Interior Minister Roumen Petkov said on Sunday he was resigning. Speaking at a briefing at the Interior Ministry, he said he was resigning so there would be "more State and more statehood". He added he was not making this move under pressure.
Petkov resigned after his Ministry was shaken by a corruption scandal and after he conceded that he had been in contact with organized crime figures, BTA is reporting.
Brussels called on Sofia to act promptly after the killing in broad daylight of an author of books about the criminal underworld and an energy company executive. Various sources said the interior minister was quitting his position against the backdrop of opposition pressure on him to resign over contacts with organized crime. The resignation comes two days after the Socialist-led government survived a fifth no-confidence vote over what the opposition claimed was "unprecedented involvement of power-holders with organized crime."
The European Commission's February report criticized Bulgaria for the unconvincing results of the fight against organized crime. The next report is due out in June.
The European Commission accepts the reports about Petkov's resignation for information, Commission Spokesman Mark Gray said for BTA, adding that, as a rule, he did not comment on domestic developments in individual EU Member States. The Commission will continue closely following the pace of reforms in Bulgaria and will see how best to help the Bulgarian government in meeting its accession commitments to the EU in justice and the fight against crime.
Consultations on structural and personnel changes are starting next week, Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev told journalists on Saturday after a congress of the Movement for Social Humanism, the Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) partner in the parliamentary group of the Coalition for Bulgaria.
"My decision is not a sign of weakness or the result of yielding to pressure based on rumour and calumny," Petkov commented at the briefing. This is a sign and a striving for more of the State and statehood, for strengthening the statehood and the institutions, Petkov said.
The public needs a compelling signal, which would make it possible not just to generate policy, but to have this policy publicly accepted. "My resignation will trigger off speculation in various circles, and my decision will be met with overwhelming joy," Petkov said.
He admitted he was responsible for some personnel decisions at the Ministry, by which he misled the state leadership. He said he spared no effort to create good conditions for the Ministry's operation. He believes his resignation will likely create normal conditions for the operation of the law-enforcement system. He affirmed he had never betrayed a person or a cause in his capacity as minister.
Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev
Stanishev told journalists later on Sunday the resignation would be accepted in the context of an overall cabinet reshuffle. "We need a strong cabinet and strong and clear support in
Parliament," he said. "Quotas for ministers and deputy ministers do not matter; what matters is having a clear commitment to social policy, which is a condition I set to the partners in Parliament."
Two weeks ago, Petkov told a meeting of the BSP Executive Bureau he assumed political responsibility for the shaken confidence in the Interior Ministry.
"This resignation is a worthy, logical move because the Interior Ministry has found itself in a very oppressive atmosphere," Stanishev said. Petkov was aware of his mistakes, which were largely inherited from previous governments or were caused by reforms that did not go deep enough, the Prime Minister also said.
"We consider Petkov's resignation rather belated. Sergei Stanishev missed his chance to act as a European politician and statesman by not demanding the resignation as soon as the scandal broke out. Instead, he and President Georgi Purvanov backed Petkov. The resignation only came about after dozens of Western media outlets and EU representatives offered their opinions, as well as after a no-confidence vote. Petkov should be arrested and investigated for his contacts with the criminal underworld and numerous violations of the law in his capacity as Interior Minister," Ataka said in a statement.
Sofia Mayor Boiko Borissov, GERB's informal leader:
The Prime Minister should be aware the system failed due to the Interior Minister. However, the root of the problems is elsewhere, Borissov said. All senior judges and prosecutors were appointed since the three-party coalition took office. They all were appointed for a specific term, and the government coalition is trying to set a term for the Interior Ministry's chief secretary as well. The laws regarding the Interior Ministry and the judicial system are in need of urgentamendments. Finally, Borissov implied that early elections could end the crisis.
Bulgarian New Democracy (BND):
BND floor leader Borislav Ralchev described Petkov's resignation as a normal, though somewhat delayed move, given the crisis that had been going on for a month. The no-confidence vote certainly played a role. The public has never been so involved, and the EU institutions have never sent sounambiguous signals of concern. "Drastic measures are needed to clear Bulgaria's image at least a little," he said.
Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB):
Petkov's resignation is "a major success for the DSB, the opposition, the media and society as a whole," said the party's deputy leader Dimiter Buchvarov. "However, the resignation came too late and will not end the crisis. This government and the Prime Minister himself sided with the Mafia against the Bulgarian public and smeared Bulgaria's image in Europe and the world." DSB also recalled that other ministers had also discredited themselves through alleged corruption practices they countenanced, and must resign. DSB has called for the resignations of Deputy Prime Minister Emel Etem, Health Minister Radoslav Gaidarski, Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski, Regional Development Minister Asen Gagaouzov, Agriculture Minister Nihat Kabil and Environment Minister Djevdet Chakurov.
Union of Free Democrats (UFD):
The UFD expects more ministers to resign, according to a press release received by BTA. The UFD considers the latest no-confidence vote a success because the government received little support even from the ruling coalition. The UFD will not participate in a government during this Parliament's term. Stanishev should resign, the UFD stated. If the coalition wants to serve out its term, a cabinet of experts is needed.
Simeon II National Movement (SNM):
The Interior Minister's resignation is a logical and productive solution to the situation of recent weeks, SNM deputy floor leader and party spokesman Stanimir Ilchev told BTA. Now the updated government programme and Stanishev's proposals on Friday (in a statement after the government survived the no-confidence vote) have a better prospect of success.
Union of Democratic Forces (UDF):
Petkov's resignation is a logical consequence of the steps taken by the EU, the opposition, the media and the public, UDF leader Plamen Yuroukov said. This was only to be expected after the pressure exerted by the EU partners, the opposition, the media and society. "This goes to show that internal forces are emerging in Bulgarian society, which are trying to counteract the parallel power structures. Hopefully, Petkov will not be the most recent blown fuse that would allow other people to continue the crime-power contacts."
Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP):
This was an expected development, BTA learned from Anton Koutev, Secretary of the BSP Supreme Council. It is a manifestation of a consistent policy. Koutev predicted more cabinet changes. He identified a certain tension in the SNM, which called for cabinet changes a month and a half ago. The Interior Minister's resignation will prompt cabinet changes in the direction suggested by the SNM, Koutev said. He added that the new Interior Minister would be named by the Prime Minister.