Traycho Traykov, the Reluctant Presidential Candidate

Novinite Insider | October 12, 2016, Wednesday // 14:40
Bulgaria: Traycho Traykov, the Reluctant Presidential Candidate Presidential candidate Traycho Traykov (R) and running made Sabi Sabev. Photo: BGNES

Novinite publishes profiles of presidential candidates running in the forthcoming elections on November 06.

The last one who will have a separate profile is former Economy Minister Traycho Traykov, the candidate of the Reformist Bloc coalition.

Never before has it been so important who will be President,” Traycho Traykov, a former minister and presidential candidate in the 2016 elections, told private bTV station in March.

My preference is that it shouldn't be me... I do not feel attracted by either the life of a president or the life of a former president,” Traykov said.

Six months later, he was nominated for President by the Reformist Bloc (RB) a loose coalition of centrist and right-wing parties which is the junior partner in Bulgaria's coalition government. The announcement of his candidacy was not unaccompanied by tensions amid the RB's “heavyweight” parties: the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB) and Bulgaria of Citizens Movement (DBG), which have long been involved in a battle for dominance within the bloc.

The UDF, shortly after supporting his candidacy, backtracked, putting forward the name of Grozdan Karadzhov, a member of the RB's Civic Council. The decision was a blow to DBG, which deems the Civic Council irrelevant to decision-making. Traykov - whose affiliation to the RB began as he entered the bloc's Civic Council (a watchdog body whose consultative function is downplayed by some of the parties) in 2013 – does not enjoy wide support within the UDF, as he called on the party's leader Bozhidar Lukarski to withdraw his nomination for Economy Minister in 2014 as it had not been councilted with the council.

In 2009, then aged 37, he ditched his career as an official for electricity company EVN's Bulgarian subsidiary to become Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism. His background at the time also involved consultancy on merger and acquisition activities across Central and Eastern Europe. After graduating from the University of National and World Economy in Sofia, he specialized financial analysis and management in Austria and Germany.

It was during his term in office that one of the big three energy projects involving Russia - the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline - was abandoned by the government. Borisov also snubbed his advice on shale gas, imposing full moratorium on exploration and drilling. Another bone of contention was his stance on Belene nuclear power plant, which he initially backed, argued some of the conditions should be changed, while Borisov's opinion slowly moved against the plant.

Traykov's tenure ended abruptly, after he got involved in two major scandals, one being the spat over Belene NPP and the other a conflict with Valentin Zlatev, the head of Lukoil Bulgaria, who, according to the former minister, artificially wrote up oil production costs. None of them, however, was used as an occasion for him to resign or be asked to step down.

He made the move, widely expected among political observers, in March 2012, after a visit of a Bulgarian delegation to Qatar. After the trip, Borisov accused him of having lied in the sun instead of working for Bulgaria's energy interests.

Traykov entered the RB's Civic Council in 2013 and was elected municipal councilor in Sofia at last year's local elections.

In September, he told private NOVA TV station he had heard a number of people say they would vote for him, but were too few and doubted he would get elected. "You are not so few, people. Give it a try," he addressed voters.

"The choice made by Bulgaria twenty years ago, of Euro-Atlantic values and orientation, has to be protected and affirmed," Traykov added, referring to the second half of the 1990s, when a right-wing, pro-NATO and pro-EU government was elected after the economic and financial collapse under a socialist-led government sparked unrest.

He endorses some of the ideas and projects put forward by the GERB-led Energy Ministry, such as the Balkan Gas Hub, and welcomes the cabinet's effort to implement market liberalization, despite criticizing the administration for its "timid" steps.

Judicial reform will be fundamental to his term as President, Traykov made clear while launching his campaign, adding he would use his powers to balance between institutions and make sure all necessary changes are passed through.

Traykov, however, might see his preference “not to be president” being taken into account by voters, with projected support for him, 4.50% according to pollster Market Links and 4.2% according to a fresh survey by Mediana, placing him far behind in the race.

Is running mate, Maj Gen Sabi Sabev, is a reserve armed forces officer. He has obtained his military education and training in Bulgaria and, subsequently, in Russia, the US and various NATO facilities in Europe. His final position is that of a representative of Bulgaria to NATO's general headquarters in Brussels.


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Tags: Belene NPP, RB, Reformist Bloc, Boyko Borisov, GERB, Presidential elections, Traycho Traykov, Sabi Sabev
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