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BULGARIA


  
  

 

In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 19,859 15,608 13,600 69
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,130 1,790 1,650 106
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Bulgaria

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area(sq.k.m)
110,910

Population
7,517,973 

Capital
Sofia

Currency
Lev 

President 
Georgi Purvanov

Private sector
% of GDP
40%
 



Update No: 109 - (29/06/06)

In the autumn, Bulgarians go to the polls to elect a President.
The constitution allows Georgi Purvanov, who took office as head of state in January 2002, to seek from the electorate a second term in office.
Purvanov seems, to say the least, well aware of this. For a long time, his detractors have accused him of running a re-election campaign. Just when this campaign may be said to have started is difficult to pinpoint. By virtue of his office, largely a non-executive one with powers that encompass the right of veto of parliamentary legislation and the role of Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, along with the requirement that he be a "president for all Bulgarians," Purvanov's job entitles him to a steady succession of photo opportunities. 
Apart from the formal photographs of receptions for visiting heads of state and the bestowal of national honours on the (usually) worthy, events from the cobbling together of the current governing coalition, to lending a hand with sandbags during the floods, have propelled Purvanov in front of the cameras. The latter, at least, may be said to fit reasonably within the job description, as an expression of solidarity with those hard-hit by the deluges of last summer and autumn. 
More lately, Purvanov has looked a lot more like someone actively seeking media attention. While he has a track record of intervention - early during his term of office he invited squabbling members of the judiciary and the Interior Ministry to a behind-closed-doors session to resolve their differences - we may look differently at two events in the past few days.
Purvanov stepped into two long-lingering issues. Both are, strictly speaking, municipal issues, but both have long been the focus of national attention. One is the question of what Sofia should do with its refuse. The other is air pollution in Stara Zagora. Both potentially are vote-gainers for Purvanov. The Sofia issue, firstly because all residents of the city are weary of the prospect of overflowing street refuse containers should there be yet another blockade by those living close to actual or potential refuse sites, and second because - to take the cynical view - offering a solution gave an opportunity Purvanov to show up Sofia mayor Boiko Borissov. 
Borissov, formerly chief secretary of the Interior Ministry and now the capital city's first citizen, took office last year vowing to resolve the refuse issue. In turn, this pledge was seen as part of a longer game by Borissov in pursuit of Purvanov's job. We may think that Purvanov has beaten Borissov at his own game, if indeed it is true that Borissov's game has as its goal the President's office, and if we think so, it is very possible that we were meant to. 
Stara Zagora is another easy vote-gainer. With adults and children struck by respiratory problems, with windows and washing left filthy by the foul air, and with all previous attempts by municipal authorities and Parliament to investigate and solve the problem having come to naught, anyone who could clear a path to clean air would surely become the Pied Piper of Stara Zagora. And all Purvanov would seek would be the city's votes, rather than, as in the legend, its children.
It is not yet official that Purvanov will seek a second term, although there is a degree of ritual about this. Purvanov, in not yet being officially confirmed as having the backing of the Bulgarian Socialist Party - the party of which he was leader before being elected President - is undergoing the same ritual that was applied to current BSP leader Sergei Stanishev before last year's June parliamentary elections. It was just a few months before polls opened that the BSP confirmed its leader as its candidate for Prime Minister. 
This time round, the game is a little more complicated. While Purvanov has made no significant missteps in office, the coalition that he brokered is vulnerable. It is vulnerable because it has not been the delivery vehicle for the promises made by the BSP in the election campaign. It is vulnerable, arguably even more on this point than the previous one, because it was put together to ensure Bulgaria's entry into the European Union. However the May 16 report by the European Commission on this country's readiness to join the EU may be interpreted, it is a glaring fact that the EC report did not specify a date for accession. The argument that the fact that it did not recommend a delay in accession until 2008 may be read as implying that accession will be in 2007 is a valid one, but difficult to encapsulate in a soundbite or a rallying call from the hustings.
So it has been suggested more than once that Purvanov may run as an "independent" with the backing of the BSP, among others. He may well be up against candidates from the other two parties in the governing coalition - the National Movement Simeon II and Ahmed Dogan's Movement for Rights and Freedoms - in the first round, with a transfer of allegiance from these parties to him in the second round. Unless, in the second round, these parties endorse Boiko Borissov, if he stands, or NMSII leader and former prime minister and former king Simeon Saxe-Coburg, if he stands. As to the latter, no one seems to have asked him lately, perhaps because while in office as prime minister Saxe-Coburg did not distinguish himself as the master of the unequivocal answer, no matter what the question was.
The performance of the current coalition Government is key to understanding the dynamics of the race. Purvanov put it together, goes the theory, and by association it will be a millstone around his neck, the cliché brought to bear in a June 12 commentary by the Bulgarian-language newspaper, Monitor.
"There is no escaping the image of the person who gave excessive power to the MRF," said Monitor, in reference to Dogan's party, which is supported mainly by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent. One may take this point a step further, Right-wing and ultra-nationalist political forces tap into anti-Turk sentiment, sometimes with overt reference to the five centuries of Ottoman rule in Bulgaria. Portraying Purvanov as a collaborator with the vestiges of Turkish rule would be dirty politics, but that is how the game is played, and vile racism is the stock-in-trade of parties such as Volen Siderov's Ataka - wherever and however, by the way, they place themselves in the race.
Monitor was certain on one point. If Saxe-Coburg stays out of the race, and Borissov does not endorse a candidate other than Purvanov (assuming that Borissov himself stays out of the race), Purvanov is set for re-election.
It may be in a low poll, and it may be, in political terms, by default, but someone has to be President.
That the BSP is prepared to see Purvanov returned for a second term of office, even without the status of official candidacy for the party, was made clear this month by Sergei Stanishev. 
According to a June 12th report by Darik Radio, Stanishev said that the BSP would support Purvanov even if he stood as an independent. "He really tries to be the social president as far as he has authority," Stanishev was quoted as saying, and said that as a party, the BSP was "delighted" with Purvanov.
We await Purvanov's own confirmation of his candidacy. The most recent word, or lack of it, was on June 5th, when he was button-holed by reporters while visiting Kazanluk for the Rose Festival, and declined to say whether he was standing as a candidate.
It is difficult to imagine what could make Purvanov resist the traditional "encouragement" from friends and allies to seek a second term, and it is difficult to imagine that comments like that of Tsvetosar Tomov, of the Skala Polling Agency, who said that Purvanov would lose because of discontent with the Cabinet, would ruffle Purvanov at all.

Rightists need to regroup
Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) leader Petar Stoyanov said that preliminary elections among party members could help rightist parties select a single nomination for the upcoming presidential elections. 
The preliminary elections should be organised as soon as possible to mobilise the right-wing electorate, Stoyanov told Darik Radio. 
The rightist parties in Bulgaria have been trying for months to unite around a single presidential nomination and win back the public support. Negotiations were hindered because of the complicated relations between various rightist parties and the lack of a nomination gathering unanimous support. 
Stoyanov said that the delay was not a setback for the rightist parties and that the relations between the rightist parties remained good. 
Current President and Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) member Georgi Purvanov was in 'a favourable position' to be re-elected as he had the full political and financial support of both BSP and its coalition partner Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), Stoyanov said. 

EU beckons
Bulgaria's Cabinet is determined to do its best and ensure the country's EU membership on January 1st 2007, Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev told European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Hubner. 
Stanishev pointed out that the country has the necessary political will to fulfil all commitments it has made, in order to be prepared for the EU accession in 2007. The prime minister said that the government has mobilized its efforts to the maximum degree and the reforms in the country will not stop after the entry. 
The prime minister also told EU Commissioner, Hubner, that the country had adopted the required legislation, ensuring transparency and accountability in the absorption of the Structural Funds - the adopted laws include those on financial management and control, the public sector audit and on public procurement. 
Bulgaria needs to stay in the fast lane of reforms to join in 2007, the European Commissioner for Regional Policy said. 
Danuta Hubner noted that Bulgaria has made significant progress but needs to take decisive action in certain key policy fields to be able to join the European Union in 2007. 
She added that Bulgaria can take full advantage of the benefits that come together with the accession only if the Bulgarian authorities manage to complete their reforms and preparations in time. 
"We are actively and promptly establishing administrative structures on central, regional and local levels for the successful absorption of the EU Structural Funds in 2007-2008", Stanishev said. 
All institutions managing public funds have already had internal audit divisions. 
Stanishev acquainted the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy with the Decentralisation Strategy 2006-2015 adopted by the government and with the program for its implementation until 2009. 
The Commissioner also met with President Georgi Parvanov, EU-Affairs Minister, Meglena Kuneva, and members of the Bulgarian government concerned with Structural Funds.

Ultra-rightist given his comeuppance
The National Assembly removed the political immunity of Volen Siderov, MP and leader of the ultra-nationalist movement, Ataka. 
Of the 168 MPs which voted, only 12 were against the immunity removal, Focus news agency reported. 
Siderov's immunity was removed because of the April 7th incident on the Trakia highway, when a man was beaten after a quarrel with Siderov and Ataka members travelling at the same time. 
Siderov and his bodyguard Pavel Chernev, also Ataka member and MP, were accused of giving false testimony. 
Speaker of Parliament Georgi Pirinski said that Ataka used populist, anti-constitutional and irresponsible means to destabilise the country and its institutions. He added that Ataka's speculations with public worries were unacceptable and diverted attention from more serious issues. 
Siderov said that even without immunity, he would continue exposing the crimes of the government and the MPs. He added that his immunity was removed because the 'political mafia' feared him. 
According to Siderov the Trakia highway incident was used for political purposes and aimed at harming Ataka's image.

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