plevneliev.

The current government is in power in spite of the BSP having run second in the May 2013 elections, assuming office because former ruling party, Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB, won the most votes but found itself in a National Assembly with no allies with which to form a governing coalition.

It was a move in the security sector that unleashed what is now more than 74 days of mass anti-government protests, when the BSP and its allies the Movement for Rights and Freedoms sought to place controversial figure Delyan Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security.

The first round of changes made, along with widespread changes countrywide in leadership positions in Interior Ministry structures, resulted in the Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime under the State Agency for National Security – and while the latter was not headed by Peevski after national revolt against the idea, the agency was given a new head more palatable to the new axis after the incumbent from the GERB era quit.

On August 24, it became clear that the BSP-MRF axis, which has the tacit if conditional support of ultra-nationalists Ataka, now intended to go ahead with changes affecting the National Bodyguard Service and the National Intelligence Service.

Mass-circulation daily Trud noted that these changes were going ahead even though experts saw the changes to the Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and SANS had been done without being fully thought-through or lacking any sensible analysis overall of the functioning of Bulgaria’s security sector.

A Sofia-based Bulgarian-language local paper, Kapital, that supports the anti-government protests, described the changes to the security sector as “chaotic” and intended solely at rapid conquest of the system by the current government.

The changes regarding the transfer of the National Bodyguard Service away from a reporting line to the head of state were described on August 24 by President Plevneliev as “outrageous”.

Plevneliev, who although he was elected head of state on a GERB ticket, taking office in January 2012, has been trying to steer a non-partisan course and underlining in public statements that he is guided in his actions purely by the constitution.

His statements, however, more than once seen as endorsing the anti-government protests, have put him repeatedly on collision courses with the parties in power or constituent elements of them, notably Volen Siderov’s Ataka.

Plevneliev has exercised his limited right to veto on key legislation pushed by the BSP-MRF axis, although – so far most dramatically in the recall of Parliament from recess to override his veto on Budget 2013 amendments – the parties in power have voted down these vetoes.

Speaking to journalists, Plevneliev said that he would fight firmly and would not tolerate the transfer of the National Bodyguard Service to a different jurisdiction.

With the end of August and the peak summer season looming, along with resumption of full-blown political life in Bulgaria at the start of September – the battle lines again are being drawn for a confrontation with a government hell-bent on clinging to power in an ever-more-aggravated polarised society.