Bulgaria gets two new deputy PMs in boost for fragile government

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 27, 2013 7:48 AM
Bulgaria gets two new deputy PMs in boost for fragile government

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's fragile new government, under pressure from daily protest rallies against graft and organized crime, got a sorely needed boost on Thursday when parliament approved two deputy prime ministers.

Lawmakers endorsed Daniela Bobeva, an experienced banker, and Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev as deputies for Bulgaria's technocrat prime minister, Plamen Oresharski, in a vote postponed from Wednesday.

Oresharski's coalition, composed of Socialists and the ethnic Turkish MRF and in power for just three weeks, controls barely half of the seats in parliament and relies on the passive support of a nationalist party to stay in office.

It has faced daily calls to resign from mostly young, well-educated protesters after a bungled bid to install a young media mogul as head of the national security service - a highly sensitive post in the NATO member state - without proper debate.

For the protesters the move, quickly reversed by a jittery parliament, highlighted the lack of transparency in Bulgarian public life, where murky ties between businessmen and lawmakers discourage foreign investment and keep living standards low.

"I am here because I believe in the Bulgarian economy, which needs radical reforms," said Bobeva. "But we need a working parliament for such reforms."

Bobeva, 55, will be responsible for the coordination of economic policies, foreign investment and improving administrative services for business and citizens.

Yovchev, 49, previously served as chief of administration for President Rosen Plevneliev, who has expressed support for the protesters' demands for political reforms in Bulgaria.

Six years after joining the European Union, the Black Sea nation remains the poorest member of the 27-strong bloc and monthly salaries average just 400 euros ($520).

Oresharski, a former finance minister, has rejected the protesters' demands for his resignation, saying this would wreck political stability and damage an economy struggling to emerge from a deep recession.

Street protests over high utility prices and corruption toppled the previous centre-right government of Boiko Borisov in February. Borisov's GERB party won most votes in May's snap election but lacked allies to build a new government, opening the way for the Socialists, the second biggest party, to do so.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Gareth Jones)