New interim govt in Bulgaria led by retired general sworn in

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria’s president on Wednesday appointed a retired general as interim prime minister in hopes of ensuring stability in the country until an election is held in July.

Presenting the new Cabinet, President Rumen Radev said a body made of experts aspires to embody democratic unity and prove that “it is possible for democrats of various political affiliations to overcome obsolete divisions and red lines.”

He said that while the Cabinet will work in a limited timeframe, it will tell the truth and will not conceal the real condition of the country.

“It will make initial steps to strengthening statehood and show Bulgarians that their country can be run with honesty, transparency and responsibility,” Radev said.

Radev has been at odds with outgoing Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and his GERB party and is a vocal supporter of the protests last year that accused the government of maintaining links to the mafia, refusing to fight corruption and reform the judiciary and suppressing freedom of speech.

Borissov’s party’s popularity faded during his third term as prime minister because of the slow pace of reforms to eliminate graft and poverty and to overhaul the judicial system.

The new prime minister, Stefan Yanev, 61, takes the lead of a caretaker government whose main task will be to restore stability in a nation shaken by a month of anti-government protests and political bickering.

The retired brigadier general has served the last four years as a security adviser to Radev and is an alumnus of the National War College in Washington. He also was defense minister in an earlier caretaker government appointed by Radev in 2017.

The new premier will be backed by a Cabinet of experts for his main tasks — to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and organize a fair election in the country, which is a member of the European Union and NATO.

Yanev vowed after taking the oath of office that he and his Cabinet will work in line with the rule of law to the benefit of the citizens.

With another decree, the president dissolved parliament on Wednesday and set the date for an earlier vote on July 11.

Radev’s move comes after the inconclusive vote in April produced a fragmented parliament in which the center-right GERB party of three-time Prime Minister Boyko Borissov scored best in the election, but still saw its support fall to just 26% due to public anger over graft and poverty and none of the other parties were willing to form a coalition.

Analysts predict similar developments after the July vote, which would lead to more political instability and stand in the way of the EU’s poorest member to effectively tap the bloc’s coronavirus recovery fund.