Bulgarian President Radev appoints caretaker government

Bulgarian President Radev appoints caretaker government
By Dimitar Koychev in Sofia January 26, 2017

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has appointed the caretaker government, which will rule the country until early elections on March 26. The government, headed by lawyer and former parliament speaker Professor Ognyan Gerdzhikov, will take office on January 27, a notice on the president’s website said. 

The caretaker government’s role will be limited. Its main task will be to prepare for fair and democratic elections. It cannot make strategic decisions, such as changes in the budget or the tax policy, since the Bulgarian parliament, which needs to endorse such decisions, has been dismissed. 

The previous government under Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) leader Boyko Borissov resigned in November after GERB’s candidate lost to Radev in the second round of the presidential elections. 

Former air force commander Radev was supported by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), but his interim government seems to have few party affiliations. 

Gerdzhikov was a prominent member of the liberal National Movement for Stability and Progress (NDSV). The new Deputy Prime Minister for Social Policies and Minister of Health, Ilko Semerdzhiev, was a member of the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB) - part of the right-wing Reformist Bloc - until 2014. Denitsa Zlateva, Deputy Prime Minister for the Preparation for Bulgaria’s EU Presidency in 2018, comes from the BSP.

The appointment of Kiril Ananiev as finance minister suggests that President Radev has bet on continuity and expertise, Capital Daily commented. He is a recognised expert in the preparation of state budgets. Ananiev has been deputy finance minister in five governments so far, most recently GERB’s second government. In 2009-2011, he was financial policy secretary in the administration of President Georgi Parvanov. In 2013-2014, he was an advisor in the cabinet of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski.

Semerdzhiev also has long experience in his field. He is known as the creator of the National Health Insurance Fund and the father of healthcare reform in Bulgaria, Dnevnik reported. He launched the reform as the health minister in the rightist cabinet of Ivan Kostov in 1999. However, he said the reforms went in the wrong direction during the subsequent NDSV government, which took office in 2001.

More recently, Semerdzhiev has openly criticised the policies of outgoing Health Minister Petar Moskov, including the introduction of an obligatory health map, which will determine the number of hospitals and doctors in Bulgaria’s regions. Semerdzhiev described them as a “return to communism”. Both Moskov and Semerdzhiev had been DSB members but Semerdzhiev left the party in 2014.

The caretaker government will function until a regular one is formed after the elections. More information is expected on January 27, when Radev will present the structure, composition and priorities of the caretaker government, even though the president normally holds a largely ceremonial role in Bulgaria’s parliamentary system. 

“The new president … advocates a more expansionary fiscal policy in order to tackle widespread poverty and emigration,” wrote Andrius Tursa, CEE Advisor at Teneo Intelligence in a January 23 analyst note. “In the domain of foreign policy, Radev underscores importance of Bulgaria’s membership in the EU and Nato, while at the same time calling for closer relations with – and sanctions removal for – Russia, Bulgaria’s important economic partner.”

Tursa also forecasts a “tight race” between GERB and the BSP in the upcoming election. “The former retains a slim lead in the polls, but a victory of the BSP-backed Radev in November presidential election signals shifting public support towards the left,” he notes. 

A recent poll by Market Links showed that GERB has a narrow lead ahead of the election. If elections were held on the day of the survey, 24% of the respondents would vote for GERB. The BSP had the support of 21.2%. The united patriots were third with 8%, followed by Volya (Will), the new party founded by businessman Vesselin Mareshki, with 4.1%. The opposition predominantly ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) was supported by 4% of the respondents.

A hypothetical party launched by showman Slavi Trifonov was supported by 3.3% and was followed by GERB’s former coalition partner the Reformist Bloc (3.2%), the right-wing Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB, 1.3%) and the left-wing Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV, 1.2%). 1.2% would vote for the newly founded party Yes Bulgaria, a project of former Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov.

Name Position
Ognyan Gerdzhikov  Prime Minister
Ilko Semerdzhiev Deputy PM for Social Policies and Minister of Health
Stefan Yanev Deputy PM for Internal Order and Security and Minister of Defence
Malina Krumova Deputy PM for EU Funds
Denitsa Zlateva Deputy PM for the Preparation for Bulgaria’s EU Presidency in 2018
Plamen Uzunov Minister of Interior
Kiril Ananiev Minister of Finance
Galab Donev Minister of Labour and Social Policy
Spas Popnikolov Minister of Regional Development and Public Works
Nikolay Denkov Minister of Education and Science
Radi Naydenov Minister of Foreign Affairs
Maria Pavlova Minister of Justice
Rashko Mladenov Minister of Culture
Irina Kostova Minister of Environment and Water
Hristo Bozukov Minister of Agriculture and Food
Hristo Aleksiev Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications
Teodor Sedlarski Minister of Economy
Nikolay Pavlov Minister of Energy
Stella Baltova Minister of Tourism
Daniela Dasheva Minister of Youth and Sports
Source: Bulgarian President