The New Bulgarian PM Georgi Bliznashki: What Should Be Remembered

Novinite Insider | Author: Angel Petrov |August 6, 2014, Wednesday // 07:55
Bulgaria: The New Bulgarian PM Georgi Bliznashki: What Should Be Remembered A referendum petition which demanded a poll on overhauling the electoral system was what made the new Prime Minister more popular among civil society representatives. Photo by BGNES

A brief sketch on Georgi Bliznashki, the caretaker Prime Minister to assume office on Wednesday, and his recent activities.

Bliznashki: from High-Ranking Socialist Party Member to Civil Rights Activist

With several landmark books on parliamentary rule, the 57-year-old Georgi Bliznashki is the second professor to become PM in Bulgaria's most recent history.

Once a key Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) member presiding over the socialists' organization in the capital Sofia, he was also the party's likely presidential candidate to be pitted against Rosen Plevneliev in 2011, but lost the internal battle to former MEP Ivaylo Kalfin.

Just two years later his stance was quite the opposite, as he defied the BSP-led government's decision to appoint controversial liberal MEP Delyan Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security (DANS) which prompted thousands of Bulgarians to flock to the streets in protest.

The professor later managed to coin for himself an image of a civil rights activist representing the academic circles by supporting actions of the so-called "Early-Rising Students", a group of young people who spearheaded a number of rallies and actions calling for a government resignation.

In January, he was the most outspoken supporter of the President's proposal that a national poll be held on the introduction of a majority system, mandatory voting and electronic voting and even became Chairman of the Initiative Committee raising these demands (though formally distancing himself from Plevneliev) and gathering citizen signatures to table them in Parliament.

His actions did not go unnoticed by the BSP, however; socialists summarily expelled him on March 7 this year (alongside President (2002-2011) Georgi Parvanov) for what they described as "damaging the party’s prestige through public statements and activities aimed against party policy and decisions." For weeks the BSP had rejected the slightest notion of a referendum on election rules when Bliznashki announced the petition was to be handed to Parliament.

Even though it failed to trigger a poll as many signatures were declared invalid for technical reasons, Bliznashki's name became associated with the referendum in the past half a year. 

Despite his recent criticism at the BSP which has provoked a number of comments within their ranks, Bliznashki once told the website that he was still on the left in terms of political convictions.

"I am where I was - my party, which turned right, expelled me," he was quoted as saying.

He has never spared remarks targeting "his party" and was among the staunchest critics of the flat tax rate adopted by the 2005-2009 "Three-Way-Coalition", also headed by the BSP.

Decision to Appoint Bliznashki Provokes Mixed Reactions

On naming Bliznashki as caretaker Prime Minister, Plevneliev described him as a "prominent constitutionalist".

The position was also echoed by foreign outlets as AFP, Deutsche Welle or Austrian daily Der Standard, where the choice of Bliznashki was rather interpreted as the President's gesture to civil society.

But Bulgarian experts were rather reluctant to provide immediate comments, with political scientist Parvan Simeonov cautiously warning Plevneliev produced "a new politician" by appointing the law professor. 

Simeonov noted that Bliznashki and Plevneliev's political program was "too ambitious" and also that the caretaker PM could turn into an important "political factor" if his term in office was successful.

Simeonov also told Focus News Agency that Bliznashki, who recently entered the ranks of "protesters", was part of Plevneliev's efforts to position the caretaker government as a "natural continuation" of the protest movement. The professor, on the other hand, has a "left political biography" but quit his party, the expert pointed.

Others reminded that Bliznashki had come under fire in spring for allegedly manipulating signatures in the referendum petition, as many deemed it impossible to collect half a million of them in just a few weeks.

Stressing Bliznashki and Plevneliev's support for protesters which has often been described as excessive by analysts, Ivo Hristov warned that Bliznashki's appointment should raise concerns in society.

"The cabinet was certainly announced with exaggerated enthusiasm. The speech of [Bulgarian President Rosen] Plevneliev sounded like a five-year plan, and not like recommendations for three-month governance... This is a cabinet of cashed down protesthood," Hristov told the Bulgarian National Television on Wednesday.

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Tags: three-way coalition, Referendum, Delyan Peevski, Ivaylo Kalfin, BSP, Rosen Plevneliev, Georgi Bliznashki, Georgi Parvanov

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