Protest and poser after Bulgarian Interior Minister submits resignation

Protest and poser after Bulgarian Interior Minister submits resignation

Sofia, March 5, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe

The political drama over the resignation of Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Vesselin Vuchkov continued on March 5 as the formal tabling of his resignation in Parliament was awaited and the Protest Network announced an evening demonstration over the broader issues raised by his departure.

Vuchkov said at a March 4 cabinet meeting that he was stepping down because his intention to replace the Interior Ministry chief secretary and other senior officials was being thwarted.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov agreed to accept his resignation, expressing fury at the timing as it came on the same day that the director of the FBI and the president of Azerbaijan were visiting Bulgaria.

The Reformist Bloc, the minority partner in the centre-right coalition cabinet that took office in November 2014, said that it hoped that Vuchkov would reconsider his decision. A similar opinion by the deputy leader of Borissov’s GERB party, former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, according to a report by Bulgarian National Radio.

Vuchkov said that he saw no reason to withdraw his resignation, saying that it was well thought-out and based on solid legal arguments. It was not an emotional decision, Vuchkov said.

It has not yet become clear who will be appointed to replace Vuchkov, although it is expected that the appointee also will come from the GERB quota, in terms of the coalition agreement.

Deputy Prime Minister and senior GERB member Roumyana Buchvarova told a morning television programme on March 4 that Vuchkov’s integrity was being used by other people who wanted to pressure the Prime Minister.

The replacement should be a person with “the profile of Vesselin Vuchkov,” Buchvarova said. She said that she hoped that the candidate would be someone supported by all parliamentary groups.

Buchvarova said that it was not a choice between the Interior Minister and other staff.

“There was no preliminary conversation in which it was clear that if we do not make certain choices, he would have to resign. We were all surprised.”

Vuchkov had wanted to get rid of Interior Ministry chief secretary Svetozar Lazarov and the head of the State Agency for National Security, both holdovers from the now-departed Bulgarian Socialist Party administration. Bulgaria’s Parliament recently approved changes to the law that would enable both of them to be dismissed.

Buchvarova rejected speculation that the resignation was a trade-off with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

This conspiracy theory emerged in the hours after Vuchkov’s resignation. The theory holds that in return for not standing in the way of the government’s plan to open several billion euro in new foreign borrowing, Vuchkov would be let go instead of the Interior Ministry and SANS chiefs who date from the time that the MRF was in government.

Buchvarova said that there was no reasonable explanation to justify this claim that Borissov was dependent on the MRF. “If the opposition is so strong that it holds in its hands the fate of the government, perhaps there would be trade-offs, but in this case there is no such logic,” she said.

Buchvarova added that Borissov would replace Lazarov and Pisanchev “when the time was deemed most appropriate”.

“Sooner of later there will be a change,” she said.

Reports on the morning of March 5 said that Vuchkov’s resignation had not yet been formally tabled in Parliament.

It was expected that GERB, as well as the minority supporters of the government, socialist ABC and the nationalist Patriotic Front, would vote in favour of the resignation mainly on the principle of not forcing someone to remain in a post that he does not want to occupy. It was not clear how the MRF would vote, reports said.

Meanwhile, the Protest Network, which arose out of the 2013/14 public protests that had demanded the resignation of the BSP-MRF government after the abortive appointment of controversial figure Delyan Peevski as head of SANS, said that it was calling a protest to be held on March 5 at 6.30pm outside the cabinet office.

The Protest Network invoked its long-standing question, “Who?” a reference to the issue of who really had been behind the appointment of Peevski. In the parlance of the Protest Network, this question extends to the issue of how and by who Bulgaria is really run.

The network said that the fear of change and the “strong umbrella” over the head of SANS, the Interior Ministry chief secretary and the head of the State Agency for Technical Operations would not break the pattern.

They said that in spite of the change in political control of the country, there was still no answer to the question “Who?”