Boyko Borisov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria and former Mayor of Sofia

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Boyko Borisov:
From City Mayor of Sofia to
Prime Minister of Bulgaria

By Andrew Stevens

31 July 2009: Immediately after being sworn in as Bulgaria's new prime minister, Sofia's former mayor Boyko Borisov stated that the country's capital would be one of his government's priorities. Borisov said that the new cabinet would concentrate on the problems in Sofia as soon as possible. He singled out the co-financing of a rubbish plant to deal with the capital's waste and the construction of the northern part of the Sofia ring-road. Some 50 million euro from the national budget are needed for the waste plant.

Update November 2009: Former headmistress elected Mayor of Sofia. Yordanka Fandukova, from Bulgaria’s ruling Citizens for the European Development party, won a clear victory in the battle to become Sofia's mayor, winning 66.1 per cent of the vote.

Boyko Borisov was born in the town of Bankya, an outlying municipality adjacent to the capital, in 1959. Mayor Borisov’s professional background is technically that of a civil servant, having been employed in the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs during the 1980s, returning as Secretary between 2001 and 2005 under the government of former Tsar Simeon II. As head of the national police force, Borisov retains a public reputation as a strongman on law and order issues. During the 1990s, following the collapse of the Bulgarian communist regime, Borisov ran his own private security firm Ipon-1. A keen martial arts expert, Borisov has coached the national karate team and refereed several international tournaments.

Prior to the introduction of democracy following the downfall of the post-war communist one party state, mayors of the Bulgarian capital were selected by their peers from among the city council, subject to either Tsarist or subsequently Communist Party approval. Borisov is the fourth mayor since the introduction of direct elections to the post in 1991. The capital’s first elected mayor was Aleksandar Yanchulev of the country’s main pro-democracy current, the Union of Democratic Forces. Borisov’s predecessor, Stefan Sofiyanski, also governed the capital under its banner for a decade from 1995, even serving as acting Prime Minister for several months in 1997. Borisov was able to become mayor in 2005 following Sofiyanski’s resignation to stand in the general election that year, in which Borisov himself was also elected to the National Assembly but declined to take his seat. This notwithstanding, he was thought to aspire to higher national office, not least since the formation of his own political party, Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (or GERB), in 2006.

Since the downfall of communism, as in many other former Eastern bloc states, the former pro-democracy current has transformed itself into an array of centre-right free-market forces, some of whom have been tainted by corruption in office. The Bulgarian body politic has responded in several ways so far, such as the foundation of the liberal National Movement Simeon II around the former Tsar, which held office as head of the governing coalition between 2001 and 2005, and has since become the National Movement for Stability and Progress as members of the new coalition headed by the former communists of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (2005- ). The formerly governing Union of Democratic Forces has suffered a major loss of fortune as a result of the unemployment and corruption associated with its time in office, while the National Union Attack alliance of far right nationalist parties is viewed as a xenophobic movement to promote the candidacy of TV journalist Volen Siderov, though its popularity has risen in step with disillusionment with the mainstream parties of left and right.

GERB’s platform is distinctly centre-right conservative, founded on fighting crime and corruption and promoting family values to tackle social malaise. It topped the country’s first European Parliamentary poll in 2007, taking the same number of seats as the Socialists but on a marginally higher number of votes. Following its election to the European Parliament, GERB applied to join the European People’s Party grouping of Christian Democratic and conservative parties. It also performed well in the country-wide municipal polls later in the year, with Borisov comfortably re-elected in Sofia and the longstanding incumbent mayor of second city Plovdiv turfed out.

One regrettable incident for Borisov as mayor was in 2009, when addressing a group of Bulgarian expats in Chicago, he made remarks construed as denigrating the country’s Turkish and Roma minorities.  Borisov accused those stoking the row of making political capital on behalf of the socialist opposition and claimed to have reached out to such communities, making appointments in his administration to them.  The row didn’t harm his chances in the July 2009 general election however, where GERB became the largest party in the national assembly, turfing out the ruling centre-left coalition.  In late July, Borisov was appointed prime minister at the head of a centre-right coalition led by GERB.

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