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BULGARIA


  
  

 

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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)

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Update No: 123 - (31/08/07)

Scandal at the top
There is a difficult issue at large in all the former communist countries and spreading like the recent forest fires - that of lustration, or the exposure of those who collaborated with the former regimes. In Poland the Kaczinski brothers in charge are all for exposure. 

In Bulgaria it now turns out that the popular president, Georgi Purvanov, had worked for the communist-era secret services from 1989 to 1993. What is immensely curious about this is that he was doing so after the collapse of communism. Everyone has their reasons; had he a clean bill of health beforehand and only became a collaborator after the event?

There is no doubt that it is a bizarre business. It is surely one over which those who have lived all their lives in the West should not set themselves up in judgement, if only because many if not most contemporary politicians of any age, who were at all active in the years up to 1991,must have been within the communist party. That says that they must have been involved in some way with their country's communist intelligence services. To have achieved any significant rank in post-communist states, those individuals still in the political game will have used their leverage there to help them get where they are now -so there are few, probably only the young, who are untarnished if fully investigated. That would exclude the former king,Simeon II which might help to explain how he came to get elected, when he did.

Even amongst the former communist countries Bulgaria was infamous at the time of the collapse of the communist state, for its all-powerful KGB taking over state enterprises and its former secret police's top executives becoming instant millionaires. Because many believe that substantially things remain the same, the EU came in for a lot of criticism for over-hastily extending membership to this nation. 

But there are Bulgars who object
Two civil organizations have lodged in Parliament a demand for charging President Purvanov with infringement of the Constitution with the aim of suspending him from his position. 

The reason is his intentionally hiding his past as an agent of the Secret Services and his dependence on the secret services abroad, which threatens state security.

The demand was entered by 'Justice,' a civil initiative with its leader Ivan Gruykin, supported by 'Anna Politkovskaya,' a heroine of freedom of speech in Russia, assassinated last year.

The two organizations are also organizing a protest signature list that will be soon out on the streets. This way they will start a civil pressure for the president's removal.

                                              ******

October local elections date set
President Purvanov has decreed Sunday October 28 as the day on which Bulgarian and EU citizens eligible to vote will go to the polls to choose new city and town mayors and councils. 

The deadline for registration as a voter or candidate councillor is election day minus 40 days.

Sofia the key contest
Polls indicate that in the capital city Sofia, incumbent mayor Boiko Borissov is the man to beat. The Bulgarian Socialist Party, mindful that Borissov's party the Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) outdid the BSP in Bulgaria's MEP elections in May, is reported to have narrowed the field of possible mayoral candidates to a handful of political heavyweights.

Two Cabinet ministers, Ivailo Kalfin and Stefan Danailov, and senior BSP figure Kostadin Paskalev are said to have between them the most backing to be the party's candidate in Sofia. Officially, the option of nominating Roumen Ovcharov, the former economy minister who quit his post this year amid controversy but who continues to have serious influence in the BSP Sofia branch, has not been ruled out, although it is not widely regarded as politically saleable.

In the previous mayoral elections in 2005 in Sofia, BSP candidate Tatyana Doncheva was beaten in a second-round runoff by Borissov.

On August 7, Bulgarian-language daily Duma, which is closely aligned to the BSP, published an interview with analyst Mihail Mirchev who said that the party would have a good chance in Sofia if it could come up with a candidate with a profile "very much similar" to that of Borissov.

Orthodox priest barred as a candidate in Kurdzhali
Borissov's GERB was involved in one of the more bizarre stories to emerge so far in what promises to be an intriguing campaign. GERB, which recently has styled itself a party of the right wing, made common cause with ultra-nationalist party Ataka and another nationalist party, IMRO, to nominate a Bulgarian Orthodox Church priest, Boyan Saruev, in Kurdzhali, traditionally a stronghold of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), the party mainly led and supported by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent. 

However, Saruev quit the race when he failed to secure permission from church authorities to stand as a candidate.

UDF comeback?
Eyes are also on the recently-elected leader of the centre-right Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), business person Plamen Yuroukov, to see whether he can save the party's ever-declining political fortunes. The UDF, ousted from power in the 2001 national elections, has been in sharp decline since then. Its then leader, former prime minister Ivan Kostov, quit the leadership to eventually go on to found the right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB). His successor as UDF leader, former foreign minister Nadezhda Mihailova, failed to resuscitate the party and eventually stepped down, opening the way for the election of Yuroukov.

There was speculation that GERB and the UDF could co-operate, but a war of words ensued when Yuroukov was quoted as saying that Borissov was a right-winger but his party was left-wing. At the same time, there was some desultory flirtation between GERB and Kostov's DSB.

Also politically deeply troubled is the National Movement for Stability and Progress (NMSP, formerly the National Movement Simeon II) which has suffered infighting over whether it should continue to participate in the national coalition Cabinet.
The other coalition partner, the MRF, recently did a house-cleaning, where leader Ahmed Dogan sent a message by axing most of the MRF leadership in Plovdiv because of a disappointing voter turnout for the MEP elections.

Initial polls indicate that the only other mayor of a major city apart from Borissov who is poised to keep his job is Varna's Kiril Yordanov.

Potentially throwing a spoke in the wheel of progress towards the elections is a petition by UDF MPs to take the Local Elections Act to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the residence qualification for voting included in the act is unconstitutional.

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