Bulgarian Socialists nominate air force chief to run for president

PM Boyko Borissov [L] shakes hands with General Rumen Radev. [Dnevnik, the EURACTIV partner in Bulgaria]

Bulgaria’s opposition Socialists nominated the former air force chief as their candidate in the presidential election (17 August), at a time of rising tensions between the country’s Western allies, and neighbours Turkey and Russia.

The main opposition party voted to endorse General Rumen Radev, 53, for the largely ceremonial post days after he tendered his resignation as commander of the air force.

“We have a nomination for a candidate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and this is Gen. Rumen Radev,” party leader Kornelia Ninova said.

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An experienced pilot, Radev recently performed a dangerous stunt with a Mig-29 over Sofia, during a military parade. His detractors said he had put the population of Sofia at risk.

The nomination of Radev marks a rapprochement between the Bulgarian Socialist party and a smaller centre-left force, the ABV party of former President Georgi Parvanov. The two forces were in serious conflict, as they are trying to woo the same electorate. Both Parvanov and Ninova claim they were first to propose that Radev should run for President.

In 2014, Radev offered his resignation, in protest against the poor support from the state for the country’s airforce. However, following a discussion with the Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, he withdrew his resignation.

The ruling centre-right GERB has yet to endorse its candidate for the 6 November polls in the Balkan country, a member of the European Union and NATO.

Incumbent President Rossen Plevneliev has said he will not seek a new five-year term, after parliament rejected his veto of changes to the electoral code in May.

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Most power in the country of 7.2 million rests with the prime minister and parliament, but the president leads the armed forces and can veto legislation and sign international treaties.

Borissov has said his GERB party needs to choose a candidate able to deal with a possible rise in migrant inflows from neighbouring Turkey and growing tension between Russia and the West.

Analysts don’t exclude the possibility that Borissov himself could run for president, in order to maximise the chances that his party wins the election. In the event that the the Socialists win, analysts expect that Borissov would resign and early parliamentary elections will be held.

The name of Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva has been mentioned by the Bulgarian press as a possible candidate of the GERB party in the presidential election. She has however strongly denied having such plans.

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