Bulgaria's Ex-King Simeon II Celebrates 70th Birthday

Society | June 16, 2007, Saturday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: Bulgaria's Ex-King Simeon II Celebrates 70th Birthday Simeon's whole family - his 4 sons, his daughter Kalina and his 11 grandsons gathered for the happy occasion. Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (Sofia Photo Agency)

Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, the leader of the Bulgarian National Movement for Stability and Progress, and the country's ex-king celebrated on Saturday his 70th birthday.

All his children and grandchildren came to Bulgaria to celebrate with him the happy occasion.

On June 16, 70 years ago the church bells in the whole country started tolling to announce that the crown prince, who would be the next king, was born. To make everybody share their joy, the king and the queen gave broad amnesty to prisoners and the children in schools were given higher marks. Some days later the future king was christened with water, specially brought from the Jordan River.

On August 28, 1943, after the sudden death of King Boris III, little Simeon, only 6 years old, ascended to the throne. He could not rule, so regents were appointed. After the communist coup d'etat on September 9, 1944, Simeon was left to be king, but all his regents were executed. Two years later he, together with his sister Princess Maria Luisa and his mother Queen Yoanna, were sent in exile to Alexandria in Egypt. In June 1951 the three were given political asylum.

In 1996 Simeon came back to Bulgaria after nearly 50 years of exile. In 1998 he Constitutional Court decided to return to Simeon all his family's properties, which stirred a huge uproar among the right-wing parties of the time. In 2001 Simeon announced he wanted to establish a national movement, carrying his name that would work for new ethics in politics. His Simeon II National Movement was registered as a party and he even took part in the parliamentary elections on June 17, 2001. After a smashing victory, he became the new prime minister of Bulgaria.

His cabinet took Bulgaria to two of its strategic goals - NATO membership and accession to the European Union.

Simeon Saxe-Coburg was re-elected leader of his party on June 3, 2007, when his party changed its name to National Movement for Stability and Progress (NMSP). On Friday Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov signed the decree to award the former monarch Simeon the Stara Planina medal, first degree, the country's highest civilian distinction.

The award is ostensibly timed to coincide with Saxe-Coburg's 70th anniversary, but also serves as a show of support for the ex-king, who faces rebellion from unhappy MPs from his party.

NMSP is part of the three-way ruling coalition with the Socialists, Parvanov's former party, and the ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), engineered by the Bulgarian president after the indecisive parliamentary elections in 2005.
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