Bulgaria's President Says Too Early to Talk about 2nd Term

Politics | January 21, 2016, Thursday // 11:47
Bulgaria: Bulgaria's President Says Too Early to Talk about 2nd Term Bulgaria's President Rosen Plevneliev. Photo by BGNES

It is too early to announce candidacies for the presidential election due this autumn, Bulgarian head of state Rosen Plevneliev has said in his annual address.

“Everyone who thinks they can lead a 10-month campaign instead of doing something that makes sense for people will certainly be punished by the people,” he said answering to a journalist's question whether he was already considering a second term. “Early debates [on candidacies] will change the real agenda of society... the big issues of justice” and will let citizens down.

Despite having limited competence under a parliamentary system, the President is directly elected by the people and has slightly boosted powers.

In his account of the fourth year in office (he took over in January of 2012), Plevneliev set out the challenges facing him over the past year of his tenure, naming the rise of nationalist protests, civic activism and demonstrations (with people showing “to the oligarchy... they demand change,” the need for “long-term planning in the state”, and the difficulties of remaining a “non-partisan President”, responding to issues emerging from the geopolitical orders, and preserving the reputation of Bulgaria's Presidency as a trustworthy institution.”

The latter challenge comes “despite the attacks against me,” Plevneliev noted, referring to allegations hurled by certain parties from the opposition that the head of state is serving “business interests” or siding with particular segments of society on controversial issues. Another point of controversy have been his foreign-policy positions, with socialists slamming him for his criticism of Russian actions in the Ukraine crisis.

Asked about his remarks about Russia and whether his condemnation of Russia as an "aggressive" country waging "hybrid war", he said: "Bulgaria has never questioned its historic ties to Russia... [Shared values] makes us strong. But when we are witnessing actions threatening our family [the EU, NATO and the Western world]... it is expected of us that we have a position. I will not bow down."

"As long as I am President, I will have my position," he added.

The head of state urged Bulgaria to aspire to the Eurozone, Schengen accession, an an active involvement in the nascent Energy Union in an environment where the risk of “two-tier Europe” could leave Bulgaria in the periphery of EU integration.

He praised Bulgaria's government for respecting “the rights of refugees, but also protecting state borders. We work for common European solution... But we safeguard national interest.” A record high number of visits paid by Western European and US politicians also marked 2015, against the background of “2.5% economic growth [this is yet to be officially confirmed], a low level of unemployment [and] the best result in absorbing EU funding.”

Plevneliev, however, criticized politicians for to providing “active results [sic]” in the investigation into the crisis at Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB), which collapsed months after a bank run that placed it under the supervision of central bank BNB.

„I am not satisfied with what has been achieved so far... I will not allow politicians to embark on the latest pillage of the Bulgarian people through KTB.”

He later said that the collapse of KTB might be partly due to measures implemented by the first interim government he appointed back in 2013, setting rules for transparency and accountability of state money.

Despite hailing the onset of judicial reform, he opined “not enough” progress has been made yet, urging more effort to deepen the changes.

Without concealing his pride with being Bulgaria's first head of state who triggered a referendum (on October 25 Bulgarians cast a ballot on whether remote online voting should be introduced), Plevneliev warned lawmakers against ignoring “the will of the people” and “renouncing contemporary ways of voting”.

On Friday lawmakers approved a proposal to introduce e-voting. In October, a majority of people who voted backed the move, with the turnout falling below the threshold needed to make the referendum's outcome binding. Voter activity, however, was high enough to force MPs to consider the proposal.

In his words, a thumbs down coming from lawmakers could lead “not only to a decline of democratic values, but also to a decline of the state itself”: “a “no” from the National Assembly will change the political space, since nearly 2 million people who voted “yes” will feel ill-represented.

The cyber attacks carried out in the day of the referendum “against the Bulgarian state and democracy” should also be investigated. The website of Bulgaria's electoral watchdog and several other institutions were hit by hackers, with opponents of e-voting citing the attacks as an example against the method which could lead to manipulations of citizens' will. Plevneliev than argued this could have been a plot aimed at discrediting the referendum.

The President also enumerated four goals Bulgaria should be pursuing in the near future. These include an e-government, “fair justice system”, more referendums, and “a socially responsible, and not oligarchic economy.”

He reiterated his call for tolerance and respect for human rights and freedoms “unless we want the terrorists to win,” adding “terrorism begins where education failed”.

He noted that “no change of elites occurred” in the country, allowing the Communist nomenklatura to be reborn... Today 10 800 agents of State Security [the Communist-era secret service] are holding offices at institutions.”

“I will not calm down until Communism is left in history schoolbooks and in the museums in an objective manner.”

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Tags: Rosen Plevneliev, presidential election, Eurozone, Schengen, refugees, Corporate Commercial Bank, KTB, judicial reform, communism, referendu, e-voting, online voting, State Security
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