The Bulgarian government has nominated European Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva as its new candidate for UN secretary general, sparking a row between the government and the opposition which was firmly behind Bulgaria’s original candidate UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova.
There are hopes in East European countries that Ban Ki-moon’s replacement as secretary general will be picked from within the region, the only world region not represented as secretary general so far under the informal global rotation system for the post. Six candidates from the region are among those being considered. Despite this, the leading candidate in straw polls has consistently been former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres.
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had previously warned on September 13 said that Bulgaria might reconsider Bokova’s candidacy if she was not ranked first or second in the round of informal voting at the UN Security Council on September 26. Bokova was ranked sixth on Monday, dropping from fifth in the previous straw poll held on September 9.
“We waited for the last hearing and vote on September 26 to see what the results will be. [Bokova’s] result is one place down and we have been overtaken by quite a few countries,” Borissov wrote on his Facebook page on September 28, announcing that the cabinet would switch its support to Georgieva.
“We think that this will be a more successful candidacy. We should be prepared for heavy discrediting campaigns against us, many lies are circulated, but I think that this decision is correct.”
The nomination of Georgieva was supported by Borissov’s centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) and its junior coalition partner Reformist Bloc. President Rossen Plevneliev said that he agrees with the government’s arguments and called on all institutions and politicians for unity and joint efforts towards the goal of winning the competition at the UN. However, Borissov’s move has sparked a political row with most opposition parties strongly against the change.
Georgieva is in charge of budget and human resources at the EC. Following her nomination, she said in a statement, “I am deeply honoured by the decision of the government of my country to put my name forward for the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations. After careful consideration I have decided to accept the nomination, mindful of the great responsibility that the office bears and of the opportunities as well as the challenges it presents for contributing to making our world safer, stronger and more just and prosperous for the present and our future generations.”
Meanwhile, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said that there is no procedure for recalling a candidate for the UN’s top job and therefore Bokova must reconsider her participation in the competition. On September 27, Bokova said in an interview with 24 chasa daily that she saw no serious reason to withdraw.
Bulgaria's ministry of foreign affairs nominated her in February, confirming a decision made by the Socialist-led government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski in June 2014. Since then, however, there has been a change of government and GERB is now the senior ruling party. Borissov has been less enthusiastic about Bokova’s candidacy.
The new nomination was slammed by the biggest opposition party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), as well as the left-wing Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV), which left the government in May. The BSP says it will launch talks for filing a no-confidence motion against the government over foreign policy failure. The ABV demanded the resignation of the foreign minister. Both BSP and ABV support the original nominee Bokova.
The opposition predominantly ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) also criticised the new decision of the government. The BSP, ABV and DPS consider the new nomination damaging to Bulgaria’s image.
In the latest round of voting on September 26, Guterres was unexpectedly followed by former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic in second place and the current Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcek was third, down from second in the previous round. A decision is expected to be made in October.