Bulgarian premier promises to fight corruption Financial_Times - 2009/7/6
Boyko Borissov, Bulgaria’s prime minister-elect, pledged to tackle corruption and overhaul the budget after his new right-of-centre political party won Sunday’s general election by an unexpectedly large margin.

Mr Borissov said his government would “find out the real situation with the budget” before deciding whether to follow the example of Romania and Hungary and seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

He reiterated his campaign pledge to crack down on corruption and “jail all those who have embezzled European Union funds”.

Analysts said droves of young voters backed Mr Borissov’s party, Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), which captured 39.7 per cent of Sunday’s vote and 116 seats in the 240-member parliament.

Mr Borissov, the mayor of Sofia and former coach of the national karate team, said GERB would govern with the Blue Coalition of Ivan Kostov, a former prime minister.

The Blue Coalition, a small conservative party, won 6.7 per cent of the vote and 15 seats under a new electoral system that uses both first-past-the-post and proportional voting.

The Law, Order and Justice party, which won 4.1 per cent of the vote and 10 seats, also said it would back GERB and contribute experts on judicial and financial reform.

Voter turnout exceeded 60 per cent, compared with 39 per cent at last month’s European parliament elections, which were also won by GERB. Crowds of expatriate Bulgarians lined up to vote at embassies around Europe.

“Dissatisfaction with corruption and bad governance produced a strong protest vote,” said Ognian Shentov, head of the Centre for the Study of Democracy in Sofia.

Much is expected of Mr Borissov, 50, a former senior police official who entered politics four years ago.

Supporters point to his law enforcement background and record of co-operation with US agencies and European Union partners to combat organised crime in the run-up to Bulgaria’s accession.

“Bulgaria’s problem is the rule of law, and GERB is perceived as the party best equipped to handle this issue,” said Vessela Tcherneva, head of the Sofia office of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Mr Borissov will also have to deal with a recession in Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest member-state, with the economy projected to shrink by about 3 per cent this year.

More than ˆ400m of EU funds, which could help provide a stimulus, remain frozen, because of lack of progress by the Socialist-led coalition in tackling graft and reforming the judicial system.

The IMF’s forecast of a budget deficit this year, after a decade of surpluses, also raises doubts about the stability of Bulgaria’s currency board arrangement which pegs the lev to the euro.


Author: Kerin Hope and Theodor Troev

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