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Independent Judge Elected New Premier

December 7, 1990

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ A politically independent judge who helped organize the country’s first free elections was chosen prime minister today, ending a week of uncertainty since the former Communist premier resigned.

Dimitar Popov, the head of Sofia’s municipal court, was nominated earlier in the day to the 400-seat Grand National Assembly by President Zhelyu Zhelev.

Assembly Chairman Nikolai Todorov announced that the parliament elected Popov by a ″large majority,″ but he did not give the number of deputies who voted for him. He said 15 deputies voted against Popov and 29 abstained.

Parliament ordered him to present his government to the chamber within seven days.

Popov, 63, gained prestige as secretary of the Central Election Commission that organized and oversaw Bulgaria’s first free balloting in June.

The elections were won by the Socialists, formerly the Communists. But the government of Premier Andrei Lukanov suffered months of trouble because of a severe economic crisis. Lukanov resigned Nov. 29 and has since run a caretaker government.

Popov told parliament he was accepting the job of forming a provisional government provided he gets broad support from legislators and the public at large.

He said the new government should be led by experts with profesesional qualifications, and he asked for ″a common spirit of good will″ to deal with Bulgaria’s problems.

The surprise development came after Ginyu Ganev, the deputy chairman of parliament, refused to assume the post of premier. Sources said Todor Valchev, an economics professor, also had turned down the job.

Zhelev told parliament that he appointed Popov to form a government following long consultations with all political parties and the trade unions.

″I appeal to all political forces and labor unions to support this within the framework of the political agreement that has to be signed within the next few days,″ Zhelev told deputies.

Political groups are negotiating an agreement on establishing a transitional government until summer elections, and set a timetable to draft a new constitution.

Lukanov was forced to step down under pressure from growing street protests and a nationwide strike organized by the opposition labor confederation.

Bulgaria’s leading opposition group, the Union of Democratic Forces, was shaken this week by revelations that its chairman, Petar Beron, was a police informer under the former regime of Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov.

Beron, whose resignation was accepted Thursday, admitted he informed on foreign visitors while working at the Natural History Museum. But Beron said he reported to a department other than the dreaded domestic secret police.

Bulgaria is in dire need of an efficient government to tackle its gravest economic crisis. Staple foods and other vital consumer goods as well as electricity are rationed or unavailable.

The government announced last spring that it was unable to service the country’s $11 billion foreign debt and has been seeking assistance from the West.

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