Elections Set For June in Bulgaria; New Presidency Created
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ The ruling Communists and the democratic opposition today set June dates for the country’s first free elections since World War II and replaced the governing State Council with a president chosen by Parliament.
Also today, the government said it suspended payments on principal for its $10 billion foreign debt but that it will continue paying the interest.
The message to creditors on Thursday called the move a temporary measure to give breathing room while Bulgaria implements broad economic reform.
The Communists and democratic opposition decided to hold parliamentary elections on June 10th and 17th, the first free elections in Bulgaria in 45 years, said the government news agency BTA.
The two sides also agreed to dismantle the State Council, whose president is the nation’s leader, and create a presidency chosen by Parliament, BTA said.
Petar Mladenov, 53, Bulgaria’s current Communist president, will be formally elected to the new post by the current Communist-dominated Parliament and replaced after the June elections, the news agency said.
The State Council had been chosen by Parliament. But, as in neighboring Romania and other East European countries, the council ruled in between the infrequent sessions of the countries’ parliaments, which rubber-stamped Communist Party policies.
It was not immediately clear if the two sides managed to resolve their disagreement over the makeup of a new Parliament and a draft electoral law.
Communist Party chief Alexander Lilov said Tuesday the new parliament chosen at June’s elections should sit for four years ″because we need a strong government at a time when the country is in crisis,″ Bulgarian state radio reported.
Zhelyu Zhelev, the head of the Union of Democratic Forces, the umbrella opposition group, and other opposition leaders want the new Parliament to serve only as a constituent assembly that sits for 18 months to pass a new constitution and other democratic laws.
The government sent a letter to its creditors Thursday, suspending its debt payments, the Bulgarian Embassy in London said today.
″The government is compelled to temporarily freeze... the payments,″ said the notification to creditors quoted by the embassy.
But the letter added that ″our efforts would continue to regularly pay the interest due on the credits.″
The letter said Bulgaria found it impossible to ″carry out the radical economic and currency reforms in the country and at the same time pay the full amount of the amounts due on the credits.″
Bulgaria hasn’t fixed a specific date for resumption of principal payments, said a diplomat at the embassy, who demanded anonymity.
Bankers said that the telexed notice, signed by the executive board of the Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank, offered to meet with the banks.
The notice did not, however, outline a timetable and did not indicate whether Bulgaria wants to meet with banks individually or create a bank committee for bilateral discussions.