Bulgarian Premier Shuffles Cabinet Amid Protests and Ouster Bid

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Bulgaria’s prime minister reshuffled his cabinet to soothe an ongoing political crisis as he faces a no-confidence motion over graft accusations and protests urging him to resign.

The Balkan country’s main opposition party launched the no-confidence motion against Premier Boyko Borissov and his team on Wednesday as protests continued over his failure to fight high-level corruption. The Balkan European Union member has drawn repeated criticism from the bloc for failing to crack down on organized crime and uphold the rule of law.

Borissov asked Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov and Interior Minister Mladen Marinov to resign to dismiss claims that they were working under the influence of a controversial businessman from another political force, Borissov’s Gerb party said in a statement. The three ministers said they’ll submit their resignations Thursday.

The move comes amid a crisis brought by a standoff between Borissov and President Rumen Radev. The latter has urged the premier and the chief prosecutor to resign and accused Borissov of improper links with wealthy oligarchs. Borissov denies wrondgoing.

Bulgarian Premier Shuffles Cabinet Amid Protests and Ouster Bid

“Borissov created a parallel state, and it runs the real one,” Korneliya Ninova, whose Socialist Party launched the no-confidence motion, told reporters in Sofia. “We want to destroy this model of oligarchic, mafia governance.”

A three-time prime minister, Borissov says his government is under attack by powerful businessmen who are trying to fight criminal investigations. He argues that the crisis undermines the government’s ability to tackle the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

The Socialists don’t have enough lawmakers to oust the cabinet in the fifth such confidence vote it has faced. But pressure is rising, and thousands of people have taken to the streets of the capital, Sofia, since last week. Chanting “Mafia Out!” demonstrators demanded the resignations of both Borissov and Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev.

Borissov has already resigned twice as premier -- after protests against austerity measures in 2013 and his party’s 2016 presidential election loss -- and may be positioning himself to do so again before next year’s parliamentary ballot.

“The division in the nation is so strong that I don’t know how we’ll overcome the next few months,” Borissov said at a government session on Wednesday, before he dismissed the ministers. “The economic crisis is coming at high pace. The state needs to be consolidated.”

‘Mafia Out!’

Borissov has worked to raise living standards and advance Bulgaria’s path toward adopting the euro.

But he has been harried by corruption scandals, probes against former and current ministers and leaked wiretaps alleging his involvement in abuse of power that he denies. Bulgaria is ranked last among EU nations in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.

Radev, whose role is largely ceremonial, has been a vocal critic of Geshev’s investigations of high-profile officials and the government’s poor progress in fighting corruption.

The president himself enjoys immunity from investigation and prosecution, though Geshev is challenging that protection at the Constitutional Court and raided his offices in a probe against a presidential aide last week.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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