Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Bulgaria president taps diplomat as interim PM - sources
By Tsvetelia Tsolova
SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's president was set to name diplomat Marin Raikov as interim prime minister on Tuesday, two sources with direct knowledge of the process said, as he seeks to shore up confidence after protests felled the previous administration.
Rosen Plevneliev's choice of an independent figure as prime minister is designed to show protesters a clean break with a political class they view as corrupt and unable to improve living standards in the European Union's poorest member.
The size of demonstrations has fallen sharply this week and protest leaders have failed to form a new single group that could stand in a May election, indicating the current main parties will also dominate the next parliament.
While that may make it easier to form a new coalition government, it will probably also mean the current political class, the focal point of protesters' rage, remains in power and frustrations may yet bubble up again.
"Marin Raikov is going to be the new prime minister," said one source, who declined to be named as the information was not public yet. The interim government will serve until an early election scheduled for May 12.
Raikov, 52, is a career diplomat and well-known on the EU scene, having helped start Bulgaria's process of joining the bloc when deputy foreign minister in 1998. He has twice been ambassador to France, including from 2009 until now.
"Raikov matches the profile," said Daniel Smilov, a political analyst with Sofia-based Centre For Liberal Studies. "He is more or less politically neutral and has no links to different business groupings - these are the two most important conditions."
The presidency, which is due to announce the interim administration at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT), declined to comment.
Plevneliev had said the interim government would be a panel of experts. Analysts say he is also trying to show the EU and foreign investors that Bulgaria will maintain its tight fiscal policy, needed to maintain confidence in a currency peg to the euro, and will not spend wildly to end the wave of protests.
Hundreds of thousands have protested across Bulgaria against corruption and to demand an improvement in living standards that are less than half the EU average, forcing the rightist government of Boiko Borisov to resign last month and Plevneliev to call an early election.
Bulgaria has sought to ease public frustration by cutting electricity prices and revoking the licence of Czech electricity distributor CEZ, measures that analysts say go against EU norms of due process.
That has raised questions over economic policy, which is important as Bulgaria needs to keep debt low to maintain confidence in a currency peg to the euro, and whether a new administration will spend more to soothe protester anger.
(Editing by Jon Hemming)
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