Politics | June 20, 2001, Wednesday // 00:00

Associated Press Writer
Former King Simeon II`s party coasted to victory by evoking memories of Bulgaria`s regal prewar past, an era of crowns, scepters and royal carriages. The ex-king`s men and women, however, have been spending their time in the palaces of international finance - young expatriates who plan to bring the lessons they`ve learned abroad back home. Along with a mix of celebrities and academics, the powers behind the throne as part of the National Movement for Simeon II offer a sharp contrast to the previous government`s bureaucrats, who were seen as more interested in the trappings of power than their actual jobs. Simeon`s chief economic adviser, 31-year-old Nikolai Vasilev, apologizes for munching on a sandwich as he goes from interview to interview. He was headed back to his hometown London later Tuesday to attend an international economic conference - and also to give notice at his job directing analysis of eastern Europe at Lazard Capital Markets for what likely will be a Cabinet post in the new government. `I never have time for lunch or breakfast or anything,` he said in his polished English, which he speaks fluently along with Bulgarian, Russian and Hungarian. He also speaks some Japanese, German and French. Vasilev left Bulgaria in 1990 and has lived around the world, earning three university degrees along the way, including two in the United States. He`s among the some 700,000 mostly young and well-educated Bulgarians that left the Balkan country of 8 million in the last decade. During all that time, Vasilev followed what was going on in the land of his birth - and didn`t like what he saw. `I`m part of the generation that hasn`t been happy with what`s going on,` he said, rattling off a list of tax cuts he hopes will spur the sputtering economy and also encourage more foreign investment. `We feel slightly betrayed by the political class for the last 10 years.` Soon also heading home to Brussels, Belgium, to pack for the move back to Bulgaria is 31-year-old Lubka Katchakova. According to preliminary election results, Katchakova beat Prime Minister Ivan Kostov running as the National Movement`s candidate in the capital, Sofia. Katchakova bristles at criticism from political opponents that the ex-king`s court is filled with expatriates who don`t understand Bulgarian politics. Instead she praises `his majesty` for being the first to reach out to younger people who left to bring their western-gained knowledge home. `They say we don`t have experience. We don`t have experience working with corrupt people, but I don`t think that`s anadvantage,` she said. Also fluent in English and French, Katchakova is a chartered accountant and worked the last year and a half in Belgium for accountancy firm Price Waterhouse. `We know what efficiency is, we know what a deadline is,` she said of those swept into office under the royal glow. `We are really doers and not speakers.` The young guns of the ex-king`s future administration talk the free-market talk, pledging to rapidly accelerate the country`s lagging privatization and selling the state telecommunication, electricity, gas and tobacco monopolies. But their youthful enthusiasm could eventually be tempered by a backlash from institutions that don`t neatly follow the western business models they`ve learned about elsewhere. `Most of us are not politicians and we have never been politicians,` said 32-year-old Milena Milotinova, a national television anchorwoman and also one of the National Movement`s parliament candidates coasting to an easy win. The potential of the king also taking office as prime minister - a possibility that has been raised, although no news came Tuesday from his palace on Sofia`s outskirts - is also greeted as welcomeby the young nobles. They say Simeon, a businessman during his exile in Spain, is progressive and modern, not an anachronism hearkening to an earlierage of monarchy. `He gave the whole nation a new hope,` said Vasilev. `It`s really an opportunity for our country,` said Katchakova. `If we refuse to take advantage of this opportunity, then there`s no excuse.`

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