Bulgarian Socialists pick former air force commander as presidential candidate

Bulgarian Socialists pick former air force commander as presidential candidate
By bne IntelliNews August 18, 2016

Bulgaria’s biggest opposition party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), has nominated General Rumen Radev (53) as its candidate for the November presidential election, the party said in an August 17 statement.

One likely reason for Radev’s nomination could be that the army has a relatively good image and rating compared to other institutions. He is acceptable to both the BSP and the Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV), and the fact that he is new to politics is likely to be an advantage in the current political climate in Bulgaria. The general briefly attracted media attention last year, when he submitted his resignation amid worries about the poor condition of the combat aviation, and after that withdrew it. Another factor supporting his fairly unconventional nomination is that BSP has a relatively disciplined electorate.

On August 1, Radev resigned as commander of the country’s air force, citing disagreement with a proposed concept for paid “air policing” of Bulgaria’s air space jointly with Nato allies. This led to speculation he could become the BSP’s candidate for the presidency, although the day before his nomination, Radev said that he was not a political figure.

The nomination of Radev was supported by 99 people out of 151 present at BSP’s plenum. He will also be supported by the smaller left-wing ABV, which left the government in May. The general said that the talks about the vice presidential candidate are yet to be held.

Last month, the Bulgarian parliament scheduled the presidential elections for November 6. On May 20, incumbent President Rosen Plevneliev announced that he would not seek a second five-year term this autumn. He said he made the decision for personal reasons, most likely linked to a family tragedy in August 2015.

The ruling centre-right party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) is expected to announce its presidential candidate in September. GERB is the most popular party by a large margin.

There has been much media speculation about the party’s candidate. One recent rumour suggested that GERB’s presidential candidate could be party founder and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, although he denied this on August 12. Even more recently, another rumour suggested that GERB’s candidate will be European Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva, though she also denied plans to stand on August 18.

While the party’s choice of candidate is still unclear, GERB has already launched its slogan for the presidential election campaign – “We work in the interest of citizens”.

Besides the BSP/ABV candidate, the other known nomination from the parties represented in the parliament is Krassimir Karakachanov, leader of VMRO, one of the two parties in the nationalist Patriotic Front, which usually supports the government. Karakachanov’s vice presidential candidate is Yavor Notev from the opposition nationalist party Ataka.

Another presidential candidate is Bulgarian politician George Ganchev (76), who is not backed by any of the parliamentary parties. He has run unsuccessfully in three presidential elections so far. The last time was in 2001 when he took just 3.4% of the vote. Businessman Vesselin Mareshki may also run for president.


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