SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov announced Wednesday that the government is nominating its European commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, as candidate to be United Nations Secretary-General, replacing its previous candidate, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova.
The decision came two days after Bokova, was ranked in sixth place in the Security Council's latest informal poll. Earlier this month Borisov had said that his government would continue backing Bokova's candidacy only if on Sept. 26 she was among the top two candidates.
"We made huge efforts, not only the government, but also the president, the foreign ministry and Irina Bokova herself, but you see the result," Borisov said at the government meeting.
In order to be replaced, however, Bokova would need to file a letter announcing her withdrawal. She says she sees no reason to do that.
"None of the other candidates, even those with worse results, is doing it because the real race is still ahead," Bokova said in an interview for the daily 24 chasa on Wednesday.
In the interview, which preceded the government decision to pull its support from her, Bokova said that the calls for her to leave the race are undignified. Bokova added that "with a second candidate, Bulgaria will become a laughing stock."
Since entering the race, Bokova has been a controversial candidate in Bulgaria because of her communist past.
"It appears that my successful start was not liked by certain circles in Bulgaria and outside Bulgaria. They saw that I have a chance to win and launched a negative campaign against me," she said.
"Regretfully, I am the only candidate facing a hysterical campaign of name-calling and slander in my own country."
In Brussels, Georgieva's boss, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, has granted her an unpaid leave of absence for the month of October to stand for the U.N.'s top post.
Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the EU's executive arm will "ensure a strict separation between activities relating to her candidacy and her work" at the commission, where she has the portfolio in charge of budgetary affairs and human resources.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said the government will be seeking support for Georgieva from neighboring countries.
By tradition, the job of secretary-general has rotated among regions. Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe have all held the post. East European nations, including Russia, argue that they have never had a secretary-general and it is their turn.
"I want to thank Ms Bokova, but we must transfer our support to Kristalina Georgieva," Mitov said.
There has also never been a woman secretary-general and more than 50 nations are campaigning to elect the first female U.N. chief, along with many organizations.